Thanksgiving Day Parade 2011: Route, Map, and Tips for Viewing

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On Thursday Nov. 24, 2011, the 85th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will light up the streets of Manhattan with enormous cartoon floats and toe-tapping high school bands. As the star-studded revelers map a course through the Big Apple, 3.5 million will line the streets to cheer them on.

The Thanksgiving Day parade is the quintessential Thanksgiving event, watched by 50 million turkey-gobbling families across America. But for many, there is no substitute for seeing the enormous floats and dazzling performances live.

For those planning to view the parade in person from the streets of New York, there are a few things you should know to make the most of your experience.

The Route:

The Thanksgiving Day parade route sidesteps its way down Manhattan from 77th to 34th St. The festivities begin at 77th St. and Central Park West. The floats, bands, and musical acts will march down Central Park West to Columbus Circle where the parade will then turn onto Central Park South before making a right on 7th Ave. At 42nd St. (Times Square), the parade will head east to 6th Ave and head south to 34th St. Turning west on 34th St., the parade will end at Macy's Herald Square.

Getting There:

Parking is always a nightmare in Manhattan and on Thanksgiving Day, it's nearly impossible. Your best bet is to take public transportation.

From New Jersey: Hop on the PATH train from Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, or a number of other locations and take it to 33rd St.

From Long Island: Take the LIRR to Penn Station.

From Westchester, Connecticut and destinations north of the city: Catch a ride down south on Metro-North and get off at Grand Central Station.

If you have to drive, you'll want to make it to Manhattan no later than 6:00 a.m. in order to get a parking spot nearby. Your best bet is to try the parking lots in the Upper West Side like the ones near Lincoln Center.

Where to Watch:

The Bad News: If you want a prime viewing spot, you should plan on arriving no later than 6:00 a.m.

The Good News: Watching the parade live is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you won't soon forget.

The first thing to keep in mind is there will be no public access to the telecast area on 6th Ave. between 34th and 38th St. and on 34th St. between Broadway and 7th Ave. The south side of 34th St. between Broadway and 7th Ave. will have limited public viewing.

Many choose to watch the parade from Central Park West; however it tends to be the windiest and shadiest part of the route. A better bet is to head to 42nd Street around 6th Ave. or the path along 6th Ave. to 34th St. The sidewalks there are wide and less crowded. There are also more opportunities for coffee and breakfast.

The Pre-Thanksgiving Balloon Inflation:

If the parade sounds too hectic for you, a good alternative is the pre-Thanksgiving balloon inflation. This event used to be a local secret, but it's turned into a must-see Thanksgiving ritual. Watch as Snoopy, Kermit and the crew come to life on the streets near the American Museum of Natural History on 77th and 81st Sts. between Columbus Ave. and Central Park West.

Things to Remember:

Don't forget to pack snacks. There may be plenty of stores around, but getting through the crowd to the store will not be easy. Pack some snacks and save yourself the hassle.

Dress in layers. It should be a nice sunny day in New York with a high of 52 degrees, but it's still a good idea to pack layers that you can peel off as necessary.

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