Thanksgiving in NYC: A recap of our Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Experience

Today’s post is going to be SO much fun y’all! I am sure some of y’all were wondering what the heck we were doing in NYC! I actually hadn’t planned to do a post on my time in NYC (I left my big camera in my bag for most of the weekend! Work has been taking over most of my life these days.), but I had a few requests for this post! I also had an amazing time and really wanted to share more about what we did and why we did it! So, please know that today’s post may look different than you are used to! This post is filled with cell phone photos, family stories & a recap on the fun that we had. It was so great to spend time with my family and to step away from work right before my rebrand launch (even if it was just for a day!). Now, on to the background of how all of this was possible because I had a lot of people that had questions when I was sharing on IG!

My aunt works in corporate for Macy’s and just marched in her 34th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! She has piloted one of the big balloons for as long as I can remember, and it has become such a fun family tradition to look for her balloon on the TV each year as we prep dinner from our kitchen in Texas. Our family is used to squinting at the TV, looking at the ground, pausing and rewinding our DVR, hoping that we could catch a quick glimpse at her!

SO, when I was asked and tried to explain what exactly it was we were doing for Thanksgiving this year, I had a lot of people ask questions! Y’all are doing what?! How? Wait who carries the balloons? I’ll explain more about what exactly we all did in a minute, but my Aunt’s involvement in and love for the parade was what got me and my family in the parade. She is a balloon pilot each year, and everyone in my family handled her balloon (Chase from Paw Patrol!). SO, now onto the recap of the trip!

I left DC early in the morning and got to DC around 10:20AM! I took the bus and was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t hit much traffic.

Pro tip y’all: When traveling from DC to NYC by bus, get the early ticket, even if it means getting up at 4:45AM! You’ll miss most of the traffic and will be so grateful to have more of your day to enjoy! I took the 6:30 bus! 

I was way too excited when we arrived and our stop was literally across the street from the B&H store. For my non-photographer friends, B&H is an amazing retailer that sells camera equipment and accessories. I had to restrain myself from stopping in because I would have spent all my money. Literally everything that I use to photograph weddings and portraits has come from their stores, and I actually felt like I spotted a celebrity’s house when we rolled past their storefront. #fangirlstatus

After settling in at my Aunt’s, we got dressed and headed to balloon inflation! You could probably guess that the entire parade is a massive production, but I am always surprised to see how big of a production it really is. Balloon prep starts well before you even see them fly! There are practices ahead of time, test flights, trainings, and inflation! Inflation is a huge event where people from all over come to see the balloons being inflated and prepped the Wednesday night before parade morning. We had a chance to see the balloons being inflated on Wednesday and even got to meet our balloon, Chase from Paw Patrol, ahead of time. We also accidentally photobombed a NYC based Russian Newscast (fast forward to the 3:00 mark), but that is a hilarious story for another day. It was so cool to see all of the balloons so close up! Here is the Pillsbury Dough Boy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Super Wings!

Pikachu, Trolls, the Dinosaur Baloon-icles & Goku!

There’s our guy, Chase & our pilot! It was so cute to see how excited the parents, kids and spectators were to see one of their favorite characters in larger than life form.

Anything for the shot, right?

We finished the evening with dinner at Senza Gluten, and oh my goodness… to all my gluten free friends, I need you to get yourself there like yesterday. It is an amazing gluten free Italian restaurant where I could eat every single thing on the menu. Everyone was in absolute heaven, including those that could eat gluten!

It was early to bed on Wednesday because parade morning began at 4:50AM! We arrived at the Manhattan Center to check in, each wearing about 5 pairs of pants, 7 shirts and as many hand warmers as our pockets could hold. Like I said before, the entire parade is a huge production, but I don’t think I could even begin to explain how funny the entire costume/dressing process is!

We walked into the building, checked in and got our balloon handler coveralls. As we all dressed in our suits, there were people around the corner being put into clown makeup, dressing in breakfast food costumes, getting suited up as a human sized turkey leg… you get the point. We all met on the bus to be driven down to the parade starting line, and I think this may be the only place in the world where bumping into person dressed as a hockey puck or human sized piece of butter is NORMAL!

We waited at the starting line for them to give us the okay to enter the parade! Y’all… it was really COLD!

I don’t have any pictures from during the parade because well… we were just a little bit busy! Even though it was FREEZING (it was the coldest parade EVER!), we had a lot of fun. I think one of my favorite parts of the entire experience was seeing the looks of excitement and wonder on the kid’s faces (both on the ground and in the windows of all the buildings!!) as one of their favorite characters floated by in larger than life form!

My aunt actually pilots the balloon, meaning she walks backwards down the street, watching wind conditions and how the balloon is responding! She tells all of the balloon handlers what to do, how high to hold the balloon, where to walk and how fast to walk. There’s so much more that goes into it than you would think!

We were part of her big crew (the balloon handlers!) and each carried a bone attached to one of the strings that keeps Chase afloat. Like I said y’all… this parade is a PRODUCTION! I was amazed at how much goes into it. I know it is a little confusing to explain, so here we are in action! My aunt is the one walking backwards in front of the balloon and we’re somewhere in the back corner under Chase’s black jetpack in the yellow.

Once we finished our (almost three mile) walk through the city, we helped deflate Chase for safe keeping until his next parade!

This was my aunt’s 34th parade! She did such a job keeping Chase and her entire crew safe— so proud of her!

That’s a wrap!

The rest of our day was spent watching a replay of the parade on DVR while making a full Paleo Thanksgiving Feast at my Aunt’s! We had THE best pumpkin pie that I am fairly confident I’ll be dreaming about until next year.

Once dinner was almost ready and we were warmed up, we headed over to Central Park for a few family photos. Thankful for this crew!

Friday morning was spent recovering, eating omelets and driving back to DC on the bus (while prepping blog content for the week!). Cheers to a fun Thanksgiving in NYC, fun, family memories and an amazing experience!

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  1. Debbie says:

    OMG, Caity that is the coolest adventure. I have always wanted to go to that parade in person but to be apart of it would be incredibly! I watch every year and the moment Santa comes is the official beginning of the holiday for me.
    Wow! This was just such a cool story.


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