Nothing quite says fall in New York like the changing colors of Central Park, pumpkin spice lattes and, above all else, the city’s annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 2014 parade, the holiday season’s biggest spectacle, will take place Thursday, Nov. 27, in Manhattan. With its star-studded performance lineup, colorful troupe of entertainers and those iconic giant balloons, the parade will be a terrific way to usher in the holidays.

This year, organizers said to expect the “largest new cast of giant character balloons ever assembled” and five new floats, according to Amy Kule, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s has also added state-of-the-art “layers of interactivity to the parade for the first time,” Kule said, including a live-stream feed from one of the floats, 360-degree panoramic photos and a confetti carpet. “We are bringing the Macy’s parade closer to audiences in New York City and in homes across the country,” she said in a statement.

The parade is one of New York’s favorite pastimes and is now in its 88th year. It has become a fixture on many people’s holiday calendars, whether they’re bundled up on the curb of Sixth Avenue or sitting cozy in their recliners at home, watching on TV.

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade included a menagerie of bears, lions, tigers and elephants, to be replaced three years later by the parade’s famous balloons, designed by Macy’s window designer and ”America’s Puppet Master” Tony Sarg. The parade’s original balloon characters included Toy Soldier, Felix the Cat, the Dragon and the Elephant.

This year’s parade will feature a number of familiar balloons like Snoopy and Woodstock, Spider-Man, Harold the Fireman and SpongeBob SquarePants. Among the performers set for the parade are Broadway favorite Idina Menzel, pop-rocker Nick Jonas, singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor and opera singer Renée Fleming.

Here is your complete guide to this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2014, including route, start time and best spots to catch all the action. 

parade-1 Santa Claus waves as he rides on his float down Central Park West during the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 28, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Start Time

The Macy’s parade will kick off at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 27. The parade lasts three hours -- but you’ll want to get there early to snag the best viewing spots. Scroll down farther for details about where to watch the parade and tips on how to get the best experience possible. 

parade-2 The Snoopy and Woodstock balloon float makes its way down 6th Avenue during the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving day parade in New York, Nov. 28, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Route Map

The parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park West, just south of the American Museum of Natural History. From there, the parade will march south along the perimeter of Central Park to 59th Street, where it will take a left turn along the south edge of the park.

Then, the procession will turn right down Sixth Avenue. This is the parade’s longest stretch, from 59th Street to 34th Street. The parade will end at the Macy’s store at Herald Square.

The best way to reach the starting point of the parade is to take the 1/2/3 trains to 72nd Street, the A/C and B lines to 81st Street, or the 1/2 trains to 79th Street. The parade route map is below, or you can find a printer-friendly PDF version here

parade-map Thanksgiving day parade route map. The parade begins at 77th street and Central Park West and ends at 7th Avenue and 34th Street. Photo: Macy's, Inc.

parade-3 A clown leaps over fellow clowns before the start of the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 28, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Live Stream

If you don’t feel like braving the crisp fall weather or crowds and would rather watch from home, tune in to NBC Thursday morning. The parade will also air on CBS starting at 9:00 a.m.; social media users will have the chance to see their Facebook posts, Tweets and Instagram photos on television with the hashtag #tdaycbs. 

To watch the parade via online live stream, visit the Macy’s Parade website the morning of the event. 

parade-4 Performers wave as they walk down Central Park West at the start of the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 28, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Best Places To Watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The key to watching the parade in person is to get there early. The best spots to catch the procession fill up fast -- parade aficionados stake out places along the route as early as 6:30 a.m. Come with a full belly and an empty bladder.

Watching the parade from the street is one of the best ways to feel like part of the action. Choosing a location along the route is important. If time is of the essence, New York City travel expert Heather Cross recommends getting a spot near the starting line where the parade goes by much quicker. Viewing the parade from Columbus Circle is a good place, too, as there are fewer obstructions. Note that there is no parade viewing on Sixth Avenue between 34th Street and 28th Street, as this is where television crews set up.

Are there places to avoid? Definitely. “It's almost never a good idea to try to watch the parade near Macy's,” Cross wrote. If you have kids, leave the strollers at home and bring plenty of snacks to keep them happy. Bring stools or folding chairs for taking sitting breaks.

Lastly, dress warmly! It’s bound to be chilly.

Feel like sharing some tips with others for how to best watch the parade? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.