Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Balloons as tall as buildings, lip-synching Disney stars, and 300 pounds of glitter: Welcome to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Ever since its debut in 1924, the holiday event has evolved from a two-block procession of circus animals into what is easily our favorite over-the-top spectacular of the year (take that, Super Bowl Halftime Show).
The 92nd annual parade will kick off this year on November 22 at 9 a.m., with 3.5 million people watching from the streets of Manhattan and another 50 million viewing from home. This year’s event includes all of the giant balloons and celebrities we’ve come to expect, plus a fleet of new floats and performers. Numbers that large require a bit of navigating, so we went ahead and did all of the research for you. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, including route information, celebrity performances, and streaming options.
Date and Time
The parade will take place Thursday, November 22; 9 a.m. to noon EST.
The first-ever Thanksgiving Day Parade was pretty vanilla—there were Macy’s employees dressed as clowns, marching bears and elephants borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, and a “crowd” of spectators about four people deep. It’s a far cry from the event we all know and love today, where Al Roker’s voice fills our living rooms while we debate which character balloon is the best (my vote: the one with the emptiest look behind his eyes).
At first glance, the 2018 lineup will disappoint no one: It will include 16 giant character balloons; 43 novelty balloons (which include balloons attached to floats and tricycles); 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 12 marching bands. Celebrity appearances and performances will include (among many): John Legend, Martina McBride, Diana Ross, Barenaked Ladies (yes, the Barenaked Ladies), and the Muppets of Sesame Street—and, of course, Santa Claus.
Macy’s is also unveiling four new floats this year: “Elf Pets” by Elf On The Shelf, “Fantasy Chocolate Factory” by Kinder, “Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” by Nickelodeon, and “Splashing Safari Adventure” by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions. New balloons and inflatables include Goku from Dragon Ball Super: Broly, elves from Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles, and Sunny the Snowpal, a new Macy’s seasonal character.
We’ll have to wait until the live broadcast to see these new additions in all their glory, but we can give a couple of spoiler alerts now: the Ninja Turtles will somehow be rising from the city sewers, and the elves will potentially sneak into your nightmares.
The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West, marching down Central Park West to Columbus Circle. The procession turns onto Central Park South down to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street, then along 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square. (All in all, that’s 2.5 miles of marching.) Check out Macy’s official parade route map for more details.
How to Watch from Home
NBC will host a televised, three-hour broadcast, from 9 a.m. to noon EST. For those without cable, Macy’s has partnered with Verizon to air a 360-degree livestream on YouTube. The stream will go live at 9 a.m. EST at youtube.com/verizon and will run through noon. (Oh, and it’s completely free.)
Public Viewing Areas in NYC
The parade route includes 2.5 miles of public viewing areas (just be aware that people start camping out around 6 a.m.). Here are some of the best viewing spots:
The west side of Central Park West from West 75th Street to Columbus Circle
The east side of Central Park West from 70th to 65th Street
The west side of Columbus Circle
6th Avenue (either side) from West 59th to West 38th Streets
If you plan on camping out, feel free to bring your own chairs and blankets—nearly everyone will be standing once the parade actually starts, but you’ll have a solid 2-3 hours of downtime before then. If camping out isn’t really your style but you still want to brag about seeing the balloons in person, you may be able to sneak a peek between buildings around the kick-off point (77th and Central Park West). Just be aware that the first couple of blocks on the route are mostly off-limits, so don’t expect an up-close and personal view. Whatever your method, just be sure to bring sunglasses and bundle up—the weather in NYC this year looks to be sunny but cold.
The balloon inflation (an event in its own right) will take place on Wednesday, November 21, from 1-8 p.m. EST at the Museum of Natural History. To see the balloons in person, enter the viewing line at West 73rd Street and Columbus Avenue (volunteers will be present to help direct you), then exit at West 81st Street and Central Park West.
See Macy’s “Where to Watch” guide for more details on both the parade and balloon inflation, including an interactive map, subway stops, and info about which areas are off-limits.
Hotels with Parade Views
If you love the parade but hate the cold (and the crowds), you can always book a hotel room along the parade route and watch comfortably from your window. (Needless to say, rooms tend to book quickly and can be pricier than usual.) Here are some options to consider:
The JW Marriott Essex House: There are a variety of parade-view rooms, all of which carry a three-night minimum to book and include incredible holiday amenities (including Central Park ice skating passes and an in-room photographer during Thanksgiving Day). Rooms and suites range from $1,695 to $8,000 per night; located on on West 59th Street, along Central Park South.
1 Hotel Central Park: Three of the hotel’s rooms—Park King, Studio King, and City King—have views of the parade turning onto 6th Avenue. Each of the rooms has daybed window seats that extend from the building, maximizing your viewing comfort. Rooms start at $500 per night over Thanksgiving week; the hotel is located on 6th Avenue and West 58th Street.
The Quin: This luxury hotel has select rooms that offer sight lines of the parade, plus makes it easy for any guests to secure viewing spots at street level. Parade view rooms are prices around $570 per night; it’s located on 6th Avenue and West 57th Street.
Hilton Midtown: The hotel has parade-facing rooms on lower and higher floors, which means you could potentially make eye contact with Charlie Brown. Parade view rooms range from $699 to $1,699 per night, while the “ultimate corner view” room goes for $1,999 per night; the hotel is located on 6th Avenue and West 54th Street.
Through the Years
Part of the cultural landscape since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become as synonymous with the holiday as turkey and stuffing. Click through to see how the parade and iconic balloons have evolved over the years, along with some fun facts that will make your viewing experience that much more fun.