In 2008, Steve and I realized that all of our “people” had made other plans for Thanksgiving, so we decided to mark something off MY Bucket List that had sat untouched for years — seeing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live and in-person. For a couple of small-town Alabamians, it might come as a surprise that we love New York City. But, after an amazing trip for my 50th birthday, we really wanted to find an excuse to go back. This was it. We found out some things during that visit that might help if you decide to make a similar trip.
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If you can possibly swing it and if you make your reservations early enough, do your best to stay in a hotel that is on the parade route. Basically that means along Central Park West or 6th Avenue to 34th Street. Here’s the 2015 Macy’s Parade website – http://social.macys.com/parade/#home. That’s a good place to start your research. Choose one of these hotels and hope, hope, hope that they have a room available. Eight are mentioned in this article. http://www.nycgo.com/articles/thanksgiving-day-parade. Unless you are Donald Trump’s long-lost cousin, you are not likely to want to splurge enough to book one of the rooms that are on floors 2-10. In those, you can stay in your warm comfortable room and just watch the parade go by, BUT you will pay triple the normal price for your room. No, the reason to stay along the route is to be able to get a spot as close to the police barricade as possible.
2. GET UP EARLY. DRESS VERY WARMLY. DON’T DRINK MUCH. As soon as the hotel starts serving breakfast, be there waiting. If it’s after 6:00 a.m., that will be too late. Don’t drink much coffee. Now, you might want to put a bottle of water in your backpack, but wait until you get really thirsty to drink it. Why? Bathrooms, of course. Once you get in your spot, you will lose it if you leave. Yes, even if you have someone holding your place. The barricades start going up about 6:30 a.m. Be out there and ready. Steve and I were there, and we still only made it to the second row. Then, you start waiting, and it will likely be cold in New York on Thanksgiving Day. It hovered between 31 and 32 degrees the morning we were there. Think toboggan, gloves, two pairs of socks, etc. It will NOT matter what your hair looks like. 🙂 Depending on your hotel and how early you get your spot, you will likely not get your first glimpse of the start of the parade until 9:30 a.m. We were VERY fortunate. The people waiting around us were fun and friendly. We actually had a great time laughing and chatting.
3. MAKE LOTS OF PICTURES!! Yes, you’ll see it on television in years to come, but that will not be the same. Plus, the celebrities and the most popular balloons could change from year to year. You will enjoy the costumed people walking beside the balloons and floats almost as much as the actual floats. They add so much to the pageantry.
4. When the parade ends, go back to your room to 1) use the bathroom, 2) drink lots of water, 3) warm up, and 4) take a nap. After all, you got up VERY early. Then, spruce yourself up nicely and GO OUT FOR A MEMORABLE THANKSGIVING DINNER AT A GREAT NEW YORK RESTAURANT. No. They won”t serve you every single one of your usual Thanksgiving favorites, but there WILL be turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Here’s a link to popular restaurants for this special dinner. http://www.nycinsiderguide.com/thanksgiving-dinner-in-new-york-city#.VjU5vfmrShc. Pricey but worth it. Steve and I were fortunate to go to Tavern-on-the-Green in Central Park in 2008, but it closed the next year. It reopened about a year ago, but the reviews haven’t been good since it was remodeled and put in the hands of new owners. Maybe the restaurant you choose will be within walking distance of your hotel. That will save a taxi fare.
5. ORDER TICKETS FOR A GREAT HOLIDAY SHOW to see either the day you arrive or the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Here’s a link to this year’s offerings for November 2015. http://www.newyorkcitytheatre.com/common/monthly_events.php?year=2015&month=11&category=Big%20Site%20Top%20Show
6. WINDOW SHOP and GO TO ROCKEFELLER CENTER. The displays are spectacular, especially in the most famous stores. You don’t have to skate, but at least watch the skaters for awhile. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/new-york-city/travel-tips-and-articles/76359 The famous tree will probably be in place, but it is not lighted until later in December.
7. SHOP. Yes, buy a few things. If you fly to NYC, you can always have your treasures shipped home. That’s especially true if you have 12 grandchildren and find lots to buy at FAO Schwartz.
So, in summary, attending Macy’s Parade is not for the weak or “faint of heart.” It’s physically taxing, but I believe you’ll be glad you went . . . . once. You’ll feel like a kid again. That’s worth a lot. P.S. If your visit to NYC puts you there through a Sunday, PLEASE, please, please take the subway to Brooklyn and attend a service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. What a blessing that will be.