Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was #7 on my family’s bucket list, sandwiched between Alaska Cruise (completed) and Wimbledon (not yet). We decided a trip to the biggest parade in the world would be an appropriate (if hardly adequate) celebration for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary last November.
Checking into The Wellington Hotel on Tuesday night meant we had a full day to play tourist on Wednesday. We started early (too early) with a visit to Rockefeller Center to hear some of Justin Bieber’s Today Show concert. After shopping at Barneys New York in the Lady Gaga boutique with my little monster, we spent some time wandering around the Central Park Zoo and had fun picking out locations from Home Alone 2. Then we met my mom and dad for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
The parade on Thursday was the perfect dessert after our big meal. The crowd was dense but extremely well-behaved and everyone’s smiles were as big as the balloons. Pardon the Rockettes pun, but I can’t think of a better way to kick off the holiday season than by celebrating Thanksgiving in New York.
If you’re considering a visit, the following information can help you plan your trip.
- Check the parade route. It’s changed in recent years due to construction in Times Square and is rerouted again for 2012.
- Get a room. Contact hotels along the confirmed parade route to inquire about Thanksgiving packages. Most require at least a two-night stay. Request a mid-level room (Floors 7-15) for the best view from the hotel window.
- Balloon Inflation. The enormous balloons are inflated Wednesday night on the streets surrounding the American Museum of Natural History on Columbus Avenue. Take public transportation because the subway deposits you right into line. Shuffle along with the crowd and watch as Papa Smurf and friends come to life, safely secured by netting and the volunteer handlers. Restrooms are available in the museum.
- Claim your sidewalk space. If the weather’s crummy, plan on watching the parade from your hotel room. When the weather’s perfect, as it was for us last year, and you want to be right on the curb, you’ll need to get your chairs set up early. No later than 6 a.m., to get prime real estate. If you choose to sleep in though, don’t worry. Fifteen rows back on the side streets, you’ll still get amazing views of the giant balloons as they pass by.
- Eat out. Relax and enjoy a restaurant Thanksgiving. I initially felt guilty because there’d be no homemade turkey with stuffing and cranberries and pie and leftovers (drool), but I got over it fast. New York has thousands of great restaurants and, since I usually spend 72 hours prepping a meal that my family consumes in 15 minutes, it was really nice to let someone else do all the work. Perhaps it was the start of a new holiday tradition….Nah!