The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, opens a new window has been a beloved holiday tradition since 1924 and is Macy's annual gift to the nation. For many, the parade marks the beginning of the holiday season. Tune in to see the 25 balloons, 6 balloonicles (balloon on wheels), 31 floats, 11 marching bands, 17 big name stars, 29 clown crews and 7 performance groups make their way through New York City with something to wow all ages.
The first parade in 1924 featured live animals from the Central Park Zoo accompanied by costumed Macy's employees and drew 250,000 spectators. In 1927, live animals gave way to large balloons (which were simply released into the sky until 1933). The parade was suspended from 1941 through 1944 during WWII because all rubber and helium were needed for the war. After being featured in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, the parade became well-known and was broadcast on television starting in 1948. Today the parade features over 6,500 participants and draws an audience of over 50 million.
- In order to be a balloon handler or other volunteer, one must be a Macy's employee, colleague, family, friend or other affiliate.
- Speaking of balloon handlers, each balloon requires 80-100 of them to guide the massive balloons safely through the streets of NYC.
- The first character balloon was Felix the Cat, debuting in 1927. The first Mickey Mouse balloon flew in 1934 and was designed with help from Walt Disney himself.
- Snoopy is the character with the most appearances with a total of 40 parades and seven different designs since 1968.
- The average time to create a balloon is five months.
- Only the U.S. Government utilizes more helium than Macy's, with each balloon using up to 12,000 cu. ft. of helium.
- After the parade, the balloons are deflated, boxed and stored in New Jersey.
- The largest float in the parade is Santa's Sleigh, standing 3.5 stories tall, 22 feet wide and 60 feet long.
- The parade uses 200 pounds of confetti and 300 pounds of glitter--a street-sweeper's dream to be sure.
- The parade route has changed over the years for various logistical reasons. NYC officials preview the parade route each year to eliminate any potential obstacles and even rotate overhead traffic signals out of the way.
- The parade has been featured in the storylines of numerous movies and TV shows including Miracle on 34th Street and episodes of Seinfeld ("The Mom and Pop Store") and Friends ("The One Where Underdog Got Away"--though no balloon has actually ever escaped).
- Bonus: Why the Macy's Balloons Used to Just Fly Away and More Fun Facts About the Big Parade, opens a new window.
Watching the Parade
Preview the parade lineup, opens a new window with images and fun facts about each of the balloons, floats, performers and more.
On Wednesday, November 22, be sure to watch the Countdown to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC. Parade preparation kicks off allowing viewers a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the amazing floats, balloons and bands, and the stories of their journey to the iconic parade.
Spectators in NYC can catch an in-person glimpse of the balloon inflation and floats, opens a new window as they get parade-ready on Thanksgiving Eve.
Watch the 97th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 23 from 8:30 am-12 pm in all time zones on NBC, opens a new window, streamed on Peacock, opens a new window and a Spanish simulcast on Telemundo 47 New York, opens a new window. CBS, opens a new window will broadcast "unofficial" parade coverage as well. If you miss the live broadcast, an encore airing will run at 2 pm after the National Dog Show.
Those lucky (and brave) enough to be in NYC for Thanksgiving can join the crowd to watch in select areas along the 2.5 mile parade route, opens a new window, starting in Manhattan's Upper West Side and heading south to Macy's Herald Square, the flagship store on 34th Street in Midtown.
Miracle on 34th Street
The 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street is a favorite Christmas classic that prominently features the parade in its storyline, as do most film remakes and books. NBC historically televised the original 1947 film on Thanksgiving afternoon, but since NBC's television rights to the movie expired in 2009 they now re-air the parade coverage instead.