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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Iconic Annual Event in New York City

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Iconic Annual Event in New York City

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade stands as one of the most cherished and beloved traditions in American culture. You could say Thanksgiving Day feels incomplete for most Americans without the Macy’s annual pageant.

Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, millions of spectators gather along the streets of New York City, while countless more tune in from the comfort of their homes, to witness the spectacle of this iconic event.

Today we will cover everything you need to know about one of the best NYC events of Thanksgiving the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Table of Contents

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: All You Need to Know

Let us give you a little interesting historical background of Macy’s Thanksgiving, we hope this will make the event even more special to you.

But first, what is Macy’s?

Macy’s is a renowned department store chain in the USA.

Who sponsors Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The event is sponsored by Macy’s.

Get a glimpse of the chaos that takes place Macy’s parade behind the scenes as floats are added, balloons are inflated, and performances are perfected. Watch as extensive preparation leads up to this historically significant occasion.

Origin of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Origin of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The origins of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade date back to 1924, when Macy’s employees organized a festive event featuring:

  • Live animals (Borrowed from the Central Park Zoo)
  • Professional bands
  • Floats

Back in the 1920s, many employees of Macy’s were first-generation immigrants, and they desperately wanted to be part of the American culture. Not to mention there were European immigrants who wanted to celebrate a holiday that reminded them of home.

Which is why the first-ever Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place.

This pageant was able to attract 250,00 spectators!

The parade was such a huge success that it was able to push Ragamuffin Day into a corner and was able to take centerstage on Thanksgiving Day. Amused by the success of the parade Macy’s announced that it would be an annual event.

Over the years, the parade has undergone significant transformations, growing in scale and spectacle.

In 1927, the addition of iconic giant balloons introduced a new dimension to the event, capturing the imagination of millions. Since then, the parade has continued to innovate and amaze, with:

  • Larger-than-life floats
  • Dazzling performances
  • Beloved characters
  • Iconic giant helium balloons

These features became integral parts of the tradition.

The parade has been held every year since 1924 calling itself an “annual gift to the nation”, only not being held from 1942 to 1944 because of World War II.

When was Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade First Broadcasted?

The event was first broadcast via radio in 1932 on New York City’s local radio stations.

It was first broadcast on Television in 1939 on a local New York station and was broadcast nationally in 1948.

People had to tune in at the right time to watch it. But now, thanks to the internet you can watch parade highlights whenever you want.

Timeline of Key Milestones in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade History

We have made a table containing a timeline of key milestones in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade History below:

Year

Milestone

1924

First Macy’s Christmas Parade

1927

Introduction of giant balloons, starting with Felix the Cat

1934

Celebrities and Broadway casts begin to participate

1942-1944

Parade suspended during World War II

1948

The first national television broadcast of the parade

1968

Introduction of Snoopy, the character with the most appearances

1984

60th Anniversary featuring “heritage balloon” category

2005

Introduction of the largest balloon to date, SpongeBob SquarePants

2020

The parade was a televised-only event due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Memorable Moments

Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable moments of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade throughout the years:

  • 1927: The introduction of the first giant balloon, Felix the Cat, marked a turning point in parade history, shifting from live animals to the iconic balloons that define the parade today.
  • 1934: Characters like Mickey Mouse made their parade debut, creating the tradition of featuring popular cultural icons.
  • 1942-1944: The parade was suspended during World War II, highlighting its significance to American tradition as its absence was keenly felt.
  • 1968: The introduction of Snoopy as a balloon, who has since become the character with the most appearances in the parade.
  • 1984: The parade celebrated its 60th anniversary with a special “heritage balloon” category, bringing back classic balloons in new forms.

Appearances in Films and TV Shows

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was featured in many films and TV shows, here are some examples:

  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Perhaps the most famous cinematic reference, this classic film opens with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, tying the event closely to the story’s themes of belief and the magic of Christmas.
  • Friends: The popular TV show featured the parade in multiple Thanksgiving episodes, showcasing its role in New York City’s Thanksgiving celebrations. It highlights the experience of watching the parade.
  • Seinfeld: In the “The Mom & Pop Store” episode, a mishap with the Woody Woodpecker balloon at the Macy’s Parade plays a central plot point, showcasing the parade’s cultural relevance.
Impact of the Parade on New York City

Impact of the Parade on New York City

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade not only entertains millions of spectators but also has a significant impact on the city of New York.

