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(taken from a teenager in the early 2000’s)

Some families have traditions of playing football outside on Thanksgiving Day, breaking the wishbone, or just gathering around the table saying what they are thankful about. My family participated in a few of those too, but there was nothing more daring and magical than attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you are one of the brave attempting to see the parade in person, here are my hard earned tips for having a successful experience!

Wake up Early:

In order to beat the herds of traffic and crowds of excited teeny boppers, wake up as early as possible. We were coming from Central New Jersey, so it took us about an hour to get into the city. If you wake up early you will be able to avoid traffic and the lines of people crowding along the street. People will be lined up along the parade route at 6:30 am, even though the parade doesn’t start until 9. Just keep in mind that if you do go early, it can be quite cold, which leads to the next tip.

Dress in Layers:

Before you leave, throw on 2-3 pairs of pants, extra socks, and shirts.  Scarves and hats are essential too. The aim here is to add enough layers to look and feel as much like the Michelin man as possible. Attending an outdoor event in the fall or winter requires layers.  They will keep you warm from the elements, and separated from the other thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder trying to get a look at Snoopy.



Don’t Forget your Hot Cocoa:

Staying warm also involves drinking hot liquids. As your family is out the door, make sure everyone has their favorite thermos filled with hot cocoa (a personal favorite; my mom had coffee in hers). But whatever you drink, be careful and try not to spill hot cocoa on your bare hand while it’s still ridiculously hot, like my brother managed to do! We asked the first officer we saw for some band-aids to cover the burn and he gave us another tip that actually worked.  He suggested putting ketchup on the burn.  So we were off looking for ketchup packets for my brother’s hand. I digress.

Hot Liquids, in Moderation:

Although you may want to keep your thermos close by, keep in mind that you don’t want to drink too much of it.  Bathrooms are sparse and you don’t want to pay $10 for another hot cocoa at Roxy’s just to use their bathroom. Keep in mind, your mom will be upset and will remember that $8 purchase years later. So try to sip sparingly and avoid too many bathroom trips.

Hand Warmers are Friend Makers

It’s essential to keep warm on what might be a day of freezing temperatures. Don’t forget to open those hand and feet warmers and stuff them into your shoes and gloves. This is the currency of friendship from strangers later in the day, you will find out. Lots of hand warmers being passed around by unfamiliar yet ecstatic faces. The key to a happy trip is, stay warm! The hand and feet warmers last surprisingly long.

Make Friends:

If your mom is a talker like mine, you will easily make friends from across the country and even around the globe who have found spots on the curb near you. You’ve got the wide-eyed southern folk who are as cold and yet happy as can be. The jaded New Yorkers who have to fold up chairs and are prepared to the T. Everyone seems to come together in trying to guess which celebrities will be coming out first. It’s a very communal type of event if you haven’t picked up on that yet.

Don’t forget to take it all in:

Everything from waking up early, to the ketchup burn, to the lack of bathrooms is all worth it when your 12-year-old heart melts as the Backstreet Boys pass you 200 feet away, singing on a moving float (I swear, Christina Aguilera waved directly and at me one year too!) Enjoy every moment from the celebrities, to the balloons and the marching bands as well. As the parade goes on, you try to guess who is lip-syncing and who’s not (hint: they are probably all lip-syncing). At the end you want to beat the exiting crowd, so once you hear Jingle Bells and see Santa on his sleigh, you make a b-line for the nearest garage where your car is parked.

Resolutions for Next Year:

My last tip would be to make a promise to yourself that next year you’ll find friends with an apartment view of the parade. Years later, we ended up making some friends who had a nice apartment view of the parade. We got to sleep in, didn’t worry about burns or bathrooms, and had an amazing view of the route. But I must admit it’s just not the same experience as roughing it in the cold with the ones you love.

No matter how you celebrate this year, from us to you, have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!