Macy's Day Parade: Slowest Show On Earth?

how many mph does the macy

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade travels at a leisurely pace through the streets of New York City. Covering a distance of 2.5 miles, the parade typically lasts for around three hours, starting at 8:30 am and ending at approximately 12:00 pm. While the exact speed may vary depending on the pace of the marchers and any stops along the way, we can estimate that the parade travels at a speed of about 0.83 miles per hour (mph). This slow speed allows spectators to fully enjoy the sights and sounds of the parade, including the iconic balloons, floats, musical acts, and performers. The parade route takes the participants through the Upper West Side and midtown Manhattan, starting at 77th Street and Central Park West and ending at Macy's Herald Square on 34th Street.

Characteristics Values
Speed limit 20-23 mph
Speed limit for balloons to be grounded 35 mph
Speed limit for balloons to be pulled out 34 mph


The parade's route

The parade route has changed several times since the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. The original route started on 145th Street in Harlem and ended at Macy's flagship store in Herald Square, covering a distance of 6 miles (9.7 km).

In 1946, after World War II, the route was shortened to 2.5 miles to correspond with the new NBC television recording setup. The parade started at 77th Street and Central Park West, passing through Columbus Circle, Broadway, Times Square, and ending at Herald Square. This route remained unchanged until 2008.

In 2009, a new route was introduced, eliminating Broadway. The parade started at 77th Street and Central Park West, going south along Central Park to Columbus Circle, then turning east along Central Park South (59th Street) and 7th Avenue, before heading south on 6th Avenue to 34th Street and ending at 7th Avenue.

The current route, introduced in 2012, turns directly from 59th Street onto 6th Avenue, bypassing 7th Avenue and Times Square. The parade now marches down Central Park West to 59th Street, heads east to 6th Avenue, and then goes south along 6th Avenue to 34th Street and Herald Square.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the parade was scaled down and took place on a much shorter route consisting of just one block at 34th Street near Macy's flagship store, with no spectators permitted. The traditional 2.5-mile route was reinstated in 2021.


The speed limit for balloons

New York City law prohibits Macy's from flying the full-size balloons if sustained winds exceed 20 knots (23 mph) or if wind gusts exceed 30 knots (35 mph). While this law has never been activated, there have been several close calls. In 1997, high winds caused the Cat in the Hat balloon to collide with a lamppost, resulting in a serious injury to a parade-goer. In 2005, the M&M's balloon collided with a streetlight, causing minor injuries to two sisters. These incidents prompted additional safety measures, such as wind measurement devices and protocols to keep balloons closer to the ground in windy conditions.

To ensure the safety of participants and spectators, if wind speeds are forecasted to exceed 34 mph, all balloons are removed from the parade. Each balloon has a risk profile that determines how it should be handled in windy conditions. Taller, upright balloons are rotated to appear horizontal and face downward to reduce the impact of wind.


The parade's history

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual event held in New York City, presented by the U.S.-based department store chain Macy's. The parade first took place in 1924, making it the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States.

The Roaring Twenties

The parade was conceived as a celebration of the expansion of Macy's flagship store in Manhattan's Herald Square, which in 1924 grew to cover an entire city block stretching from Broadway to Seventh Avenue along 34th Street. The parade, originally dubbed the "Macy's Christmas Parade", was designed to showcase the opening of the "World's Largest Store" and its 1 million square feet of retail space at the start of the busy holiday shopping season.

On the morning of November 27, 1924, Macy's employees dressed in vibrant costumes marched to the flagship store, accompanied by floats, professional bands, and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The parade concluded with the arrival of Santa Claus, who was crowned "King of the Kiddies" on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance. The parade was a huge success, attracting an audience of over 250,000 people and prompting Macy's to declare it an annual event.

In 1927, the parade introduced gigantic balloons filled with air, replacing the live zoo animals that had been used in previous years. The first balloons included cartoon characters like Felix the Cat, designed by puppeteer Tony Sarg. In 1928, Macy's began offering a $100 reward for any returned balloons, which were affixed with return address labels.

