New York, New York — Auntie lives on the Upper West Side, just across the street from the American Museum of Natural History. And just across the street from where they inflate the giant balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
This does not mean that we had easy access to see the balloons come to life. In fact, we missed it. Crowds were massive and security was super tight. Only one route was open to pedestrian traffic, and it was not the one we planned for. The twins–fresh from a seven-hour car ride from Boston (!)–were having none of it.
So we called an audible. Daddio and the twins played mini-golf at a local school’s PTA fundraiser, while Auntie and I got a pizza. Then we went home to eat it in the warmth and comfort and quiet of her home. It was for the best.
And we learned our lesson. For the actual parade, we decided to make a plan. At least we tried to make a plan. Unfortunately, this is not America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit, and we didn’t have my dad’s sneaking skills or secret spots. We didn’t really want to get up at 6am to stake out our place–and then wait for three-plus hours for the parade to start. We didn’t have ladders or even blankets. I was concerned.
We decided to get an early start–but not too early. This meant leaving our hotel around 7am and making our way to the parade route, with a quick stop for coffee and pastries. It was about 7:45 when we got to Central Park West, which was already packed. As in, impassable. At the end of 72nd Street, we reached an impenetrable wall of people.
At least we made it to the end of the block. So we planted our bums on the wall that surrounds the apartment building on the corner (John and Yoko’s home, the Dakota, as it turns out, so that was fun for my Beatles fans). There was nowhere else to go, so that would be our spot.
After that, we passed a cold hour. We didn’t have ladders or blankets, but we did have books and balls, so that’s how we kept ourselves entertained. Eventually, the arrival of more and more people interfered with our ball games and we had to stay close to the wall. Soon, the crowds were swarming all around us. Fortunately, the wall meant we could see over the sea of heads, which proved to be crucial.
When the parade finally started, the twins were in good spirits (mostly). The sun was reaching us now, so we were warm. We had a good view of the passing floats and balloons, if not the marching bands. Favorite floats included It’s All Rock & Roll (featuring the world’s biggest Les Paul guitar) and Snoopy’s Dog House, while the Grinch was the favorite balloon. Twin S was loving the music–even dancing, while perched precariously on the wall–as well as heckling the parade and chatting with our neighbors.
Twin V was mostly wondering why we couldn’t go back to Auntie’s apartment and watch the parade on TV. I tried to explain that it’s so much better to fight the crowds and feel the cold and see the real thing in person. I’m not sure he bought it. Then the famous “Wimpy Kid” diarist Greg Heffley came floating by, so that cheered him up for a while.
In any case, we got through the parade with a few good photo ops and no major breakdowns. Success! My big regret was that we could not recognize most of the celebrities on the floats, as we couldn’t see the signs (and I am hopelessly out of touch with pop culture). Next time, I’ll do a little research on that front. But otherwise, I think that experiment went as well as it could have.
Bonus: our spectating spot was near the beginning of the parade route. So afterwards, we could go back to Auntie’s and watch the parade on TV. And everybody was happy.