It’s that time of year when excitement, preparations and lights take over the entire city. But we’re not talking about Christmas: the holiday season starts much earlier in New York, and Thanksgiving is almost as important a day as New Year’s Eve.
Thanksgiving is the day that Americans dedicate to giving thanks for the blessings and people in their lives, from health to family to work. So why not make a holiday out of it?
This celebratory spirit means that the days leading up to and after Thanksgiving transform New York into a can’t-miss holiday experience.
This definitive guide offers everything from interesting facts to tips on enjoying your trip to the Big Apple during one of the most important times of year. Let’s go!
The ‘making of’: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation
Friday, November 22
Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons come to life is a ‘must-see’ for New Yorkers. The city’s most popular parade, it requires larger-than-life preparations, and watching the balloon inflation is also part of the show.
Giant balloons first appeared in the parade in 1927, replacing the live animals that once participated, and some have become true icons. Make sure you check out the most iconic balloons: the legendary Felix the Cat, Hello Kitty, Sinclair’s Dino and Ronald McDonald.
The inflation is finished the night before Thanksgiving, and the balloons take shape from 1 to 8 p.m. The best time to go? The earlier you arrive, the less crowded it will be. But it will also be less impressive, as the balloons will only be starting to inflate: the real show starts at the end of the day. You won’t beat the crowds, of course, but then again, you’re in New York during Thanksgiving, so why not take full advantage?
You can access it at the public entrance on West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue and pick a good spot anywhere along West 77th and West 81st.
Oh! Backpacks and umbrellas are prohibited, so keep in mind your mother’s advice: take a raincoat just in case.
Thursday, November 23
Thursday. Today is officially Thanksgiving Day and everyone is ready to watch the day’s main event –the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade– either live or on TV.
And with good reason. Every year, thousands of people participate in this jaw-dropping parade that features everything from the famous giant balloons to performances like the ‘Christmas Spectacular’ at Radio City Hall. The celebration stars the Rockettes, a dance company that always delights audiences with its grand finale: the wooden soldier fall.
But steel yourself for an early wake-up: the Macy’s Parade starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m., but the crowds start jockeying for the best spots as early as 6 a.m.
The parade route runs from 77th Street and Central Park West to Macy’s Herald Square. There are some great spots to watch the parade along the entire route, but the wait can be long. Your best option is to find a restaurant or café in case you need to go to the bathroom. You have to be on top of everything! And speaking of being on top of things, remember your mother’s second piece of advice: bundle up. A lot. Because it will definitely be cold!
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade goes on for hours and you may need a break at some point, so we’ve got a bonus track for you: the traditional turkey trots.
A unique Thanksgiving Day tradition, turkey trots are races held on Thanksgiving morning. What makes them so unique? Many runners deck themselves out for the occasion in Pilgrim costumes, hats, and even head-to-toe turkey costumes. Welcome to America!
Turkey trots take place throughout the city but the most popular events are on Roosevelt Island, Coney Island and in Queens.
Take a break from the parade and hit up a turkey trot, a chance for New Yorkers to burn some extra calories before the Thanksgiving feast and for you to get a chuckle out of the Thanksgiving-themed costumes.
Night is starting to fall and it’s almost time for dinner. New Yorkers get together with their families to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast big enough to feed a family for days (and to give thanks, of course). Stuffed turkey, cooked ham with sauce, green beans with almonds, glazed carrots and mashed potatoes, all topped off with traditional pumpkin or pecan pie. You get the idea, right?
You’ll need to find a restaurant for your Thanksgiving dinner. Remember that the day is a holiday and finding somewhere to eat might not be easy. But no need to worry, we’ve put together a list of restaurants that offer a traditional Thanksgiving menu. Important: make a reservation by September at the latest to guarantee a table.
Restaurants open on Thanksgiving
- Bobo. This Michelin-starred restaurant is a sophisticated (but not necessarily the most expensive) option for Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving menu includes four courses and costs $75 per person). Perfect for couples. Located at 181 West 10th St
- The Smiths. A more casual and authentically American option. Perfect for groups of friends. The three-course meal will set each diner back $65.
Located at 1900 Broadway
- Bryant Park Grill. Located in the heart of Winter Village, right next to The Rink, the famous outdoor ice-skating rink in Bryant Park. Be prepared to spend $85 per person for the three-course dinner. Absolutely recommended for families. Located at 25 West 40th St
- Joseph Leonard. If you’re looking for something local and relaxed, this is your place. Joseph Leonard offers a traditional rustic American-style three-course menu for $65. Located at 170 Waverly Place
Friday, November 24
But the Thanksgiving celebrations don’t end on Thursday. American stores go all out on the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, with discounts so irresistible that you can’t help but give in (again and again). The solution to all your Christmas shopping.
The Thanksgiving celebrations are coming to an end, but you can still say ‘bye, New York’ in style. After the hustle and bustle of the biggest shopping day of the year, we can’t think of a more original way to say goodbye to Thanksgiving than kicking back with a dip and a classic American cocktail at the Pool Bar at the Room Mate Grace in the heart of Times Square.