The annual event, now in its 91st year, will follow the same route as in years past: It’ll begin on the Upper West Side and wind its way along Central Park, before heading down to Midtown and finishing up in front of Macy’s Herald Square. An estimated 3.5 million people will turn out for the parade on the day of, which can only mean one thing: Manhattan traffic, particularly in those neighborhoods, will be a freaking nightmare on the day of the parade.
And it’s not just Thursday that you have to worry about: Macy’s also welcomes people to see the balloon inflation the night before the parade, which takes place across from the American Museum of Natural History. Streets are closed off for that, too—especially as it’s become nearly as popular as the parade itself.
And according to the Wall Street Journal, following the attack on the West Side Highway earlier this month, security measures—particularly for the inflation—will be stepped up, and that event will happen earlier (between 1 and 8 p.m.) to facilitate the parade’s start time. On Thursday, expect to see more of a police presence, along with heavy-weapons teams, blocker vehicles, and police stationed on rooftops.
So what can you expect from this year’s parade—and how can you avoid it altogether? We’ve got you covered.
When is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
What is the parade route?
The route stretches for 2.5 miles, beginning at 77th Street and Central Park West, and ending in Midtown in front of Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street. Along the way, it travels down Central Park West; turns east onto Central Park South at Columbus Circle; then turns south at Sixth Avenue; and travels along that thoroughfare before turning west at 34th Street, and ending at Macy’s.
What’s new for the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
According to Macy’s, this year’s parade will feature “17 giant character balloons; 28 legacy balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; 12 marching bands and six performance groups.”
Of those, some of the new faces will include characters from Paw Patrol and Super Wings, as well as a new Grinch balloon, and a balloon depicting Olaf from Frozen. New floats—which are basically giant moving advertisements for various brands—include ones from Delta Air Lines, Green Giant, and Sour Patch Kids.
Which streets will be closed during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
While the DOT has yet to release the exact streets that will be closed off for the parade, last year’s list is a pretty good indicator of what to expect:
- 6th Avenue between 59th Street and 34th Street
- 7th Avenue between 33rd Street and 40th Street
- Columbus Avenue between 81st Street and 77th Street
- Central Park West between 86th Street and east side of Columbus Circle/59th Street
- 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 76th Street and 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 71st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 68th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 62nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 59th Street between Columbus Circle and 6th Avenue
- Broadway between 59th Street and 58th Street
- 40th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
- 36th Street to 39th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
- 35th Street between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue
- 34th Street between 5th Avenue and 8th Avenue
- 33rd Street between 6th Avenue and 10th Avenue
And on Wednesday, expect many of the streets around the AMNH—so from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue, between 77th and 81st streets—to be closed to facilitate the balloon inflation. We’ll update as more information becomes available.
What about getting around Midtown that day?
One thing to note is that the MTA will operate on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving day, and that street closures will affect bus service in the neighborhoods where the parade takes place. Plan accordingly, and check the MTA’s website for updates.
For those attempting to get out of NYC on Wednesday, good luck: It’s one of the city’s official gridlock alert days, which basically means traffic is going to be more unpleasant than normal.
Commuter rail services like Metro-North and LIRR will also be adding extra trains for parade-goers; check out our guide to Thanksgiving traffic for more details.