Autumn 2012 brings the beloved Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on its 86th trip through the cool November streets of New York City. Featuring favorite cartoon characters in giant inflated form (Mickey Mouse, Dora the Explorer, Snoopy), more than 40-foot tall floats and even "fulloons" (floats with balloon characters on them), the parade is awe-inspiring and fun for adults and children alike. And the best part is the price of admission: it's free.
The first balloons — Photo courtesy of ZhaoAngela
Each year, 2,000 to 3,000 people work to inflate the Goliath balloons, which are often as many as six stories tall and 60 feet long. In recent years, the inflating itself has become an event. Interested observers can watch these helium- and air-filled giants come to life the night before the parade, Thanksgiving Eve from 3:00-10:00 PM at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue.
Holiday cheer! — Photo courtesy of DrivingtheNortheast
The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West, continues south to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, then banks east onto Central Park South and snakes south again onto 6th Avenue, finally concluding at the Macy's 34th Street-Herald Square.
Pokemon float at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — Photo courtesy of DrivingtheNortheast
The procession starts at 9:00 AM and lasts until 10:30 AM EST. Arrive early to stake out a good viewing spot; prized locations include Central Park West between 59th and 75th streets and along 6th Ave from 59th to 39th streets. It's best to stay away from the Macy's at 34th Street-Herald Square as it's packed with attendees and camera crews. The higher up in Manhattan you choose to watch, the earlier the procession will pass you. It lasts around 1.5 hours for those on Central Park West, but can be up to 3 hours for those watching from the forties and fifties.
To attend, be sure to dress very warmly with removable layers. The weather in November in NYC can be fickle and especially cold in the early morning.