Last year was my first Thanksgiving in the city and I went all out to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event. I decided in the spirit of giving to share my top tips to getting the most (for free) out of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
1. Avoid massive crowds and get to see the balloons up close. Head up to the Natural History Museum on Wednesday night (11/26) for "Inflation Eve" where these monstrous balloons are blown up on museum lawn from 3pm-10pm.
2. Get a spot uptown. The parade starts at 77th & Central Park West and ends at 34th & 7th Ave. My favorite viewing area is along Central Park West, between 66th and 77th Streets. It is crowded here but not crazy. At least here - at the beginning of the route - the balloon handlers, marchers, etc are at the height of their excitement and energy level and you can enjoy the splendor of the park across the street. Plus I brought a folding chair and had enough room to spread out and sit on the sidewalk which you won't find around Herald Square.
3.Get there early, but don't get too crazy. People may recommend getting there at the crack of dawn but unless you want all in the action on 34th street it's not necessary. Last year I got there around 6:45am and got a GREAT spot. Once you find a space don't move/leave. It'll be gone when you get back. Grab your coffee and donuts in shifts so that you can secure your piece of the sidewalk. The actual Thanksgiving Day Parade starts at 9:00 AM, so bring a book/music and blankets for while you wait.
4. And finally, try to watch the parade with a child. This is the coolest part. Last year I let some children sit on my lap who's parents had brought them late and while a little weird at first, over all a really sweet experience. Children make everything seem wondrous and this parade is something for the kids. I loved it. If there's a kid behind you straining to see the floats, let them jump in front of you, you won't regret it!