It gives the city an economic boost and leaves a lasting impression on the city and its residents.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attracts millions of visitors to New York City, generating significant economic activity. Hotels, restaurants, and retailers benefit from the influx of visitors, while the national and international exposure the city receives boosts tourism and promotes NYC as a premier holiday destination.

  • Tourism Boost: The parade is a major draw for tourists, contributing to the local economy through hotel stays, dining, and shopping.
  • Employment Opportunities: The parade’s production and the increased holiday traffic create numerous temporary job opportunities, from retail positions to event management and security services.

Beyond the economic benefits, the parade fosters a sense of community spirit and pride among New Yorkers. 

For many residents, the parade is a beloved tradition that brings people together to celebrate and give thanks. It’s a time to connect with family and friends, share in the excitement of the festivities, and take pride in being part of the vibrant tapestry of New York City.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route and Schedule

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade follows a route that winds through the streets of Manhattan, showcasing the city’s iconic landmarks and attractions.

The parade typically kicks off at 8:30 am ET, starting from 77th Street and Central Park West. It then makes its way south along Central Park West before turning east onto Central Park South. From there, the parade continues down Sixth Avenue, also known as the Avenue of the Americas, passing by popular sights such as:

  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Rockefeller Center

Finally, the parade ends at Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square.

If you want to see the parade on site, then we advise you to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot along the parade route. Or get a VIP ticket at Marea Restaurant and enjoy the parade along with brunch! You can get an impeccable view of the parade from the luxurious terrace of the restaurant.

Visit the Thanksgiving Parade to check Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2024 packages and more.

Apart from Maria’s terrace, other prime viewing locations include areas near

  • Columbus Circle
  • Along Sixth Avenue between 59th Street and 38th Street
  • Around Herald Square

It’s essential to dress warmly and be prepared for large crowds in case you want to see the parade from the street, as the parade draws millions of spectators each year. In this case, we recommend you secure a spot as early as 6 AM ET.

What Makes the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Special?

As you prepare for the Thanksgiving parade day, it’s essential to plan with helpful tips to ensure an enjoyable day. You can Check out our guide for Thanksgiving parade day tips to make the most out of this occasion.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is special, but ever wondered what makes it so special?

Here’s what makes it so extraordinary:

The Giant Balloons

Perhaps the most iconic feature of the parade, these larger-than-life balloons have captured the hearts of young and old audiences since their debut in 1927.

These air balloons were a replacement for the live animals they used to borrow from the zoo. And in 1928 Macy’s started using helium balloons.

From 1929 to 1931 Macy’s released the helium balloons from their Thanksgiving Day Parade into the air following parade. If people found them they could take them into the store to redeem them for a $50 gift card.

The first ever balloon was of Felix the cat and made a total of two appearances in the parade so far. The parade had many iconic balloons over the years, some of the most popular ones are:

  • Snoopy
  • Mickey
  • Ronald
  • Pikachu

Every year you get to enjoy around 30 to 60 feet tall balloons characterized by popular trends and culture.

The balloons require special design and construction specialists to make, and each is handled by a team of trained volunteers on the day of the parade.

The Floats

The Floats

The parade’s floats are moving platforms of artistry and storytelling. Each year, new themes are introduced, showcasing everything from fantasy scenes to cultural celebrations. The floats are designed to entertain and amaze, with intricate details and interactive elements.

They serve as stages for musical and theatrical performances, making the parade a multifaceted entertainment event.

Some of the most memorable floats include:

  • The iconic Santa’s Sleigh, which marks the grand finale of the parade
  • The Enchanting World of Lindt Chocolate float, adorned with delectable treats

Performances and Entertainment

In addition to the dazzling floats and balloons, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade features a lineup of performances and entertainment that adds to the festive atmosphere.

Among the highlighted events, there are:

  • Musical acts
  • Dance troupes
  • Marching bands
  • Celebrity appearances

Throughout the parade route, viewers are treated to live performances by renowned artists and entertainers.

From Broadway show tunes to chart-topping hits, the parade offers a diverse array of music and talent for audiences to enjoy. Dance groups showcase their moves, while high school and college marching bands display their youthful act and skills.

Celebrities often make appearances on floats or as special guests, adding star power to the festivities. From actors and athletes to television personalities and cultural icons, the parade attracts a wide range of talent eager to participate in this once-in-a-year event.

The performances and entertainment featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade reflect the diversity and dynamism of American culture, bringing people together in celebration and joy.

Volunteer Spirit

A significant aspect of the parade’s special charm is its community spirit. 

