The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starts on Thursday at 9 a.m., and it’s one of the biggest annual events in the neighborhood. But the fun/insanity really starts the day before, when people come to watch the balloons getting inflated.

Balloon Inflation

The balloon inflation occurs in the late afternoon and into the evening (about 3-10 p.m. roughly) in the area around the Natural History Museum (77th to 81st Street, Central Park West to Columbus). The area gets very packed and some people have said in recent years that it’s not worth going. But it’s probably dependent on whether you’re wiling to deal with the crowds. Blogger Mommy Poppins offers some advice:

“For the best balloon inflation experience, arrive as early as possible and wait. My son and I used to aim for 2:30pm, but now that he’s in school until 3pm, we usually arrive around 4pm—along with everyone else. This event is mobbed so don’t expect a leisurely stroll past the balloons. Instead, you’re herded into a procession that starts at West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue, and circles the museum.”

Pre-schoolers will probably whine, but if your kids are still in strollers, or are old enough to deal with waiting, you could have more luck.

There’s also another way to see the balloons and have some fun with your kids (while supporting a local school):

“The Anderson School will be hosting a Thanksgiving Eve Carnival on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 in our schoolyard.  There will be inflatable slides and obstacle courses-fun for preschoolers, too!  Popcorn, hot chocolate & more treats!  New this year – Macy’s cheerleaders, stilt walkers and mini golf course!

Time:  4:00 – 10:00 pm
Where:  On the corner of Columbus Avenue and 77th Street

All rides & games tickets are $3.00 each or 4 tickets for 10.00 to support The Anderson School.  Please invite all your friends!”


On Thanksgiving Day itself, the parade starts at 9 a.m. on 77th and Central Park West, runs down CPW and then takes a turn on Central Park South before traveling down 6th Avenue toward Macy’s. Macy’s has the map here. It ends at noon.

To get a good spot, Mommy Poppins suggests getting there as early as 6:30 a.m.:  “First, there is no secret uncrowded place on the route from which to watch. Anyone who tells you that is full of baloney (make that Thanksgiving turkey). Second, avoid Sixth Avenue between 34th and 38th Street as that area will be closed to spectators.”

The Upper West Side is probably the best place to get a good spot, says Mommy Poppins:

” If you want to have an unobstructed view of everything, you’re going to have to stake out your spot around 6:30am (really), maybe even earlier. In that case, we recommend hitting Central Park West in the 60s and 70s.”

Also, if you’re willing to accept an obstructed view, the side streets next to Central Park West are good for viewing and you might not be as scrunched or as cold once the balloons actually start to drift past. We snapped these pictures on 70th near CPW last year.

Kermit photo by LastWordPR.

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