This past Thanksgiving (2017) we were fortunate enough to receive four free tickets for bleacher seating at THE PARADE. Like most American's we'd watched the parade on TV before but we'd never witnessed it in person so we were pretty excited to get to see it live in pseudo-VIP style.
Our Tickets were for seats right at the start of the Parade near Central Park. Our Hotel was in mid-town Manhattan right near the end of the Parade at Macy's. It turns out these to locations aren't particularly close to each other. Our plan was to take the subway from near our hotel up to the closest station we could find to our seats. This was easier said than done because many of the enterances to the subway near our hotel were closed for the parade and some of the stops along the way to our destination were closed due to the parade. We didn't know that in advance so we were scrambling a bit between subway lines in order to get close.
Somewhere, either on the tickets or on a info packet that came with them, we had read we needed to be at the enterance to our seating area at least an hour before the start of the parade. We just made it to the enterance - but not really because there was a HUGE line that wrapped all the way around two sides of a city block when we arrived so we queued up and hoped for the best. The line moved fairly quickly and once through there was no real congestion until we were almost at the bleachers. Then we were stopped in another line for some unknown delay. Eventually whatever the hold-up was disolved and the group we had become a part of in the line were escorted to our seats.
This may have been the coolest part of the parade for me. We actually had to walk a long ways down the main road of the parade past tons of people who were sitting in the bleachers already awaiting the start of the parade. "While in Rome..." they say so I pretended like I was in the Parade and waved at lots of of the people and enjoyed seeing them smile back and wave while enjoying my goofiness. I, of course, videotaped it.
Eventually we reached our seats. The bleachers are metal so, as you'd expect in late November, they were cold. Fortunately, Lisa brought a blanket we were able to put down first. As you can see from the aforementioned video the bleachers are not tall though the seating can be a little cramped. We had some really fun and kind people right around us which really made the experience even better. Seating is truly "first-come-first-serve" in the bleachers. If you have a ticket you get a seat (unless you get there after they are all full) but you don't have a specific seat. So, get there earlier for the best seating. We arrived late and thus our seat choices were pretty poor in terms of visability of the parade. We had a pretty large tree obstructing the view a bit so getting good photos of the various balloons was tricky.
It was still fun and cool to see in person - but if you wanted to just take cool photos you'd want to show up earlier. Thus, plan on having subway problems and having to wait in a really big line before you get to your seats. Plan on it and you'll avoid most of it and been set for great seats with a great view. We settled with great seats with great company and a decent view. Considering we showed up at the last possible minute I think we had phenomonal seats. Hell of a lot better than sitting out in the cold for four hours to hold better seats! Plus, I snuck down to the front to grab a few cool photos:
When the parade ended leaving was pretty easy; especially since we were near the end of the bleachers. We walked into Central Park and hung out for a bit (and checked out Strawberry Fields for our young Beatles fan) before heading back to the train to get back near our hotel.
Here are the tips condensed into a list:
- Leave more time than you think you will need to get to the seats
- Bring extra blankets to sit on and cover yourself with if it's seasonably cold.
- Get coffee/tea before you enter.
- There are some food vendors inside; but they are busy.
- Get there earlier than you think you should for the best seats.
- If you're staying in mid-town you can bring folding chairs and set up with seats on the side of the road really close to the end of the parade. Just get out there early. Like, 3-4 hours early.
- The marching bands do play at this part of the parade.
- None of the broadway shows do a thing at this part; that just happens at Macy's I think.