How to Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Thanksgiving Day is all about traditions like turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and family and friends. Oh, and the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is a holiday season staple all on its own. The 2.5-mile parade route always winds its way around Central Park and through the streets of New York City. If you’re curious about how to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade from the comfort of your home, here are the details.
Watch it on TV.
This one is pretty straightforward. Simply tune in and watch to enjoy the festivities on Thursday, Nov. 22.
NBC will begin covering the parade live at 9 a.m. ET and continue through the morning before wrapping it up at 12 p.m. The parade coverage will be hosted by The Today Show’s Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, and Al Roker.
CBS will also cover the parade, starting at 9 a.m ET. According to TV Guide, Entertainment Tonight hosts Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight will co-anchor the program. There will also be appearances by celebrities from the network’s popular shows, including Erich Bergen from Madam Secretary and Sela Ward from FBI.
Or, watch it online.
If you don’t have a television (or want to stream the parade on your phone while eating green bean casserole), NBC has paired up with Verizon to bring you full coverage. It’s easy to watch: All you have to do is head over to Verizon's YouTube channel for “Verizon 360 Live: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” around 9 a.m. to catch all of your favorite floats, like Charlie Brown, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Olaf, and SpongeBob Squarepants. The Try Guys' Keith Habersberger and Zuri Hall from E! News will host the Verizon 360 Live special.
Another option is to watch online by visiting NBC’s website for a livestream or downloading the Watch NBC app for iOS, Android, or Roku.
Here's what you can expect.
This year’s float performances will include Ashley Tisdale, Barenaked Ladies, Bazzi, Diana Ross and Family, Ella Mai, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis, Martina McBride, Pentatonix, Rita Ora and Sugarland, and Tegan Marie, according to TV Guide.
The parade will also include 12 different marching bands and multiple dance groups from across the nation, as well as a host of new balloons, including Jojo and Hug from Netflix's The Christmas Chronicles and Little Cloud from FriendsWithYou. New floats include Fantasy Chocolate Factory, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Nickelodeon and Macy's Tom Turkey.
If you want a sneak peek ...
Want to check out the balloons before they make their debut? If you’re in the area, you can see the balloons being inflated at a staging area at 77th Street and Central Park West outside of the American Museum of Natural History. Guests enter at West 73rd Street and Columbus Avenue, and are then guided to a viewing line. If you have certain balloons in mind, then you can also plan ahead to see where they will be located along the viewing line.
Here's some parade history.
Curious about how the Macy’s Day Parade got its start? According to History.com, it began as an ode to a business benchmark for the R. H. Macy & Co. When Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square expanded in 1924 to cover an entire city block along 34th Street — it sits squarely between Broadway to Seventh Avenue — the company decided to host a parade as a celebration for the “World’s Largest Store.” Even though the parade took place on Thanksgiving Day, it was initially dubbed a Christmas parade and used as a means for getting shoppers pumped about the upcoming holiday shopping season.
In an effort to match that year’s Macy’s Christmas nursery rhyme-themed window display, floats included Mother Goose favorites, like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Miss Muffet, and Little Red Riding Hood.
Broadcasts of the parade didn’t take place until 1932, and they were on the radio, according to CNN. The first television broadcast occurred in 1946, but was exclusive to New York residents. It wasn’t until the next year that NBC picked up the broadcast and people around the nation could tune in to the fun.
A few more fun facts ...
While the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is certainly a Thanksgiving favorite, you might be surprised to know it was not always a surefire hit.
Two years after the parade began, the Allied Patriotic Societies protested the event, telling Macy’s that “it would interfere with Thanksgiving Day worship,” according to a Nov. 4, 1926 article in The New York Times. The association said that if the company didn’t acknowledge the protest, it would ask the police commissioner to revoke the parade permit, according to Mental Floss.
Macy’s employee Percy Straus responded to the request during the association's meeting, noting that, “Thanksgiving morning was the only time when children would be free to watch and traffic would be light enough to permit the parade’s passing,” and adding that it would end with plenty of time for people to attend church. Even though the association still proceeded to vote to cancel the parade, their endeavor was unsuccessful and the parade went off without a hitch.
But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, from 1942 to 1944 the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was canceled due to rubber and helium shortages, the result of World War II. A helium shortage in 1958 almost grounded the balloons again, but Macy’s paired with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and Traynor & Hansen Corporation — a rigging specialist — and filled the balloons with air, then suspended them from “large, mobile construction derricks,” according to Mental Floss.
What’s new this year?
In addition to new floats and performances by popular singers, dancers, and musicians, the thing that’s changed the most is the parade route. According to CNN, for years the parade’s route traveled straight down Broadway. But in 2009, it was moved to Seventh Avenue as a result of the pedestrian areas that were added to Broadway. And in 2011, it was moved to Sixth Avenue.
This year, the parade will begin at West 77th Street and Central Park West, continuing down Central Park West before making a left on West 59th Street and then taking a right on Sixth Avenue. From there, the parade takes it in for the home stretch, making a right on 34th Street and coming to a stop at none other than Macy’s Herald Square.
There are drinking games! (And also sober games.)
If the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a bit ho-hum for your taste, then it might be time to put a fun spin on the event.
You could try Thanksgiving Parade Bingo, where you look for certain parade essentials (Santa, a cheerleader, a cozy scarf, a turkey) and mark them off until the first person scores bingo. There’s also an I-Spy Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Printable that involves spotting balloon regulars, including Pikachu, Macy’s Yellow Stars, and Harold the Fireman.
And then there are a bunch of games that involve getting a bit tipsy, like taking a sip each time a pop star sings with a puppet or adding a splash of vodka when a Broadway musical number rounds the corner.
Connect with other viewers.
Macy’s also offers a number of ways to stay connected with other people and activities that are happening throughout the event. Use the hashtag #MacysParade on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see up-to-the-minute updates on the action.
Yep, there's parade merch.
Of course, if you are a true Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade aficionado, then you might also want to check out a few of the collectibles that are featured in the Macy’s Parade Shop. You’ll find a commemorative 2018 Macy's Parade Snow Globe ($75), Macy's 2018 Thanksgiving Day Parade Bandleader Bear ($30), Macy's Parade Salt and Pepper Shakers ($22) and 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Boxcar ($84.99). There’s also a Macy's Parade 12-ounce Commuter Mug ($20), the perfect gift for a friend who will be hitting the streets of New York to watch the parade in person.