Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2020: How to Watch This Year’s Virtual Event

For the first time in more than 75 years, there won’t be a parade of balloons and throngs of crowds on the streets of New York City this Thanksgiving Day. The annual parade sponsored by Macy’s — which typically kicks off the Christmas season — isn’t canceled. But the event will look different in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Here’s what you need to know about how the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is changing this year and when you can tune in to see the festivities. 

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is happening, but without the crowds 

Astronaut Snoopy balloon
Astronaut Snoopy balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2019 | Ralph Bavaro/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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Every year, millions of people line the streets of Manhattan to watch the parade of giant balloons and marching bands. But the pandemic has put the kibosh on events with large crowds. So parade organizers have gotten creative. 

Instead of taking place over the usual 2½-mile parade route, this year, the action will all happen in front of Macy’s flagship Herald Square store, according to a FAQ on Macy’s website. Social distancing, limited staff, and staggered call times will be in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. Masks will be required for all participants. Other changes include using professional musicians instead of the high school and college marching bands that usually perform. And instead of the balloon handlers who usually keep characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants from flying away, there will be special vehicles that keep the giant inflatables in place. 

The Macy’s parade will still air on NBC on Thanksgiving morning 

Macy's parade turkey float
Tom Turkey float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2019 | Ralph Bavaro/NBC

One thing that won’t be different about this year’s parade is when it will air. You can still tune in on Thanksgiving morning to see the fun on NBC. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 26 and runs until 12 p.m. ET. 

In fact, for viewers at home, things may not look that different this year, since the television broadcast usually airs performances from in front of the Herald Square store. Most of what you see on TV will be live, though a few segments will be taped on Wednesday, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Why not just cancel the parade? 

Crowds at the 2019 macy's thanksgiving day parade
Crowds at the Macy’s Thanksgiving day Parade in 2019 | EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images

Given the changes required to pull off a safe event, some people might wonder why organizers didn’t just cancel this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade. But according to Macy’s, they felt holding a parade this year was more important than ever. 

Macy’s believes in celebration and the joy of marking milestone moments with family and friends. For nearly 100 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been synonymous with the official start of the holiday season in the United States. Under the unique challenges of these unparalleled times, we felt it was important to continue this cherished American tradition that has been the opening act to the holiday season for generations of families.

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