Update: The 2019 Parade will be held on Thursday, November 28th.
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Every year, NYC kicks off the holiday season with one of its most revered and magnificent events - the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since 1924, the parade has marched down the streets of New York to the delight of equally excited children and adults.
While the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a hallmark of our city, it has European roots. In the 1920s, a lot of Macy’s employees were first generation European immigrants. They wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with the type of festival they loved and cherished back home. The first parade took place in 1924, when employees marched through 34th Street dressed as clowns, cowboys, knights and sheikhs. There were floats and professional bands. And to top it all off, there were twenty five live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The parade was an instant hit and laid a foundation for what would later became one of the most treasured holiday traditions.
In 1927, large balloons depicting cartoon characters like Felix the Cat were introduced. The parade even grew through the Great Depression. In 1934, it was viewed by over 1 million people. Around that time, Walt Disney characters and Santa ballons made their first appearances, along with the parade being broadcasted on the radio.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade was interrupted during the early 1940s by World War II and resumed at the end of the war in 1945. It was also televised in New York.
Through the 1950s, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade established itself as a huge media event through national television.
Perhaps the most bittersweet year of the parade was 1963. Less than a week after President Kennedy’s assassination, it went on as not to disappoint the millions of children.
In 1971, the balloons were cancelled due to strong winds and TV stations had to broadcast clips from the previous year's parade.
Over the next few decades, new balloons featuring favorite characters like Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, Superman, Shrek and Spiderman made their appearances in the parade.
Today, the scale of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is huge. Over three and a half million people gather to see as the country’s best marching bands, performance groups, giant helium balloons, magnificent floats and Santa Claus pass before their eyes. Many millions more watch the parade on TV. Every year, top marching bands from all over the country get a special invitation to represent their states in the parade.
In order to secure a good viewing spot, crowds have been known to start gathering as early as 6:30 am along the parade route. The parade travels down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle along Central Park South to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy's Herald Square (34th Street). The duration of the Parade depends on where you view it from - near the beginning of the route it will last about one and a half hours; closer to Macy’s, the parade will last almost three hours. Organizers say that you will get the best views on Central Park West between 61st and 72nd Streets.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a true New York experience that has been enjoyed by generations of New Yorkers and the world.