New York City is worth seeing during any season, but there’s something extra special about Thanksgiving. From the festive parade to the pre-holiday hoopla, there’s a magic in the air that encourages millions to make their way to the spirited streets and count their blessings amongst the seasonal celebrations.
Whether you’re taking a bite out of the Big Apple for the first time or are a returning traveler starting a new Thanksgiving tradition, you’ll find these tips and tricks the whipped cream to your pumpkin pie:
If you’re braving New York City the week of Thanksgiving, chances are, you’ve got floats, balloons and marching bands on your mind. And to no surprise, you’re not alone. More than 3.5 million people line the city streets each year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But don’t let the crowds intimidate you.
Get a Sneak Peek: Take in views of your favorite balloons before they even make an appearance in the parade. Starting at 3 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving, you can watch several of the balloons being inflated right outside of the American Museum of Natural History.
Wake Up Early: While the official parade doesn’t begin until 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, veteran parade-goers know that the best spots are taken as early as 6:30 a.m. So, get your coffee to go and get to the streets.
Dress in Layers: Dressing warm is a given when it comes to Thanksgiving in New York City, but it’s also important to remember layers. Since you’ll be arriving at your spot in the early morning, by the time the final float has gone by, the temperatures may have gone up and you’ll appreciate the option to shed a coat or scarf.
Location, Location, Location: Like all things in life, the location influences the experience. Assuming you’re not among the fortunate few to have a reserved spot in the grandstand area, you’ll want to avoid 34th through 38th streets, which are closed to the public. Many NYC locals recommend the Upper West Side since the parade starts there, and therefore ends earlier, which results in less waiting time. It also means more time for you to explore the rest of the city on your holiday.
Looking to skip the street crowds? Hotels such as JW Marriott Essex House New York, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park and Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square offer prime locations for watching the parade from the warm indoors, or even your room in some cases.
One of the best parts about traveling to New York City this time of year is leaving the cooking – and cleaning – to someone else. From festive and fancy to family-friendly, there are a variety of scenes where you can sip and savor your Thanksgiving dinner. Go the traditional route with a multi-course feast of favorites including turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and more at Joseph Leonard, Prime Meats or Nickel & Diner. Or switch things up with fried rice stuffing, sweet dumplings, turkey takikomi rice and seafood at RedFarm, Dumpling Galaxy or MIFUNE.
Craving an experience that is out of the ordinary? Combine your savoring with sightseeing when you make reservations for a Thanksgiving lunch or dinner cruise. In addition to a traditional turkey feast, you’ll be treated to scenic views of the city’s skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Talk about feeling thankful!
No matter where you choose to dine, make sure you:
Make Reservations Early: Some restaurants begin taking Thanksgiving reservations as early as Labor Day, so make sure you book ahead of time. You also may be required to provide a credit card number in the event of a cancellation or no-show, so plan accordingly.
Follow the Dress Code: Fancier restaurants may require coats and prohibit jeans, so make sure you do your research ahead of time to ensure they’ll seat your party.
Parade floats and pumpkin-flavored feasts are not the only reason crowds head to the City That Never Sleeps at Thanksgiving. It’s also an opportunity to get a jump-start on the city’s Christmas celebrations. While the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center is not scheduled until the week after turkey day, the city doesn’t stall when it comes to celebrating the next holiday. Get in the spirit yourself with some winter-inspired activities that all ages will cherish.
Union Square: Skip Black Friday shopping this year and save your greenbacks for one-of-a-kind treasures from the Union Square Holiday Market. Beginning November 15, this internationally renowned market invites you to shop hundreds of unique gifts made by local craftsmen and artists from around the world to help you get an early start on your holiday gift buying.
Bryant Park: Each year – sometimes as early as October 28 – the lush green lawn is transformed into a Christmas market known as Bryant Park Winter Village. But shopping is not the only activity to anticipate. The Winter Village is also home to a large outdoor ice skating rink and dozens of hot chocolate and food kiosks.
Wollman Rink in Central Park: Looking to hit the ice without stressing about the next holiday? This historic ice skating rink allows novices and professional skaters alike to glide along the ice while enjoying views of the city’s skyline. The Central Park Carousel is also nearby, perfect for kids and kids at heart.
The Radio City Rockettes: While New York City has a rotating lineup of performances 365 days a year, seeing the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall should be at the top of your list. The world-famous dance company performs its first kicks this year on November 9. The show continues through January 1.
Ready to experience your most memorable Thanksgiving yet? Get your fill of seasonal fun in New York City when you book your hotel accommodations and airfare through Vacations by Marriott.