The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Up Close and In Person!

I was in NYC for Thanksgiving this year. Bet you can guess what that means!

5:40AM on Thanksgiving morning. In puffy parkas, each wearing multiple pairs of socks, several sweaters, long johns, with whiskey shots warming our empty stomachs, there was only one place in town my roommate Rose and I could be headed. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t grandmother’s house. Nope, we were off to the ultimate New York holiday cliché: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“To actually doing this!”

“To a Happy Thanksgiving!”

We clinked our glasses and threw back a shot of Jim Beam, wincing as the whiskey hit our freshly brushed teeth. “Oof. Let’s get out of here, before I sweat through all these clothes.”
“Bye Pip!” We said to our cat, who looked utterly befuddled. I don’t think he was judging our pre-dawn drinking, he’d just never seen two of his moms up at 5AM before.


The parade isn’t on TV until 9AM! Why so early? Macy’s recommended arriving to the parade route at 6AM. We took our sweet time, stopping for donuts and coffee and arrived at 6:25AM. We were moments too late for front row, curb side seats. Seasoned parade goers brought folding chairs or blankets to sit on and claim space for large parties. Rose and I parked our butts on the steps of a church on 68th Street. An elevated view and a bit of a buffer to claustrophobia madness, we couldn’t have done much better.


We sat on the steps of that church in 34 degree weather for three hours. What did we do in those three hours? We made friends with the people sitting next to us, eavesdropped on others. One lady had a daughter performing in On the Town on Broadway. We ate festive frosted donuts, drank pumpkin tea out of a thermos and whiskey out of a Tupperware container. We created a new version of a “Hot Toddy”.


We took a lot of selfies. We wore light up crowns pilfered from an event I’d worked earlier that week. We watched the sun rise over Central Park. We wondered about the exclusive bleacher seating on the east side of the parade. Learned they’re only available to Macy’s personnel.


We got some video game character balloon sticks promoters were handing out, ended up giving them to kids later on. We stayed pretty warm, except our feet. We discussed our circulation issues. We watched truck that came to deliver hot cocoa and cookies to all the police officers on duty.


The sky threatened all morning, now and then a few flakes of snow floated from the sky. The nasty weather held out most of the morning but probably scared away plenty of would-be parade goers. Still by 8AM the place had filled up. Anyone who arrived after that got major stink-eye. We’ve been on this street since 6AM! Established ultimate street cred! Don’t you dare try to smoosh next to us! Here’s the parade route scene, before it got too crowded to venture from our church step camp.


I honestly didn’t mind waiting the 3 hours. It was kinda fun. Spirits were high and our covert container of spirits didn’t hurt either! As someone who claims to often prefer people-watching over movie-watching, it was like the box office smash of the season. At around 9:20AM we heard the first trumpets blowing down Central Park West. Here was what we’d been waiting for! Our official Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade In Person Experience commenced!


It’s a great combination of modern verses traditional in this parade. This turkey float has been featured for decades, so have some of the balloons. Then there are plenty of current pop culture icons like Thomas the Tank Engine, Snoopy, Hello Kitty, etc etc.




Another layer into current culture- all the celebrities riding floats. We never would have recognized with out the help of the tweens behind us who knew, and screamed, all their names.


Sorry…I can’t for the life of me remember who the celebrity on this Pirate’s Booty float is!



A bit of a different perspective than what you see on TV! Fortunately it was hardly windy at all. Cold is one thing, wind makes this parade scary, they’ve even had to cancel it do to gusts in the past.



The balloons are so big you can’t fit them into the camera frame when they’re right in front of you.


We of course saw a ton of marching bands but due to our unremarkable place on the parade route (no cameras) we heard few performances. Saw lots of poor color-guard high school girls who looked so cold in their outfits.


These ladies were awesome, “Red Hot Mamas”. They had a dance routine with their walkers. We did get a little showcase but did anyone see it on air?


There were a lot of clowns in this parade. It was hard to capture them in pictures but anytime there was empty space in the line up, Macy’s stuck in some clowns. Baker clowns, fairy clowns, viking clowns, fire fighter clowns- the list goes on. If you have Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) think twice before going to this parade! I’m guessing clowns are a tradition that lives on from the early days of the parade. By the end of course, clowns give way to elves and last but not least comes Santa Claus!

You’d be floored by the amount of energy this white bearded man has. You can see how much- here’s a video Rose took (the 2 of us have a special message at the end of it)! If he was this on at 68th Street, you can bet he keeps it up the whole parade long. I’ve met him, yep, I actually had a job as his hair dresser a couple years ago! No one embodies the holiday spirit like he does. It’s amazing.

So I had a blast at this parade. I would totally go again! Hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving, at least the Americans among you! Happy Holidays to everyone! Get ready for plenty of New York Cliché holiday cheer!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

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