The Great Depression and World War II

The parade continued to grow throughout the 1930s, with crowds of over one million people lining the parade route in 1933. In 1934, celebrities became an important element of the parade, with singer-actor Eddie Cantor joining the festivities. That same year, the Mickey Mouse helium balloon made its debut.

The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 due to World War II, as rubber and helium were needed for the war effort. Macy's President Jack Straus donated approximately 650 pounds of rubber balloon material to support this effort.

Postwar Years to the Present

The parade resumed in 1945 and became known nationwide after being prominently featured in the 1947 film "Miracle on 34th Street", which included footage of the 1946 festivities. In 1948, the parade had its first broadcast on network television.

Over the years, the parade has continued to evolve and expand, with bigger balloons, more floats, improved materials, and new technologies. Safety regulations have also been implemented, particularly in response to incidents involving strong winds and balloon-related injuries.

Today, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade attracts more than 50 million viewers worldwide and remains a beloved American holiday tradition.


Viewing spots

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a New York City tradition dating back to 1924. The parade route has changed over the years, so it's important to check the current route before planning your viewing spot. Here are some popular viewing spots along the parade route:

Central Park West (72nd to 59th Streets)

This area offers a great view of the balloons and floats as they make their way down Central Park West. It is recommended to arrive early, as spots fill up quickly. The parade typically reaches this area by 9:30 am.

Columbus Circle

Columbus Circle is a popular viewing spot, but it can get quite crowded. The Shops at Columbus Circle open early on Thanksgiving Day, so you can line up and snag an indoor spot on the upper levels to see the balloons and floats from above. However, you may not be able to hear the bands and performers clearly from this location.

Central Park South (59th Street to 6th Avenue)

As the parade turns onto 6th Avenue from Central Park South, this area offers a good viewing spot. It is recommended to arrive early and claim your spot along this stretch.

Sixth Avenue (59th to 38th Streets)

This is a popular stretch for viewing the parade, as it offers a good view of the balloons and floats. It is recommended to arrive by 7 am to secure a spot along this route.

34th Street and Herald Square

This area can be very crowded and congested with broadcast equipment, as it is the official telecast area and the ending point of the parade. However, it offers a chance to see the performances and the arrival of Santa Claus.

Balloon Inflation on Wednesday Evening

If you want to see the balloons being inflated, head to 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue on the evening before the parade. This is a free event open to the public, and it offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at the parade preparations.


How to watch

The speed at which the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade travels is not publicly available. However, if you're interested in viewing the parade, there are several options available. The parade is broadcast on television and streamed online, with or without cable. It is also possible to view the parade in person.

Watching on Television

The parade is televised nationally and has been broadcast by NBC since 1953. It is also aired on CBS, though without official authorisation. NBC's coverage is also broadcast in Spanish on Telemundo.

Streaming Online

The parade can be streamed on Peacock Premium, as well as on streaming services such as SlingTV, fuboTV, DirecTV Stream, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV. Most of these services offer free trials.

Viewing in Person

If you prefer to watch the parade in person, there are a few things to keep in mind. The parade route typically covers 2.5 miles through Manhattan, from the Upper West Side to Midtown. It is recommended to arrive early, as spaces fill up quickly. Some suggested viewing spots include Central Park West between West 75th to West 61st Streets, 6th Avenue between West 59th to West 38th Streets, and limited public viewing on the south side of West 34th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue.

Frequently asked questions

There is no information on the speed of the parade, but the parade route is 2.5 miles long and the parade lasts for 3 hours, so it can be assumed that the parade travels at 0.83 mph.

The parade route starts at West 77th Street and Central Park West, heads down to 34th Street, and ends at Macy's Herald Square.

The Macy's Day Parade first took place in 1924.

The parade lasts for 3 hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Some of the balloons featured in the parade include Snoopy, Bart Simpson, and Betty Boop.

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