Everything You Need to Know About the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

The most anticipated holiday parade is returning to the streets of Manhattan in full force this year.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photo courtesy of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

After nixing live spectators last year to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, Macy’s announced that it will fully resurrect its world-famous holiday parade this Thanksgiving. The 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade promises to bring all the star-studded fun that viewers have grown to expect, plus a handful of new floats and balloons to help welcome the Christmas season in style.

While tuning into the Macy’s parade is a tradition among households nationwide—outshone only by news of the annual reunion between Jamal Hinton and his “Thanksgiving grandma”—New Yorkers get the opportunity to show up in person and witness the magic right before their eyes. If you’re one of the millions planning to venture to the parade route on Thanksgiving morning, here’s everything you need to know about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ahead of time.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade | NYC Russ/Shutterstock

The parade route

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off from West 77th Street at 9 am, moves south on Central Park West to Columbus Circle, and then heads east on West 59th Street. The journey continues south on Sixth Avenue to 34th Street and ends outside Macy’s flagship store around noon. Visualize the route here.

Where to watch

There are two main stretches of road where you can catch a great view of the parade. Early birds can line up on the west side of Central Park West between West 75th Street and West 59th Street—people start camping out here as early as 6am, but you can show up closer to the start time for a less optimal view. Late arrivers should aim to post up farther down the parade route, along Sixth Avenue between West 59th Street and West 38th Street.

No matter when you arrive, there are a handful of areas on the route with limited-to-no views. Avoid the kickoff area at West 77th Street, all of Columbus Circle, the stretch of Sixth Avenue between West 38th Street and West 34th Street, and anywhere near Macy’s on 34th Street.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photo courtesy of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

How to get there

The subway is always the most reliable mode of transportation to an event where street closures are involved. Meet up with your group before hopping on the train, and head to a station slightly off the beaten path to minimize the chaos. You’re already going to be on your feet and in the cold—a few extra minutes of walking won’t hurt.

If you’re planning to watch in the Upper West Side, take the 1, 2, or 3 train to 72nd Street. If you’re planning to watch in Midtown, consider taking the E train to 50th Street or the N train to 49th Street. As always, watch the MTA’s live service updates online or on Twitter in case there’s a hangup.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade | NYC Russ/Shutterstock

What to wear and how to prepare

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is famously freezing for fans who choose to line the sidewalks. So far, Thanksgiving shows signs of being warmer than usual this year, but you’ll still want to arrive prepared in case the forecast changes.

The key to surviving a morning event in November is layering up. Long johns, sweaters, coats, and scarves are all great ideas, but don’t stop there. Comfortable shoes are a necessity, and head and hand protection help contain your body heat. Also, keep in mind that bathrooms are limited near the parade.

This year’s performers, floats, and new balloons

The 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade features 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, and countless performers of every kind.

Six new character balloons are debuting this year: Grogu, better known as Baby Yoda, from The Mandalorian; child scientist Ada Twist from the Netflix show Ada Twist, Scientist; Tiptoe, a reindeer puppet balloon that starred in Macy’s holiday campaign this year; Toni the Bandleader Bear, named after puppeteer Tony Sarg; Pikachu and Eevee in a Pokeball-themed sled; and a redesigned Ronald McDonald, who’s now holding a heart.

There are also four new floats that will roll down the parade route for the first time this year: a colorful Peacock float based on NBC’s inaugural streaming service; a bayou-themed gator float sponsored by the Louisiana Office of Tourism; an adventurous waterpark float representing Kalahari Resorts & Conventions; and a cruise ship float designed to resemble Disney’s new ship, the Wish.

Among the many celebrities performing at the parade are Kim Petras, Kristin Chenoweth, Nelly, Andy Grammer, Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Kelly Rowland, Jon Batiste, Darren Criss, Chris Lane, and Foreigner.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photo courtesy of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

How to stream the event on TV

If seeing the parade in person just isn’t in the cards this year, enjoy the festivities from the comfort of your home. The three-hour broadcast—hosted by Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Al Roker—will air on NBC from 9 am to noon in every time zone on Thursday, November 25. It’ll re-broadcast from 2 to 5 pm in every time zone in case you missed the morning show.

You can also stream the event on Peacock at your own leisure, and if you would prefer to watch in Spanish, Telemundo will broadcast the event from 9 am to noon, hosted by Ana Jurka, Carlos Adyan, and Freddy Lomelí.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Kyler Alvord is a contributor for Thrillist.