10 Things to Know About Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been held annually in Manhattan, New York City since 1924.

People from all backgrounds come together to help with the parade and watch the incredible performances and floats.

Let’s take a look at 10 things to know about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

1. The History of the Parade

First held in 1924, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade. The event was arranged by Macy’s staff and showcased various animals from Central Park Zoo.

It was an instant hit and therefore quickly became an annual Thanksgiving tradition that kickstarted the Christmas shopping season. In its first year, it brought in an impressive 250,000 spectators.

Throughout the 1930s and 40s, the parade continued to be more and more popular. Marching bands, floats, and live performances were added, and crowds grew to millions, all lining the parade route on the streets of New York City.

From 1942 to 1944 the parade was canceled due to the helium and rubber shortages during World War II. It returned in 1945 and was televised live for the first time in 1948.

2. Impressive Balloons

One of the main features of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the incredibly large balloons that float above the streets.

The larger-than-life balloons have become important symbols of the parade, with spectators guessing waiting on the parade route each year to spot their favorites.

The balloons are made by a team of talented artists, technicians, and engineers. They are constructed from fabric and plastic and filled with helium so that they float.

Many of the balloons feature well-loved characters like Spider-Man, Pikachu, Snoopy, and Mickey Mouse.

The balloons are handled by specialist guides who hold onto ropes attached to the balloons. These balloon guides are known as balloon wranglers. They help the balloons to travel through the streets and can troubleshoot any problems.

3. The Parade Route

The parade usually begins on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and continues down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle at 59th Street.

From here, it turns east onto Central Park South and continues along 6th Avenue (also known as Avenue of the Americas) to 34th Street.

The final part of the parade sees the procession turn west on 34th Street, ending in front of Macy’s Herald Square store.

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4. Fabulous Floats

As well as balloons, floats are a huge part of the parade. Themed floats are often elaborately designed, featuring dancers, marching bands, and celebrities.

A few of the most popular floats are:

  • Big Apple: This float is one of the most iconic floats in the parade, perfectly symbolizing New York City.
  • Santa’s Sleigh: This float traditionally marks the end of the parade, marking the start of the holiday season.
  • Movie and TV Star Floats: Macy sometimes includes floats from popular movies, characters, and TV Shows. These are usually very popular with the crowd.
  • Sponsor Floats: Many floats are sponsored by various companies from around the world. They often incorporate their brand’s products into their float design.

5. A-List Performances

Musical acts are a big part of the parade. In previous years performers have included:

  • Mariah Carey
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • and the cast of Broadway shows

Dance groups will often perform choreographed routines along the parade route. National and local dance schools also take part.

Marching bands are a popular addition too, with bands from all over the United States performing and coming to get involved. These marching bands add to the exciting, festival atmosphere that the parade is famous for.

6. TV Broadcasts

Since 1948 the parade has been broadcast live on television. NBC is the official US broadcaster, and many people tune in to see exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and performances.

You can usually tune in live on Thanksgiving Day from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm Eastern Time. Many people tune in to get a front-row seat to the action, enjoying not being pushed and pulled in a crowd.

There can be variations in this schedule so it’s always good to check close to the time for the most up-to-date schedule.

7. A Holiday Tradition

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a much-cherished tradition for many Americans. It signals the start of the holiday season and is often watched by families across America as they gather for Thanksgiving dinner.

Many people feel that the arrival of Santa Claus at the end of the parade signals the start of Christmas, with excitement building among children and adults as they eagerly await his arrival.

Some people will even camp overnight on the parade route to ensure they get a good spot. Others are happy tuning in on TV, enjoying the parade from the comfort of their own homes.

8. Huge Crowds

It’s advisable to arrive at the parade early to ensure you get a good view. Huge crowds descend upon the parade route each year to catch sight of the balloons and performances.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the largest annual parades held in New York City. The crowd size can vary from year to year. This depends on the featured attractions, weather conditions, and general public interest.

The festival encourages a sense of togetherness and unity and serves to remind Americans (and those watching around the globe) of the importance of togetherness during the holiday season.

Some years have reported crowds of between 3 and 3.5 million people along the parade route.

9. The Balloon Inflation

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation is a long-standing tradition and usually occurs the day before Thanksgiving. This usually takes place near the American Museum of Natural History.

It is free for the public and spectators can enjoy watching the character balloons getting inflated ready for the parade the next day. The inflation usually takes place in the afternoon or evening, starting around 3 pm or 4 pm Eastern Time.

Many people use this time as an opportunity to view the balloons before they begin their famous journey the next day.

10. Charitable Giving

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is well-known for being incredibly charitable. Each year the parade raises funds for many nonprofit organizations.

At the inflation event, spectators can view for free but are encouraged to bring some non-perishable food items or make donations to City Harvest, which is a New York-based charity that fights hunger and delivers food to those in need.

The parade also raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Children can write a letter to Santa and post it in the Macy’s Believe Mailbox. At the end of the parade, Macy’s donate $1 to Make-a-Wish for each letter posted.

Macy’s has a long-standing history of supporting various charitable causes. The parade is a great opportunity to raise funds and awareness for those in need at an important time of year for many Americans.

Final Thoughts

With its fun, festival-like atmosphere, incredible floats, and A-list performances, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an incredible showcase of talent, color, and energy.

Make sure you get there early to secure a good spot and enjoy the festivities!

Hello, I’m Emma! I’ve been exploring the world since 2015. People always ask me lots of questions when I travel and come back. So, I started a blog to answer them all and share with the world. If you are curious about something, use the search bar on my site or send me an email emma@timetositback.com