The parade draws a crowd of more than 3.5 million people every year, so if you're hoping to snag a prime viewing spot, plan to claim it no later than 6:30 a.m. (the parade kicks off at 9 a.m.). The south side of 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue is highly sought-after territory every year, but there are plenty of better options. The long stretch of Sixth Avenue between Central Park South and 38th Street provides ample viewing room; you'll want to avoid any spot between 34th and 38th Streets, as the view is limited by broadcasting equipment.
The best bet is to situate yourself on Central Park West between Columbus Circle and 77th Street, where the parade kicks off. In addition to the scenic backdrop, you can show up closer to 8 a.m. and still get a decent view. Plus, the nearer you are to the start of the parade, the less time you'll have to stand, since the parade's duration can last anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours, depending on your position. Keep in mind that folding chairs aren't permitted anywhere along the route, and if you're set on 34th Street, note that there’s no access for the general public as bleachers are reserved for Macy's employees only.
The lineup for the 88th annual parade features Hello Kitty, Papa Smurf, Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants, Finn and Jake from Adventure Time, and many more. This year's parade will also feature the debut of the largest number of new balloons in its history including Paddington Bear, Pikachu, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Also new this year are balloon heads of characters from The Wizard of Oz. For a less crowded look at the balloons, see them at the Wednesday-night inflation: The day before Thanksgiving, from 3 to 10 p.m., head to 79th Street and Columbus Avenue to get a sneak peek.
This year's parade will feature performances from Cirque du Soleil, Big Apple Circus, KISS, Sabrina Carpenter, Before You Exit, Hilary Duff, Nick Jonas, Renée Fleming, and Lucy Hale. Other notables making appearances include Sandra Lee, Miss USA 2014 Nia Sanchez, Becky G., the Madden Brothers, Romeo Santos, the Vamps, Quvenzhané Wallis, and more. The casts of The Muppets and Sesame Street will be on hand, too, as will the usual assortment of 1,300 cheerleaders, 12 marching bands, and 1,000 clowns.