Thousands of volunteers participate each year, contributing to various aspects of the parade, from balloon handling to costume and float preparation. 

This volunteer effort underscores the parade’s role as a celebration of community and togetherness.

The Spectacle

The Spectacle

Above all, the parade is a spectacle of the 2nd oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade in America.

The combination of

  • Towering balloons
  • Fascinating floats
  • Talented performers
  • Enthusiastic crowds

creates an unparalleled experience. It’s a visual feast that marks the start of the holiday season, broadcast live to millions of viewers worldwide.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is more than just an event; it’s a yearly testament to creativity, community, and celebration. It represents the best of what New York City and the holiday season have to offer, making it a truly special and iconic annual event.

How to Get Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Tickets

Macy’s gives grandstand tickets to only their employees and their families. But, you can do your research and reach out to people in NYC to see if anyone has a spare ticket. You might get lucky and get yourself a grandstand ticket!

How to Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Whether you’re in New York City or watching from the comfort of your home, there are several ways to enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

  • Live in New York City: Experiencing the parade in person is unmatched. If you’re in NYC, you watch the parade by simply standing beside the street.
  • Television Broadcast: For those who prefer the warmth of their living room, the parade is broadcast live on NBC on Thanksgiving morning. You can get live telecast and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade news from NBC!
  • Online Streaming: With the advent of digital technology, streaming the parade online has become an increasingly popular option. The official Macy’s website, NBC’s website, and various streaming services offer live streams of the parade. This option is ideal for those without cable or who prefer to watch on their mobile devices or computers.
Viewing Tips for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Viewing Tips for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person is a memorable experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation to ensure an enjoyable day out. Here are some tips that can help you make the most of your parade experience:

  • Arrive early: The parade draws large crowds, so plan to arrive several hours before the scheduled start time to secure a good viewing spot.
  • Dress warmly: November weather in New York City can be chilly, so dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes for standing and walking.
  • Bring snacks and drinks: While there are food vendors along the parade route, bringing your snacks and drinks can help keep hunger and thirst at bay during the festivities.
  • Be respectful: Remember to be courteous to fellow spectators and follow the instructions of parade officials and law enforcement officers.
  • Use public transportation: Driving in Manhattan on parade day can be challenging due to street closures and congestion. Opt for public transportation, such as the subway or bus, to get to and from the parade route.

By following these tips and staying informed, you can enjoy a memorable and stress-free experience at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Final Thoughts

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is not just an annual event; it’s an old tradition that brings together millions of people in celebration, creativity, and community spirit. From its humble beginnings in 1924 to its status today as an iconic spectacle, the parade has grown in scale and significance, reflecting the cultural and technological evolution of the past century.

The event embodies the joy and generosity of the Thanksgiving season, marking the beginning of the holiday period with a display of unparalleled pageantry.

FAQs: Everything First-Timers Need to Know

What is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by Macy’s which is a department store based in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day. It’s one of the world’s largest and most famous parades. The event marks the start of the holiday season in the United States.

When did the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade start?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started in 1924, making it one of the oldest Thanksgiving parades in the United States.

Where does the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade take place?

The parade takes place in New York City, winding through the streets of Manhattan. The route has varied over the years but traditionally ends at Macy’s Herald Square.

How long is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The parade typically lasts about 3 hours, starting in the morning and ending around noon.

What are some of the highlights of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Highlights of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade include:

  • Giant helium balloons featuring popular characters
  • Spectacular floats
  • Performances from Broadway musicals
  • Appearances by music stars
  • The iconic arrival of Santa Claus

How are the giant balloons in the parade inflated?

The giant balloons are inflated using helium by Macy’s team members.

Can I attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person?

Yes, the parade is free to attend. Space is first-come, first-served, so arriving early is recommended.

Are there any special events or activities associated with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Yes, in addition to the balloon inflation event, there are often performances and rehearsals in the days leading up to the parade. 

Macy’s also hosts a series of related events throughout November, including window unveilings and holiday displays.

How can I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade if I can’t attend in person?

The parade is broadcast live on NBC, allowing viewers to watch it on television or stream it online through various platforms. Many local news stations also provide coverage of the event.

Is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade affected by weather conditions?

Yes, weather conditions such as high winds, rain, or snow can affect the parade, particularly the ability to fly the giant balloons. But the parade has never been canceled because of bad weather. Safety measures are in place to lower or ground balloons if winds exceed safe levels.

When is the 100th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The 100th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be celebrated in 2024.