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The Essential 2022 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Guide

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The 2022 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is less than a month away. It’s hard to believe that one of the most popular televised events of the year will be upon us so soon!

Are you an old pro at attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or is this your first-year attending? Maybe you don’t love the idea of fighting the crowds but love watching the event televised on Thanksgiving morning every year.  

It doesn’t matter what your situation is. This American tradition is one that generations of families have enjoyed and luckily, there is no end in sight. 

2019 Macy’s Parade marching band. TomH2323, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You will learn the basics, some history and maybe even a few pro tips to help you along the way!

History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

To fully appreciate the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you must travel back to 1924. Macy’s introduced its first parade to the world, as a celebration of its new opening and in hopes of bringing additional Christmas shoppers to its store. On the morning of Thanksgiving 1924, New Yorkers experienced their first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first parade was coined as a Christmas parade, rather than a celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

The first parade was very small compared to the goliath that the parade has grown into. Macy’s store employees put on the humble, six-mile parade. Even back in 1924, floats were used that reflected popular nursery rhymes of the time. The floats were coordinated to match the Macy’s store Christmas display and included Little Red Riding Hood, Little Miss Muffett, and The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. Of course, Santa rounded out the familiar faces children yearned to see. 

Elf on the Shelf Balloon in 2018. Charley Lhasa from New York City, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The store employees participating in the parade were especially festive. Some of them dressed as cowboys, some as clowns, and others were knights. Most notably, the Central Park Zoo loaned several animals to the parade. Spectators witnessed bears, monkeys, camels, and elephants. 

The tradition of live animals in the parade did not last. Helium-filled balloons replaced live animals, and that tradition has increased over the years. The original character balloon was Felix the Cat. He was introduced in the 1927 parade. 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Route and Preparation

Since its inception, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has lessened in route length. Originally spanning 6 miles, the parade now tops out at 2.5 miles in length. 

The parade begins on the Upper West Side and travels to Midtown. Click here to view a detailed map of the parade route. 

The parade doesn’t just happen overnight. Tucked away in a warehouse in New Jersey, over 30 artists, highly skilled in their trade, work tirelessly to bring you the best parade possible. The 72,000-square-foot warehouse is home to the Macy’s Parade Studio, where all the magic begins!

Balloon handler from the Macy’s 2018 Parade. Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Each of the carpenters, animators, and painters works year-round to bring NYC the best parade that they can. Over 300 pounds of glitter is used on the floats, costumes, and balloons. The creators make and maintain over 4,200 costumes that can be used. 

Can I Participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? 

There is a very strict participation policy that must be followed regarding the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since the parade began in 1924, participants have been limited to a select grouping of people. Only Macy’s employees, their families and friends, and others who have a direct relationship with the parade can participate. 

The only exception is the invited talent that performs during the parade. This includes celebrities, singers, and marching bands. 

Marching bands can apply to be a part of the parade. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2024 parade. Click here to apply. 

You can catch a glimpse of the larger-than-life balloons before the parade starts. Each year, the balloons are inflated the night before the parade by the American Museum of Natural History on 79th Street. 

How Can I View the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? 

There are many options for viewing the parade in NYC. Macy’s partners with the NYPD to regulate crowds and provide the best experience for all. They will follow the current protocol in regard to state and city health regulations. Viewing options will be all along the 2.5-mile route throughout the city. The route will go from the Upper West Side to Midtown. Keep checking on the Macy’s Parade FAQ page for updates. 

If you cannot make it to view the parade in person, there are a few options for you. 

  • View the LIVE broadcast on NBC. The parade begins at 9:00AM in all time zones on November 24th, 2022. 
  • Catch the livestream of the parade on Peacock. 

Pro Tips for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Experiences

Local business owner Christine Lazzara who runs Just Ask Christine: Custom Curated NYC Experiences offers her recommendations and insights into this yearly event.

Christine Lazzara takes NYC explorers around all the hidden insider locations in NYC. Image via @justaskchristine
  • Visit the Museum of Natural History in the early part of the day before Thanksgiving, or even better, book a private tour of the Upper Section of Central Park (where visitors rarely venture). Upon exit or upon completion of your tour, you will be exactly where you want to be to have full sight of the Thanksgiving Eve inflation festivities!
  • Go for a Night Walk (or night tour!) and park yourself right in front of Macy’s to watch the Stage and Performance area be built before your eyes!  There is nothing like behind-the-scenes action, and there are no restrictions to this area while this is happening.  While there, you will be in the perfect spot, in direct sight of the gorgeous Empire State Building towering over you in its glorious colors, for your full admiration.
  • When needing a restroom stop, ALWAYS visit a Hotel!  Not only will you have access to the cleanest and most comfortable facilities, but you will also find comfortable couches to take a rest on and oftentimes fun games to play while there, which is great for entertaining your kids who might be begging you for a break.

Places and Restaurants to Visit Along the Route of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Great Eats Before, During, and After 

* denotes recommendations from Christine.

  • Rue 57 Brasserie
  • Friedman’s
  • Andrew’s NYC Diner
  • Black Top Craft Burgers and Beer
  • Sarabeth’s on Central Park South* 
  • Lilly’s on 72nd / UWS *
  • Angelo’s Pizza*
  • Joe’s Pizza*

Now that you are fully educated and prepared on all things Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, grab a blanket and your favorite movie to enjoy on one of these cozy fall nights. You’re going to need to rest up and have as much energy as possible to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day feast with family soon-but, not before enjoying the parade! 

Kristi Hill is a freelance writer who loves to travel, cook and watch college football. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually listening to classic rock and spending time with her dog, Chico.