Employees start handing out color-coded vouchers that guarantee the most sought-after sale items—called "door buster deals"—at 4 a.m. (The line will start to swell by 2, and no, you can't leave with the ticket and come back.)
The vestibules fill with caffeinated shoppers about an hour before the doors open at 8 a.m., and crowds peak between 3 and 5 p.m. Start at the top—the ninth floor—and wind your way down to the gift-wrapping station in the lower-level men's department.
The Times Square, 34th Street, and lower Broadway stores are the most packed with tourist traffic, so scope out one of the chain's nine other locations instead. If you're not worried about being the first one in the door, take advantage of the Union Square location's extended holiday hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The store opens at 9 a.m. on Black Friday—an hour earlier than usual—so arrive early to beat the kiddie crowd and leave the kids home, too; there will be calmer days ahead for them to pick their favorites out. Today's all about getting a deal, like on the classic throwback toys (paddleball racquets, tin drums, spinning tops) in the $20-and-under section to the left of the entrance.
All apparel is 25 percent off on Black Friday, so scope out merch on the store's website, make a list, and phone it in the day before. A staffer will put aside all your requested items, so you can waltz in at any time and make a beeline for the register.
Ask the greeter at the entrance to steer you toward the Market Hall section for "Seize the Day" items, a collection of housewares, décor, and kitchen gear that's more than 60 percent off the week of Thanksgiving.