Tips for Spending Thanksgiving in New York City

Updated on October 12, 2018
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T.R. Threston is an award-winning luxury travel writer based in New York City.

How to Spend Thanksgiving in NYC

Perhaps your son or daughter is making the journey with his or her high school band, or maybe you just want to do something "different" this year. Whatever the reason, you should be excited to spend your Thanksgiving in New York City—you're going to love it!

That being said, Thanksgiving in NYC can be pretty hectic, so here are a few tips to help you make sure your trip goes smoothly.

Photo source: Flickr/martha_chapa95
Photo source: Flickr/martha_chapa95 | Source

About the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

For most people, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition, whether they watch it from the front row or the comfort of their own homes. If you plan on attending the parade in person there are several things you might want to know about before heading out the door:

  • In order to secure a "good" viewing spot, plan on arriving early. The parade begins at 9 AM, however, many people begin securing their viewing spots by 6 AM, some arrive super early (as early as 4 AM) to assure front row viewing.
  • Restrooms will be in short supply, so plan accordingly! Most businesses will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, and those that are open (such as restaurants) will have a strict "Customers Only" policy in place.
  • Dress in layers. Weather in New York City, especially in late November, is unpredictable at best. To make the parade more pleasurable, dress in layers. Remember that you can always take off clothing, but it is tough (sometimes even impossible) to put more on once you're lining the parade route.
  • Decide ahead of time where you want to watch from. The parade will begin on West 77th Street and Central Park, continue down Central Park South to 59th Street and turn onto 6th Avenue (also known as the Avenue of the Americas), the parade continues down 6th to 38th Street. (Technically it goes to Macy’s Herald Square, however, this area is not open to the general public.)


If you haven't made hotel reservations yet...

You should do so immediately. Ideally, hotel reservations for Thanksgiving weekend in New York City should be made by late September of the year you plan to visit.

Hotel and Restaurant Reservations

If you haven't yet made hotel reservations for Thanksgiving weekend in New York City, now is the time to do it. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest weeks of the year for tourists in New York City, and hotels book up fast. Be especially aware that groups (such as high school marching bands) are traveling to New York and large blocks of hotel space have already been reserved (and, paid for in some cases). This doesn't mean hotel rooms aren't available, but you should expect to pay some of the highest room rates of the year.

This is also the time of year to make your restaurant reservations, especially for Thanksgiving Day. Most restaurants will be offering both their traditional and special Thanksgiving Day (turkey with all the trimmings) menus. You may call your restaurant of choice directly or use an online service such as OpenTable.com.

Tips

Non-parade-route hotels, especially those located on the East Side and Downtown will have more availability and better rates than West Side/Times Square area hotels for Thanksgiving week.

***

Additionally, those who do not have reservations at restaurants in New York City for Thanksgiving Day will have extremely long waits (if the restaurant can accommodate you and your party at all.) Save yourself the aggravation and make reservations ahead of time!

Broadway Shows

Visitors should be aware that only a handful of Broadway shows perform on Thanksgiving Day. Current shows that will be going on include:

  • Chicago
  • Christmas Spectacular starring The Radio City Rockettes
  • Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Waitress

Shopping

Finally, yes, there is shopping on Thanksgiving Day; however, which stores are open and closed varies greatly. Major department stores hours such as Macy's can be checked on such websites as TheBlackFriday.com.

The Friday following Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, and virtually every store will be open. What's more, most will open early and stay open late. Most stores will have huge sales (with deep discounts) that bring forth massive crowds. For this reason, it's best to narrow your shopping choices down to your top two or three "must-visit" stores on Black Friday.

Tip

Do your homework by visiting the stores you want to shop at during Black Friday online so you know exactly what you are seeking once you are there. You'll also sometimes find coupons that can be applied to Black Friday sales.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 TR Threston

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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        14 months ago from UK

        You give great travel advice for anyone planning a visit this Thanksgiving. Your knowledge of the city could be put to good use in an article aimed at the short city trip tourists, suggesting the best places to visit during a 3 day city break. I know visitors from the UK especially look at New York and don't know where to start. There's so much choice.

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