America's most beloved Thanksgiving tradition is back: The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is officially returning to the streets of New York City for an in-person celebration after going completely virtual last year.
Macy's will continue to keep the health and safety of all talent, participants and spectators top of mind (and adjust accordingly), but they're thrilled to parade through the streets with larger-than-life floats, balloons and performances — just like they've done in previous years. "We are thrilled to welcome back in its full form the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a world-renowned celebration that ushers in the magic of being in New York City during the holiday season," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news release.
Although details are still up in the air, we've rounded up everything we know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2021, including what time it'll air on TV and how you can watch it from the comfort of your home.
First, what’s the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been quintessential in celebrating the fourth Thursday in November. Now widely recognized as the official kickoff to the holiday season, the first parade was actually meant to honor the expansion of Macy’s flagship store in New York City, according to Mental Floss. Originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade,” it featured floats pulled by horses, professional entertainers, and Macy’s employees. But the most memorable detail was the Central Park Zoo animals: Bears, elephants, and donkeys walked the original route from 145th Street and Covent Avenue to 34th Street (a.k.a. Herald Square).
As for the grand finale, Santa Claus made an appearance, followed by the unveiling of Macy’s Christmas window displays. The tradition continued to gain popularity, causing the parade to be broadcasted over the radio for the first time in 1932 and televised in 1952.
What time does the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade air?
This year, catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 25 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in all time zones.
What floats, balloons and performances can we expect?
All of the marching bands and cheer groups that were originally scheduled for 2020 will finally get their moment to shine in this year's parade. Macy's hasn't released the complete lineup yet, but expect to see a mix of Broadway talent, newcomers and major A-listers. Last year, Pentatonix, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr., Ally Brooks and Jordin Sparks performed in the made-for-TV celebration.
Details surrounding the balloons and floats are still under wraps, but Macy's announced that balloons will "once again be flown with 80-100 handlers, the flight management team and its anchor vehicle." The annual balloon inflation event will also return, but it's unclear where and when.
How can I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
If you happen to be in New York City during the long holiday weekend, you can try to snag a spot along the parade route. Keep in mind that they will limit crowds and encourage social distancing, so it's best to show up as early as possible. For everyone else, tune into NBC from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. on Turkey Day to catch all the action. If they stick to tradition, you can also stream the parade on the NBC website or through the NBC app — available on iOS and Android.
Amanda Garrity is a lifestyle writer and editor with over seven years of experience, including five years on staff at Good Housekeeping, where she covered all things home and holiday, including the latest interior design trends, inspiring DIY ideas and gift guides for any (and every) occasion. She also has a soft spot for feel-good TV, so you can catch her writing about popular shows like Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias, Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart and more.