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Tips for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Kids

When I was in 8th grade my parents took my sister and I to New York City to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I remember getting up so early that we were one of the first people on the streets.  Our goal was to get as close to Macy’s department store as possible. We watched it on television for so many years that we were hoping to see the performances. As we approached Macy’s Herald Square, it was already packed full of people.  People even brought ladders to see over the crowds. By the end of the parade we were cold and tired but it was worth every second. It is one of my favorite family memories.

Fast-Forward twenty-five years. I now have a family of my own and couldn’t wait to take them to experience the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My kids are 3-years-old and 5 years-old. Their eyes were as big as bowling balls when they saw the balloons coming down the street. It truly has everything, floats with singers, marching bands, clowns throwing confetti and the giant balloons.  

Get there early

In doing my research before the trip, I read to be on the parade route by 6-6:30am to get a good spot. However, I’d recommend even earlier. By 6:15am all the viewing spots in the front row were taken. The key is to pack correctly as if you are warm and comfortable, the extra 30 minutes or so that I recommend will be worth it.

Restrict Liquids

There is no easy way to get to a bathroom. As the start of the parade approaches, the streets are completely packed and you will not be able to get back to your spot if you do make it out. My kids were fine as we were careful what we gave them. I wanted coffee so I restrained myself to only a little.


Before the parade starts, there isn’t much to look at. There are lots of police on along the route but no pre-parade entertainment to help make the time go by faster. The best thing to do, especially if you have your kids with you is to get to know your neighbors.

It makes the whole experience better and more exciting. We lucked out with some of the nicest people from around the country and it made the time fly. I brought new activities for my kids to play with while we waited. We also played games like, “I spy” and “Simon says”.

Pack This

  • Warm clothes – I recommend long wool socks. My ankles were cold! Put on one more additional layer than you were planning. You can thank me later.
  • Blankets – For a little extra warmth, I’d recommend bringing a few old blankets with you.
  • Chairs – Bring a camping chair or a weekender seat. I packed the weekender seat in the bottom of my suitcase. I bring it with me on a lot of travels so it's worth the investment. When the parade starts, everyone folds up their chairs so why not be comfortable for the few hours before?
  • Hand Warmers – After a few hours waiting, your hands and feet will thank you. Bring the hand warmers with you so you don't have to pay triple to get one from a street vendor.
  • Protein Bars – I always travel with CLIF Nut Butter Filled Bars. They are compact and keep you full. My kids love them as they combine chocolate and almond butter.
  • Themos – In your suitcase, throw in a themos to use for hot coffee, cocoa or tea. Make it at home before you leave or grab it in your hotel. It will stay warm for hours and you don’t have to worry about it spilling.
  • Something to share - I’d recommend bringing a thermos of coffee to share or hand warmers. Grab this 40 pack of Hand Warmers from Amazon and really make friends! Make nice with your neighbors as it enhances everyone’s experience.

If you follow my tips, you will not only be prepared but also enjoy the experience. The anticipation of the parade starting, meeting new people, and sitting on the streets of NYC are all part of the experience.

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