Photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc.
After a television-only event last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is returning this year with in-person spectators. On Thursday, November 25, the 95th annual event will feature typical traditions, including the giant helium balloons, floats, and live performances, but with new health and safety protocols in place. Ahead, learn what to expect this year, from the full parade lineup and the best public viewing spots to how you can watch the signature character balloons inflate the night before.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid; Photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc.
“For more than nine decades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has served to bring joy to millions, who gather with friends and family to experience this one-of-a-kind holiday celebration along the streets of New York City and in homes nationwide,” Will Coss, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, said.
“For our 95th celebration, Macy’s has created a spectacle to remember featuring a dazzling array of high-flying balloons, animated floats, and incredible performers. We can’t wait to help New York City and the nation kick off the holiday season with the return of this cherished tradition.”
Last year, Macy’s hosted a “reimagined” parade, with participant capacity reduced by 75 percent, a two-day staging, and balloons flown by specially rigged anchor vehicles instead of the usual 80 to 100-person teams.
This year, the large team of balloon handlers will return to fly the classic character balloons. The marching band, cheer, and other group performances that were slated for the 2020 parade will perform this year instead.
This year, there are 15 giant character helium balloons. New colossal inflatables include the star of Netflix’s Ada Twist, Scientist, Grogu, also known as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian, Ronald McDonald from McDonald’s, and Pikachu & Eevee from Pokemon. Expect to see returning favorites like Astronaut Snoopy, The Boss Baby, Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Chase from PAW Patrol, the Pillsbury Doughboy, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary, and more.
There are 28 floats participating in this year’s parade, with six new floats joining the iconic lineup. Expect to see exhibits from Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, The Lego Group, the Hallmark Channel, Entenmann’s, Cracker Barrel, Snoopy’s Doghouse, and more. Of course, the one and only Santa Claus will be making his famed finale appearance on the parade’s largest float (it’s 60 feet long!).
Entertainment and performers
This year, enjoy performances by Ballet Hispánico’s School of Dance, the Broadway Education Alliance Youth Choir, the Fred Astaire Dance Studios, the tributaries of Indigenous Direction, J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade), the St. John’s Dance Team, Spirit of America Cheer and Spirit of America Dance Stars, and the Young People’s Chorus of NYC.
Other highlights include the Radio City Rockettes, which have performed annually since 1959, stars of Broadway musicals like Six, Moulin Rouge, and Wicked, and Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree.
You’ll also hear songs from musicians and artists like Jimmie Allen, Jon Batiste, Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Jordan Fisher, Foreigner, the cast of Peacock’s Girls5eva, Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Chris Lane, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, the Muppets of Sesame Street, Nelly, Kim Petras, Kelly Rowland, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood, Tai Verdes, Zoe Wees, and Tauren Wells.
Where to watch the Giant Balloon Inflation Celebration on Thanksgiving Eve
The Giant Balloon Inflation, where you can watch the balloons inflate the night before the parade, returns this year to the Upper West Side after last year’s public viewing was canceled. The event will be open to the public on Wednesday, November 24 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This year, guests must provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination and photo ID to view the inflation. Children who are not eligible may enter if accompanied by a vaccinated adult. Entry to the event can be accessed at 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue and guests will be able to view the balloons on 77th and 81st Streets. In 2019, about one million attended the giant balloon inflation celebration.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route and best spots for public viewing
The parade kicks off on Thursday at 9 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West, moving down its traditional 2.5-mile route to Columbus Circle, turning onto Central Park South, and then marching down 6th Avenue. Upon hitting 34th Street, the parade makes its final turn onto 7th Avenue and ends in front of Macy’s Herald Square.
For great views, Macy’s recommends arriving at 6 a.m. on the west side of Central Park West, from West 75th Street to West 61st Streets. The public can also watch the parade along 6th Avenue from West 59th to West 38th Streets.
For spectators at home, the parade will be shown on special national broadcasts on NBC and Telemundo from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., with streams available on Peacock as well. Typically, 50 million people tune in to watch the broadcast.
New health protocols
Health and safety procedures for this year’s event include requiring all volunteer participants and staff to be vaccinated, reducing the overall number of participants by between 10 and 20 percent, and implementing social distancing rules at costuming areas, seating, and check-in.
- The 96-year history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Here’s what you can expect from Macy’s ‘reimagined’ Thanksgiving parade
- MAP: The best spots to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Editor’s note: The original version of this story was published on September 8, 2021, and has since been updated.