Ninety-nine years ago, a group of Macy’s store employees marched six miles from 145th Street in Harlem to the flagship store in Herald Square. With floats featuring The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Miss Muffet, and Little Red Riding Hood that matched the Mother Goose theme in Macy’s window, the parade had four bands. Oh, and there were animals, too! Bears, elephants, camels, and monkeys–on loan from the Central Park Zoo were also featured. The parade ended with Santa Claus on his reindeer-driven sleigh.
Originally billed as “Macy’s Christmas Parade,” the event made good on its promise of being a “marathon of mirth” and drew a crowd of 200,000. The parade quickly became a New York tradition, although the animals were eventually replaced by bigger attractions–balloons. In 1927, an inflatable Felix the Cat was the first of over 200 pop culture-inspired inflatables that would become icons of the event.
This year, a projected three million spectators will line up on sidewalks to see Camp Beagle Snoopy and Cool Cats (the first NFT-inspired balloon) trek the parade route that runs from 77th Street and Central Park West down to Herald Square. Along with over 50 million spectators watching from home worldwide, they will make up an audience larger than the entire population of Spain.
So, with an audience that big, how can you best experience the parade without standing four-deep from the curb? There are grandstands placed in spots along the route, but those are reserved for the parade participants’ friends and family, and Macy’s employees and volunteers. If you’re lucky enough to know someone with an office or apartment where the parade passes by, we recommend you hold onto that friendship. This leaves hotels.
When it comes to hotels, there is no shortage on the parts of the parade route that go along Central Park South and Sixth Avenue. That’s the good news. The not-so-great news is that these hotels are expensive even during the off-season, which Thanksgiving is not. To make matters more complicated, rooms in these hotels with prime views of the parade are a hot commodity and get booked months in advance. Still, one can dream. Here are our favorites.
With lofty views of Central Park, the super chic Mandarin Oriental Hotel has been a favorite of former U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and A-list celebrities. Rooms with parade views go for top dollar and require a minimum three-night stay.
Inarguably the best view of the parade as it makes its way down Central Park West, this piece of prime real estate is situated across from the grandstands on the north end of Columbus Circle. Here’s a tip. If you’re not staying in the hotel, you can try to make reservations for a pricey breakfast at Nougatine, the Jean Georges restaurant on the first floor, and then watch the parade from the lobby – if they’ll let you.
JW Marriott Essex House
At 92 years old, the Essex House Hotel is almost as old as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade itself. Situated on Central Park South with renowned breathtaking views, it’s the ideal spot for both the parade and Instagrammable moments. Here’s a tip: with the right level of sweet-talking, non-guests might be able to get a reservation for breakfast at Southgate Bar & Restaurant, which is located in the hotel.
1 Hotel Central Park
The first hotel on the main midtown stretch of the parade route is 1 Hotel Central Park. If you can’t secure a room with Sixth Avenue-facing views, the main perks to staying in this eco-friendly spot are location, location, location. It’s hard to beat this hotel’s proximity to the spot in the parade where it takes a dramatic turn downtown.
When it comes to hotel rooms, bigger is almost always better, and the Warwick has big rooms. Located on 54th Street, the historic hotel has plenty of rooms with prime views of the parade. If you’re not lucky enough to secure one, the sidewalk across 54th Street is spacious and even has a few steps to raise you above the crowds.
New York Hilton Midtown
With 1929 rooms and over 150,000 square feet of meeting space, the New York Hilton Midtown is the city’s largest hotel. Guests who aren’t lucky enough to secure a room with Avenue-facing views can take heart that the hotel sits back from the street with a deep sidewalk and portico to protect them from the elements in case it’s raining.
Bryant Park Hotel
Location, location, location. Sitting a few hundred feet from the parade route, The Bryant Park Hotel can’t really boast rooms with spectacular views of the event. What it does have going for it is lovely Bryant Park is its “front lawn.” Those looking to escape the cramped sidewalks will have great views of the balloons with lots of breathing room.