Notes From A Traveler: The Fabulous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

You had to be there

Rick Astley. Image via

In 2008 I met a guy who worked in the Promotions Department at Macy’s and he provided me with four “friends and family” tickets to the Thanksgiving Day Parade. This allows the lucky ticket holders to sit in bleachers in front of Macy’s, rather than standing on the sidewalks with the mobs. No, I did not have to prostitute myself to obtain these.

I invited my sister and her two young kids to stay for the long weekend. We had just bought this apartment and it was my first Thanksgiving hosting here. Better Half conveniently fled the city so we had the apartment to ourselves. 

When you hold one of these “friends and family” tickets you are told to report to a certain location and to be prompt. Then, you are led into the store itself, which is otherwise closed for the day, where you are greeted by Macy’s executives, all of whom will shake your hand, and then out the other side to the bleachers. We settled in among hundreds of others, froze a little bit, and waited. The floats and the bands passed by. The Macy’s store is the end of the line and you can tell that some of the marchers and acts are flagging. But what ho! Off in the distance I heard something very familiar. YES! It was the year that Rick Astley rickrolled us all by showing up on a float as a surprise guest. I almost peed myself with excitement. A friend from DC texted me. “Watching Tgiving parade?!? Rikroll!” I texted back, “Am @ parade! Personal rickroll!”

My sister had revealed a dark secret. No one in her family liked turkey. Neither do I, especially. This made for great logistics, because rather than returning to the apartment and me roasting a turkey, which would take hours, I broiled lamb chops and had pre-made a yogurt mint sauce, and made glazed carrots, homemade cranberry sauce, green beans almondine, and heated up some dinner rolls. I made a stovetop stuffing but not Stove Top™ stuffing. I didn’t make gargantuan quantities of this, though; it was more like a tasting menu. I also had a pumpkin and an apple pie ready to go (store-bought.) For two adults and two tweens and with only one oven and four burners to work with. 

My young nephew was having none of this. I knew he was a picky eater, but…For him I boiled up some spaghetti and buttered it, that’s all he wanted. His sister (my niece) is like me, she’ll eat anything, and had I known this I would have made something more exotic to accompany, just for the two of us. I had pre-made some whipped cream for the pumpkin pie and for the apple (both of which I warmed in the oven; we’re not savages) I sliced some good New York State cheddar. There was also a very rich French vanilla ice cream. For the evening’s entertainment I let the kids rummage through our DVD collection and each pick something, so we’d watch a double feature. My niece picked a family comedy featuring, among others, a dog. My nephew picked a gorier than I was expecting action movie (Better Half likes this kind of thing) that must have been R-rated. 

My nephew loved it and that is the point of being on vacation: do things you’d enjoy that you wouldn’t do every day at home.

PS: My nephew also wouldn’t leave my elderly German shepherd alone and he’d lie on the floor and tease her so much she would hump his leg. My sister captured this Precious Moment on film and that image was my Christmas card from them that year. It is a cherished item in my Museum of Ephemera.



    • What was nice too is that sister is the least city-phobic of all my siblings/cousins/etc. so she saw nothing wrong with dragging her two preteens in to spend a few days with me in perfidious Gotham. Plus it gave her husband a break. I was hoping she would spread propaganda to the others but I’ve had few takers over the last 13 years.

  1. That is an awesome story! Seeing the Macy’s Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade is on my bucket list. I know Macy’s Parade is more iconic, but also like then you’re travelling over Thanksgiving and that can be a mess.

    • You should try for the Macy’s Parade! It’s very accessible, normally. The route stretches for 40 or 50 blocks and you just show up. Last year they did this really horrible two-block-long facsimile, without spectators, and with the whole surrounding area cordoned off. It was a depressing low point in the already depressing pandemic year.

      If there is a hell and the guardians of the afterlife know exactly how to torture me the most they will consign me for all eternity to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately we have friends who live in the West 50s and their one big party of the year is for New Year’s. They live in the “catchment area” so you can only get so close to their apartment in a cab and then you’re stopped. It’s like entering East Berlin: a hard border, baggage checks, but with the added appeal of tens of thousands of drunken, clueless revelers wandering around or packed shoulder-to-shoulder in sub-freezing temperatures. And that’s on the periphery, a good 15 blocks north of the ball drop. So don’t go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve is what I’m saying.

      • Oh there isn’t a chance in hell that I’m attending a NYE in New York, let alone really anywhere. I don’t even like being up that late. Usually I’m asleep by 11 on NYE and then get annoyed if my parents call or text after midnight.


  2. I’m not pissing on anyone’s enjoyment of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or any other parade for that matter, but my IRL experience of it has always been the mild nuisance that fucks with your commute or ability to get around the UWS for the days leading up to Thanksgiving. It takes several days to assemble the order of floats and blow up the Underdog and Snoopy balloons, during which the streets are often blocked off (the most egregious think you can do to a Manhattanite is block off their street for filming or other such things, or do something that makes them late).

    On the other hand, I did always enjoy the performances from Broadway shows they manage to stuff into the parade. Sutton Foster and the company from Anything Goes did a terrific spot when the show was running.

  3. I love watching the parade on TV and have since I was a child. I’ve been to that Macy’s store but never the parade. It’s a source of irritation to me that every year we are frantically driving to see family and I can’t just sit and watch the parade. No, recording it isn’t the same. I like to watch it on Thanksgiving morning.

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