Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: What You Don’t See On TV

Have you ever wondered about everything you don’t see on TV? Well here is the inside scoop on all the behind-the-scene stuff from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A few weeks ago our family had the opportunity to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Having watched this event on TV every year, it was a huge bucket list item to actually be there in person.

Although I plan to save most of my tips and stories for a post that will come out next fall- I’ve had so many people ask questions about our experience that I wanted to go ahead and provide a little “behind the scenes” scoop for inquiring minds.

Here are 5 things about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that you don’t see on TV:

  1. 1. Preparation: When the cameras roll at 9AM Thanksgiving morning, most of the country is sitting on their couch in PJ’s with their first cup of coffee in hand. However, New York City has been working 24-hours a day for weeks in preparation of that moment. Most of the participants arrive a week early for intense 15+ hour rehearsals every day. The balloons get blown up, the stands set up, and the streets blocked off. Police work around the clock to keep everything orderly and safe. (In fact, I’m fairly certain that every police officer in the state of New York works the morning of the parade! So thankful- but definitely something that you don’t consider since it’s a day that most people don’t have to work!) City workers even disassemble street signs and traffic lights on the parade route. It’s truly unbelievable to see the amount of preparation that goes into a 3 hour event! 
  1. 2. Spots: Speaking of insane amounts of time, unless you have a ticket to one of the grandstand areas most spectators of the parade begin securing their spots 3-4 hours before the parade even kicks off. Before sunrise people line the route- mostly sitting in folding chairs. By 7AM the crowd is in a standing-room-only situation. Past that point you really can’t come and go from your spot or it will be taken. You also have to keep in mind that although the parade begins at 9, depending where you are along the route, it can take up to an hour to arrive at your location.
  2. 3. Performances: One of the biggest downsides to watching the parade in person is that you don’t get to see any of the performances (unless you have tickets to the televised area right in front of Macy’s.) Most of the marching bands were playing as they passed us. But beyond that, most groups just waved to the crowd. Although I won’t name names, I will say that one celebrity was sitting down on the float and looking at his phone. I wasn’t very bothered because I’m not a girl that’s super star struck. But I will say that a lot of people around me were very disappointed in his behavior. Where we were standing the parade was over by 11 and we really enjoyed going back into our hotel room and watching the actual performances on TV. It’s a totally different experience!
  • 4. Weather: Okay, so obviously you see weather on TV and you certainly hear the announcers talk about it. But let me assure you, hearing people talk about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as being the coldest ever and experiencing it…two totally different things! There are also now some very strict guidelines concerning weather. If the wind is forecast to be above a certain speed, the balloons are not allowed to be in the parade. This year the parade was right on the threshold. In person you could see the handlers struggling when large gusts came and you could also tell that they were flying the balloons very low! Having watched the last hour of the parade on TV, I could tell that the camera angles were clever to disguise how low the balloons were actually being held. 
  1. 5. Clean-Up: Another thing you never see on TV is the massive clean-up effort that goes on, even during the parade! I’m quite certain I’ve never seen the poop scoopers that trail behind the horses. And, no one witnesses the individuals that work for over 24-hours after the parade’s completion cleaning up the streets, reassembling the traffic lights and breaking down the barricades and grandstands. I’ll say it again, it’s truly amazing how much work goes on behind the scenes to make the Parade look so amazing on TV!

Hopefully you feel like you’ve gotten a little bit of insight into everything that you don’t get to see on TV!

Without a doubt, I believe that everyone should experience the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person at least once in their life! Is it something I would want to do every year? Probably not (unless I make friends with someone who has a parade view apartment…if you’re reading this, call me!)

But, if it’s not already on your travel bucket list- add it now!

You may also enjoy reading:

A Guide To Attending The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

Children’s Safety While Traveling: 10 Things We Do and Don’t Do

A Christmas Gift Guide For Kids Who Don’t Need More Stuff

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