Nov 07

NYC Insider Tips on Thanksgiving in New York City – Macy’s Parade and Map Where to Stay and Eat

Elf on the shelf balloon flying in 2013 Macy's Parade

Elf on the shelf balloon flying in 2013 Macy’s Parade

Thanksgiving in New York City can be a wonderful experience if you plan it correctly. These NYC Insider Tips will keep you from being one of those tourists I see all the time who have not planned accordingly for their holiday and are left wandering around in the cold or rain, with their poor children, looking for a restaurant or restroom near the Parade route, after 5 hours of standing outside.

Where to Stay Thanksgiving weekend – Some NYC hotels have great views of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (and some don’t!), making it easy to stay warm and dry, use a rest room, eat and STILL watch the Parade from a prime spot. Many of them also offer Thanksgiving in New York City Hotel Packages (though they can be pricey). Even if your room does not have a view of the parade, some of the hotels have restaurants or have worked out deals with local venues that do offer views of the Parade. Please note the Parade changed in 2009 and outdated hotel information exists claiming to be on the Parade route, when they no longer are on the route. A Parade Route Map can be found on the Macy’s website. These hotels may be still be close to the Thanksgiving Parade Route, but not actually on it.

Balloon Set Up – This can actually be as much fun as the Parade itself and many New Yorkers have stood outside with hot chocolate and watched the Parade balloons being blown up. You get an up close view of the balloons, with far less crowds and kids often find it funny to see just arms or legs, or just a head blown up with the rest of the balloon still deflated. Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Set up takes place the day before the Parade, usually starting at 3:00 pm, on either side of the American Museum of Natural History.

Snoopy with Woodstock in Macy's Day Parade

Snoopy with Woodstock in Macy’s Day Parade

Where to Stand – There are mixed reviews on where to stand, and some years the best place just depends on the weather. The best spot, of course, is anywhere you are near the front and can see the parade! The Macy’s website says the best viewing spot is on Central Park West. However, many people think this spot is fairly windy and cold, as it is shaded, and the parade members tend to rush through it. The latter folks prefer the 7th Avenue stretch of the Parade. You can check the best spots on the Thanksgiving Day Parade Map.

Where to Eat on Thanksgiving in New York City – the majority of restaurants in NYC are open on Thanksgiving Day, and many offer a pre-fixed Thanksgiving meal. Some NYC tourists prefer to eat right after the parade and tend to stick to restaurants that specifically appeal to tourists in the Times Square and Macy’s/ Herald Square area. These restaurants will be the most crowded, and likely, the least value for your money. If you are willing to venture away from the crowds, then NYC residential neighborhoods will offer you the best value and food for the money, especially as these neighborhoods are where New Yorkers eating out are likely to dine. Areas to consider are Greenwich Village, Union Square, Midtown East and Tribeca. For a reliable and very family friendly atmosphere, although still with a tourist appeal, you might consider Thanksgiving Dinner in Little Italy or Chinatown.

Things to Do on Thanksgiving in New York City – take note of which New York City Tourist Attractions are open and closed on Thanksgiving in New York City. All the major New York City Museums are usually closed, however, attractions such as Top of the Rock, Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty remain open 365 days per year. Please confirm any special holiday hours in advance.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Christmas Tree – if you are hoping to see the world famous tree lit during your stay, you will have to extend your trip, as the tree has always been lit on the first Wednesday in December. The Rockefeller Center Tree, without lights, will likely be on display during Thanksgiving weekend.


For more NYC Insider Tips on Thanksgiving in New York City, including a Parade Map, recommended restaurants for Thanksgiving Dinner and a list of open and closed attractions, please see,

There are also free maps, budgeting guides, side-by-side attraction pass comparisons and lots of insider tips on planning your best New York City Vacation. Please enjoy the information on the NYC Insider Guide. I hope it helps you plan your Thanksgiving in New York City, so you not only go home as a NYC Insider, but plan to visit us again soon.

Melissa is a fourth-generation lifelong New Yorker, and owner of the NYC Insider Guide,, a website dedicated to making sure you get the most out of your trip to New York City, find our hidden NYC spots and learn exactly where to spend and save your money.

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