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Tips for Seeing the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

Enjoy the Thanksgiving Day Parade more with these helpful tips

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While over 44 million folks watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV each year, not everyone is fortunate enough (or brave enough) to experience the parade in person. Over 3.5 million people line the parade route in New York City, but hopefully our tips and advice will give you a leg-up on finding a good spot and staying comfortable while you watch the parade.

More: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade | Parade Route Map

1. Arrive Early for the Best Parade Watching Spots

Dora Balloon at the Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photo by Dan Cross, licensed to About.com
Although the parade starts at 9 a.m., brave parade-going folks start lining up along the parade route by 6:30 a.m. You probably don't need to get to your parade spot before 7 a.m., but prime locations will be fully staked out early on. Many people bring stools, folding chairs or milk crates for sitting or standing on to make the long parade waiting/watching time more comfortable. Keep in mind, you can easily be outside for 4-5 hours if you arrive early and stay for the whole parade.

2. Prepare for the Cold Weather

Thanksgiving Parade Spectators
Photo by Dan Cross, licensed to About.com
Be sure to dress warmly if you're planning to watch the parade -- layers, warm footwear, gloves and a hat are all great ideas. The weather in New York City on Thanksgiving Day can range quite dramatically -- there have been several snow storms on Thanksgiving and sometimes it's warm enough to wear a light sweater. That said, it's normally pretty cool or downright freezing in the early morning in late November and you'll want to dress appropriately. It can be windy and quite cold and the better dressed you are, the more pleasant it will be standing outside for several hours. Personally, I think warm feet make all the difference and I'm a huge fan of insulated shoes and warm socks.

3. Choose Your Parade Watching Location Well

Parade Spectators
Photo by Dan Cross, licensed to About.com
Lots of folks recommend choosing a spot to watch the parade on the Upper West Side -- since the parade starts up there, the parade "ends" earlier up there as well. The parade ends after about 1.5 hours if you're near the beginning of the parade route, but lasts closer to 3 hours at the end of the route. Columbus Circle is also a good choice for parade viewing. It's almost never a good idea to try and watch the parade near Macy's -- unless you're among the fortunate few to have the much coveted bandstand tickets, the area is hectic and crowded and difficult to navigate. Consult our map of the Thanksgiving Day Parade route to pick your spot.

4. Think About Bathroom Breaks

Thanksgiving Day Parade Watcher
Photo by Dan Cross, licensed to About.com
Another thing to keep in mind is picking a spot with nearby restaurants and coffee shops where you can access the bathroom while you wait for the parade to begin or while you're watching the parade. These spots are also ideal for getting a warm beverage (bathrooms are for patrons!) and a snack to keep you sustained during the parade. This point is particularly important if you're traveling with young kids -- they won't want to walk far or wait long when they need a potty break!

5. Watching The Parade With Kids

Sesame Street Float in Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photo by Dan Cross, licensed to About.com
If you're going to take your kids to the parade, they're sure to be amazed by seeing the parade in real life. Since crowds are pretty much guaranteed, you'll want to travel light. Lucky kids love a perch on Mom or Dad's shoulders for watching the bands and balloons as they move down the parade route. You might be happier wearing your baby rather than pushing them in a stroller -- it can be difficult to navigate crowded sidewalks with a stroller. I'd also encourage you to pack a good assortment of snacks and drinks for the children -- you won't want to lose your spot to venture off and look for something to eat. A thermos of hot chocolate is also a great way to help the little ones stay warm.

Visitors with young kids might prefer taking them to see the Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation, which happens the day before and gives the kids a great up close view of the balloons as they are filled up with helium.

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