The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade may be truthfully one of the least child friendly events in New York City.
But wait, you're thinking! There are balloons and floats and confetti and bands and clowns! How can that not be child friendly.
I'm with you there - except for the clowns! - the Macy's Parade absolutely has all of those things. But you need to be prepared. In order to enjoy any of that there are a few things you need to know.
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One. You will have to wait.
What you don't know about the people lining the parade route when you watch the Macy's Parade on TV is that they have already been there for hours. I wish I were exaggerating. We set the first two people in our party to the route around 6 to hold our spots and they called about a half an hour later to tell us to hurry over.
To make this work:
*Get to bed early the night before so you are ready to entertain the littles while you wait.
*Stay somewhere close to the route. We were about two blocks away at the Empire Hotel and that was perfect.
Two. You will need to dress for the weather.
November in New York City can mean a lot of different things. Sometimes it snows. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it's hot. Sometimes it is really cold.
All this means, pay attention to the weather and make sure to dress accordingly.
When you're going with little kids, keep in mind two things:
*Kids usually get cold faster than grown ups, especially when they aren't moving.
*It is much colder in the morning before the sun comes up (remember how early you're getting there to stand still and wait?)
We got lucky with the weather. No rain or snow. It started off in the 30s and then gradually grew to about 50 by the time the parade ended. I dressed our kids in their full snow gear (snowpants, boots, hats, mittens, EVERYTHING) and they were nice and warm while we waited in the early hours. Gradually they took off some of the layers as it got closer to parade time.
I also wore leggings under my jeans and was really, really happy I did.
Three. You will want somewhere to sit.
It is helpful if you have even a couple chairs or buckets to sit on. Then you can take turns standing and sitting during all that early morning waiting. It also helps to block off space from people that squeeze in later.
For kids I highly recommend bringing some 5 Gal Paint Buckets that you can get super cheap from Home Depot or Lowes. You can stack them to carry. They are reasonably comfortable to sit on and your kids can stand on them to see better during the parade.
Four. You will not be able to go to the bathroom.
This was the scariest part for me. Me - not even our 3 year old twins. I'm still kind of amazed that we made it with no accidents. Here are my tips:
*Make sure everyone goes right before you leave.
*Do NOT give your kids anything to drink while you wait. That sounds terrible but I'm confident it was an important step.
*If you do think they will need to go, leave and go to the nearest coffee shop or restaurant about an hour into your wait. The closer you get to parade time the more impossible it is to move an inch, let along go to the bathroom and get back. My least favorite part about New York with kids is that it is so hard to find a bathroom so scout this out beforehand. Starbucks has become my go-to because they reliably have a bathroom you can use if you buy a drink.
Is it worth all that?
Yes! Absolutely. I have done it twice now. Once as a kid and once as a mom and yes, it is worth it.
Some things are not. For instance, we waiting in a four block line to see the floats getting filled up the night before and I was completely un-impressed by the event and my kids were overwhelmed by the chaos. I think 3 out of the 4 of us cried that evening.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade however is worth it. You have to plan. You have to dress warmly and plan activities and remember to use the bathroom and be prepared to defend your space on the sidewalk. You need to be ready to ooze enthusiasm for your kids very early in the morning.
But yes, it is worth it. It is worth it because it is a once in a lifetime parade. It is quite unlike anything else.
*Make sure to read this book before you go!
*Other things to do in NYC with Kids at Christmas time.
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