Sometimes in life you get truly lucky and get to do something you’ve wanted to do since you were a kid. Other times you head to your favorite spot in Chinatown only to discover it’s been shut down after sources discovered employees making dumpster dumplings in the alley surrounded by rats. Hey, you win some, you lose some, maybe you get food poisoning. C’est la vie mes amis.
But this post isn’t (just) about rat feces or a possible hantavirus contraction; it’s about fulfilling childhood dreams and channeling the spirit of your grandmother. Last month I attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and it was as magical as I always dreamed it would be. Not as magical as the Magic Eye book I got for Christmas 20 years ago, but pretty damn close. (For the love of god, how do those things work?!?!?!)
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Before my trip to New York City I scoured the interwebs for tips on attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (also “how do rear view mirrors work” because I’m infinitely curious). Most of them were on blogs with ‘mommy’ in the title but sometimes you’ve just got to work with what’s available. Like that time I killed a spider with half a can of hair spray. (Unless you want to chip away at the spider’s hardened corpse that’s stuck to your bathroom tile, don’t kill ’em with hair spray.)
Some tips were useful, others just ridiculously stupid. “Dress warm,” you say? No shit, thanks for the insider tip! Oh, I should get a hotel room overlooking Macy’s, is that right? It’s only $1000 a night? I could literally get a Black Hawk flyover from the U.S. military for a better price. They owe me a few favors anyway…
Step aside mommies!
DO get there before 6 AM if you want a spot along the barricade.
I first read if you want a spot up front you needed to get there at 6:30 AM (for the 9 AM parade) – so I vowed to get there at 6. Then I read 6 is better, so I vowed to get there at 5:45. I’m an overachiever if there ever was one.
Because I thought it would be a good idea to take public transportation to Central Park West on a major holiday (I was like, really tired…), I instead arrived at the parade route in Midtown at the late hour of 6 o’clock and guess what? I was one child back from the barricade. One child who got there at, you guessed it, 5:45 as a place holder for her mother who was sleeping in. See? Get there before 6. (Or….ya know, birth some offspring to use as stand-ins.) Go big or go home, people! Second behind the barricade is first loser, everybody knows that.
DON’T take the subway to the parade route.
I was aiming for Central Park West near the start of the parade at 75th Street. Since my morning began at 51st Street and 3rd Ave, I decided to take the subway to the Upper West Side. The New York City subway, I may be the only one who has ever said this, has never let me down. Until now. We waited for half an hour for a train that never came. “F*CK THIS SHIT! WE’RE WALKING!” I never said I was a patient person. This may help explain the whiskey you’ll read about later.
We exited the station and walked two blocks straight to the parade route and popped a squat right there at 6th Ave and 52nd Street. I realize now that was what we should’ve done in the first place, but if I had done everything perfectly this wouldn’t be much of an article, eh? The route was lined with people as far as the eye and my 50x zoom lens could see so we just picked a spot on a corner and broke out the muffins. They actually might have been Pillsbury… hoo-hooo!
DO bring muffins and share them with your curb buddies.
You will be trapped in your chosen spot for six hours, unable to move, because someone hijacking your space is an all-too-real probability. Sometime in those six hours hunger will strike so be prepared. My advice? Muffins! I recommend lemon poppyseed. I baked them at my house in Massachusetts at like 10:00 the night before, threw them all into a Ziplock bag, and shoved them into my backpack. Whatever, it worked. I also never said I was Martha Stewart.
Don’t forget to share with the friends you’ve made on your street corner that didn’t bring anything more than their stories of life in small-town Minnesota to get by. Muffins are good and people will like you. Except for the one guy who “brought his own.” Sure, OK, whatever. Trust me, you’ll want your sidewalk neighbors in your parade posse when people start trying to sneak, shove, and crawl in front of you.
DON’T forget to bring something to sit on. New York City sidewalks and all…
Even though the real danger comes from above*, you’ll want something to separate your clean bootay from whatever is on the sidewalk. A blanket, a towel, a La-Z-Boy recliner, I don’t care. I brought a blanket I once bought at a Stuckey’s truck stop in Alabama. Solid purchase. Since it was Thanksgiving in New York City after all, I counted on the blanket pulling double duty when the freezing temperatures came. SURPRISE! It was 65 °F that day. Alrighty, just a butt protector then.
DON’T drink anything*.
The mommies of cyberspace kept recommending to bring a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee and to that I said, “Whaa? With this bladder? That shit cray.”
And just where are you going to relieve yourself, lady? I know it’s New York City and all but I am not peeing on this street corner. And I’m certainly not moving because a very large woman and her six kids have started crowding me in an effort to overtake and gain ground. One even tried to squeeze through my legs to get in front of me. The polite and patient middle school teacher next to me said nice things like, “We’ve been here for a long time and we’ve earned our spot up front. Maybe when the parade starts we’ll let you up front to take a look but for now you will have to wait back there with your mom.” Me, on the other hand: “AWWW HELLLLL NAW!” The parade struggle is real folks.
I brought my Camelbak for moments of dire dehydration but that. is. all.
*Unless you have an iron bladder like my husband and watching a parade just won’t do without a flask of whiskey. There’s an exception to every rule.
DO bring a book to pass the time.
If you can’t sit and wait for things patiently, we would make great friends. Also, maybe you should bring a book to keep yourself occupied. I brought The Martian by Andy Weir. Have y’all read that? You’ve probably seen the movie. The book is loads better and hil-ar-i-ous. Hollywood apparently doesn’t want you to know this.
DON’T read it.
First of all, it’s dark out. Leave your book light at home, nerd. Second of all, there’s too much to see! The people watching is phenomenal. You will form a symbiotic curb relationship with strangers from Minnesota. And you will spend hours playing “What’s That Cop’s Job?” where you try to figure out an officer’s position within the NYPD based on how they’re dressed and what type of vehicle they arrived in. Wow, it was actually a lot more fun than it sounds, promise. OK fine, I’m a nerd! Whatever. Let’s move on…
DO get into the parade spirit.
I should preface this by saying… you will never find me at another parade. I don’t like parades. I don’t get the point and I think they’re stupid. There. But like I said earlier: Go big or go home. If I’m going to go to a parade, it’s going to be the parade. Besides, it’s easy to get into the spirit when you’ve been watching this event on TV since you acquired the ability to actually lift and point your head towards the TV, and have dreamed about being a part of it ever since.
Stop trying to look cool and let your inner dork out. It’s easier for some of us, I get it. What’s the worst that could happen? They could show you on TV, geeking out after a high-five with a clown dressed as a cheerleader for the Turkey Tech Gobblers, to the millions upon millions of viewers nationwide? You’re going to be exhausted and covered in confetti regardless so you might as well have fun.
DON’T try to make sense of the clowns.
Seriously, I don’t know what to make of the clowns at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Honestly, I kind of liked the giant pencils (who wouldn’t!), but the old men dressed as babies? That’s my weird limit for the day. The breakfast clowns were cool ’cause ya know, I like breakfast. But the “wacky graduates“? Huh? Where do they come up with this stuff?
There was one really big clown that just scared the bejeezus out of everyone in Manhattan.
Nope. This is not cool. Everyone within earshot: “Oh my god! He’s looking right at us!”
DO take this guy’s advice in a bind. ➚
So you showed up late and can’t get a spot anywhere close to the route? You can do as one page suggested and “see it from a hill or playground”…huh? Or you can follow this guy’s lead and just walk back and forth repeatedly. Sounds equally ridiculous, but hear me out: being at an intersection, the police let people cross the street in between balloons and floats. This guy walked back and forth over and over, stopping in the middle to take pictures of the action. I may have arrived three hours early but I bet this guy got the best photos. Also, he wasn’t the only one doing this. Apparently word gets around in the Chinese community.
DON’T be afraid of terrorists.
Despite the increased terror alerts for that day at that event in that city, I honestly felt I was in the safest place in the world that morning. Every type of law enforcer imaginable was out there. NYPD counterterrorism, FBI, bomb squad, swat team, the A-team, ministry of magic, the Night’s Watch, and cute little puppies. OK, they were ferocious, man-eating beasts but still, so cute. If I had given in to all the warnings that day I would have missed out on fulfilling one of my life’s goals and a momentous and unique experience. Don’t let fear dictate your lives and especially not your travels.
It was ironic how Christmas-y the Thanksgiving parade was. But, judging by how sad those pilgrims were at the get-go, I don’t blame them for pulling the ol’ switcheroo…
DO take advantage of the parade aftermath.
One surprising advantage of visiting New York City on Thanksgiving is that 6th Avenue is closed all. day. long. Having an entire New York City avenue all to yourself is something you never knew you wanted so badly that comes along almost never.
In town for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or just a fun weekend in New York City? Check out the New York CityPASS for huge savings on NYC’s top attractions. ⇣⇣⇣
Which Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are your favorites?
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