Take your kids to the Thanksgiving Day Parade at least once. It will be a hassle. It might rain. There is a risk you will be cold and uncomfortable but this side of a trip to the ER it will be something you’ll all remember.
Here are PSP member’s best tips for seeing parade with kids:
The Night Before
Watch the balloons be inflated the night before! Click HERE for more information & parent tips.
On the Day
Where to watch:
“We’ve gone a couple of times and it's really fun if you go early in the morning to some place like the area around West 70th street. As the morning wears on it gets really crowded, but it ends before you're too exhausted and then you're close to the subway to evacuate.”
“What I've done in the past when going to see the parade is watching from the upper west side, anywhere in the 70s along Central Park West. Viewing is pretty good at seeing all the balloons. Depending where you stand, the crowd is always great about letting the little ones get closer to the barricades to see better. “
"I've been twice and it's totally doable. The route stretches for a while, so it's not like being crammed into Times Square on New Year's. We stood at Columbus Circle, and that makes for a nice open area to view the balloons. I think we got there maybe a half hour before it started and had a good place to stand. The crowd is always in a great mood. It's really a wonderful time to be among thousands of New Yorkers. I've never been to the blowing up of the balloons, but I hear that's great too, and we may go this year."
"I've done it with and without kids and definitely recommend it. The best place I think to watch it is near Columbs Circle."
"My reco on thanksgiving day parade would be to steer clear of midtown where the crowds are thicker and the viewing space is more cramped and instead go higher on the upper west. I haven’t gone in years but one strategy is to try to be on the park side of cpw where the crowds might be thinner. You can either approach from the north (above 86rh) or from the east side if you walk across the park. If you feel you might need to make a quick exit however being on the west side of the street (also upper west might be better)."
Where not to watch:
"I went last year. We took the subway to 42nd St on the Q. I was completely overwhelmed by the crowd on the steps coming out of the subway, turned around and went back to Brooklyn. My friends braved the crowd. I couldn't do it. I seriously disappointed my 7 year old daughter. What was I thinking?"
"Too close to Macys' Penn Station and you won't get close enough."
How to get there:
“I would recommend taking the subway. It's still crowded but if you get there very early (I've gotten there around 7am) you can get pretty close. If you time it right, you can be home before the parade starts on TV to see all the performances, which you won't see along the parade route.”
"One more thing-- if you come up at Columbus circle and want to sit on the wall at Central Park Wall-- get off on the Park Side of the subway-- otherwise you're stuck and after about 9:30 they won't let you cross the street to get across without supreme pleading (which I had to do once)."
When to get there and what to bring:
"Not Crazy! It's great! Take snacks, get on the wall on Central Park West, and have a ball! Ya need to go fairly early to get a good seat tho. I LOVE the T-day parade! But I've never been brave enough to go with my kid. don't trust him to stay close, so I know I'd just be nervously watching him thewhole time; no fun for mommy! But if you feel comfortable with your kids in a big crowd, it's really fun. You need to be able to get them up high, so you should be able to lift them or put them on your shoulders. Â My favorite part is seeing those huge floats soaring between the big bldgs of midtown. But some folks like to be near the park. You certainly don't need to watch the whole thing."
“It’s always a great idea to bring fold-up rain ponchos in addition to an umbrella. Umbrellas can be tricky in crowds and wind”
You should go early, bring blankets, breakfast (bagels and cream cheese) and lunch (my mom packed falafels, each ingredient separate, fun to make your own on the blanket). You camp out for your good spot (can't remember far enough back to where we sat but I know the Macy's or nyc.gov should have a parade route).
I must have been in 12 but I remember having the experience and it was fun(my younger brother was around 5 and played Hide and Seek in a store garment rack, so my mother would tell you to bring a strap/harness type thing for a young kid, she almost fainted in panic about how to find him in the crowds."
"My dad used to take us to the parade every year and we loved it. we didn't camp out and watch the whole thing, we would just try to get a spot where it wasn't over yet (I guess we had a hard time getting our butts in gear) and people would let us kids worm our way to the front. Inevitably it was totally freezing, so we had to dress in layers. But if you're into the idea of going I would recommend it. It's definitely a memory I cherish."
"i agree it might be rough on a toddler, i want to say that my father took us to the parade when we were kids and it is such an important and wonderful childhood memory for me. We never got there at 7am - in fact, we always took a taxi and rode down to a good spot while the parade was already in progress. as kids, we were able to squeeze through the crowd and sit on the edge of the sidewalk right behind the police baracade, although i guess my dad only got to see the floats. we loved the floats and the clowns and the bands and santa (even though we're Jewish). the fact that we only saw part of the parade never bothered us (and I'd assume sitting for the whole thing would be hard on a kid).
After it was all over, we got to pick one of those inflatable characters on a stick, and then was the quest for a place that was open and serving hot chocolate. finally we'd go home where we would start playing swords with the sticks from the inflatable characters, while my mother would scream that we were going to poke our eyes out. So if your kids are a little older I say go to the parade and have fun! and dress in layers - long underwear is a must. I did this last year & the year before that, big fun. The balloons are set up in a circle on the steets that surround the Museum of Natural History.
I"t can be VERY VERY VERY crowded. But fun. They start inflating them around 6 pm the night before Thanksgiving."
Make sure you plan a spot to take a break for Hot Chocolates, the Bathroom, and a respite:
"I know that it helps if you have a friend near the parade route, or if you or your partner work in the city. It's often a cold day and kids eventually need a hot coco-bathroom break, so having someplace to go inside for a respite (other than starbucks) helps. I will tell you that as a native NYer I've never gone (my parents did it with my older siblings and were over it by the time i came along). But you have to do it once, and as soon as my daughter is old enough, I will. the alternative of course, is to go watch them blow up the balloons the night before."
More parent memories & experiences:
"I think the weather is always a big factor. I can remember going as a kid and FREEZING."
"I haven't gone since I was a kid so I don't really remember the madness. My cousins who were visiting NYC last year went and really enjoyed it. I didn't hear any tales of horror, just that their backs hurt from lifting their youngest on their shoulders to see what was going on. Something we used to do in high school was go out the night before the parade to watch the balloons being inflated. That was a lot of fun. Not sure what that's like now though but thought I'd throw it out there as an alternative."
"When I was younger my parents took us to the Macy's Day parade. It was fun (if your children are older and can appreciate waiting and crowds).