How are you planning on spending the Thanksgiving holiday? Will you be surrounded by friends and family while cooking up a huge meal? In years past I would have been preparing my famous sweet potato casserole to bring to the in-laws’ for a HUGE family feast.
This year our family had no concrete plans so my fiance, Peter, and I started toying with the idea of venturing out to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City with our almost three-year-old. I have never attended this massive event and Peter’s last visit to the parade was when he was 10. We’ve thought about going together before, especially when we lived very close to Manhattan, but there have always been excuses and reasons to stay warm and inside.
This year we want to brave the crowds and the cold AND the waiting, all with a toddler in tow! Kids plus balloons and floats? That sounds like a winning combination to me! So on On Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 9 a.m. we will be there with hundreds of other tourists cheering the floats and celebrating the 85th annual parade!
While this will be a ton of fun for the whole family, there are a few things to consider when traveling to NYC on a holiday, a sometimes very cold holiday. There will be a lot of planning on when to leave, how to get there, where to park ourselves, how to stay warm and occupied during the wait, and how to deal with so many people all in one place. Oh, did I mention I’m pregnant and will be 6 months along at the time?
Some of the advice I’ve received from online sources, as well as friends and family, include the following:
- Plan to take the train in early, getting into Manhattan between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Parking is expensive and the traffic on Thanksgiving is always a beast in this area.
- Be there early enough to make sure you have a good spot for the action. The parade starts at 9 a.m. and goes till roughly noon. I’m told that some people actually camp out overnight for the best viewing locations!
- Scout out a spot at the beginning of the parade route which starts at 77th Street and Central Park West. If you go to the end at 34th Street and 7th Ave. there’s a lot more action, but the wait is LONG and you have to be there just as early. On your first year play it safe and start at the top.
- Jessica Wright of Dudes and Sweeties says to “pack a lot of snacks. Yes, there is plenty to eat but not right at the parade, and being pregnant you want to have food available.”
- Stay warm by wearing layers, lots and lots of layers! Oh, and thermoses of hot cocoa/coffee/tea! Since we have a toddler who will sometimes ride in a stroller I plan to pack it with extra blankets. Jessica also advised me to “bring the smallest stroller you have” so we don’t upset any of our parade neighbors trying to get through the crowds.
- A toddler is fickle and easily bored so the wait can be hard. The commotion of the day may hold their interest but bring along some of their favorite activities to pass the time, such as a tablet/computer device for games and movies, coloring books, snacks, and anything else that you would think of for travel.
The best piece of advice I can offer you (and myself) is to take it easy and keep it casual. It’s not a contest with yourself or anyone else. If you can’t deal with the crowds or the waiting, you don’t HAVE to stay for the whole thing. If the weather is snotty, by all means, stay home! If your toddler has a meltdown, take her for a walk and try to regroup. Like with any first adventure, sometimes you have to know when to hold them…and when to fold them. I’m looking forward to witnessing the magic of this event with my daughter, but I want it to be as stress free as a holiday in NYC can be. If all else fails, wander on over to FAO Schwarz and play with your kids!
For more information on planning a trip to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade please visit the sites listed below: