Get ready for a fabulous new holiday parade extravaganza as the 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes to the streets this Thursday.
New York City is once again rolling out the red carpet for the annual event that follows the city’s streets from Central Park West to Macy’s home base at 34th Street and 6th Avenue. (Here’s a fun fact I just learned: A special Macy’s team spends the night before the parade turning every single streetlight and traffic light on the 2.5-mile route out of the way of the oncoming balloons.)
This year’s parade features more than 5,000 volunteers, 700 clowns, 16 giant character balloons, dozens of smaller inflatables, 26 floats, 12 marching bands and nine performance groups. That’s not to mention the musical stars, Broadway performances and, of course, Santa Claus, all traversing the New York City parade route.
On behalf of TPG, I got a sneak peek at the newest balloons and floats over the past two weeks that will be joining the route this year. If the parade is part of your Turkey Day celebration, I’m here to tell you that you won’t be disappointed.
Expect lots of kid-friendly fun from four new floats, including a few sweet treats and a fun travel-themed option, plus seven new high-flying balloons that will put a smile on your face — even if you’re just a kid at heart.
Want a sneak peek, too? Read on.
New Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats
The Deliciously Delectable World of Willy Wonka
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MELISSA KLURMAN/THE POINTS GUY
Even though there’s no real candy on this sweet float based on the upcoming movie (trust me, I asked), there’s plenty of eye candy to take in. There are 592,000 pieces of handcrafted prop sweets that fill the giant candy jars on the chocolate-themed float.
Some other highlights to keep an eye out for: Willy Wonka’s purple velvet top coat, plus hat and cane, hanging by the “storefront door;” a “chocolate river” that flows around the base of the float; and a forest scene that looks as though it’s all made of candy, including white chocolate rabbits and a pink cherry blossom tree filled with cotton candy.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
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MELISSA KLURMAN/THE POINTS GUY
There’s a parade’s worth of retro throwback fun on this Nickelodeon/Paramount float, starting with Leo, Raphael, Donnie and Mikey, better known as The Teenage Mutant Turtles. The iconic “heroes on the half shell” will be waving to the crowds from atop the three-story New York City street scene, complete with a pizza shop for “delivery” by costumed volunteers of the turtles’ favorite food.
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Another great throwback to get excited for: Bell Biv DeVoe will be performing on the float’s “sewer” stage.
Brach’s Palace of Sweets
The parade gets even sweeter with a second candy-themed float. This one is by Brach’s and feels like Santaland meets Candyland; there’s a lot of Christmas theming, including a rotating, blinged-out tree and a three-story, pink-iced gingerbread house.
Keep an eye out for towering candy canes that are 9,720 times larger than the actual holiday treat. Another highlight to watch for is singer Brandy performing live.
Igniting Memories, Solo Stove
At TPG, we love a good travel theme, so I was excited to see this float of a classic campground scene complete with an RV and an outdoor (Solo Stove) fire pit. The float is in multiple sections, with the campground connected to an RV connected to a pretty powerful flatbed truck.
Keep an ear out as it rolls by for a performance by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors.
There’s another hit of television nostalgia heading down the avenue: Kenan and Kel’s Good Burgermobile cruising toward the premiere of the Good Burger 2 movie. This is technically a car, not a float, but it’s still going to be a scene-stealer with its massive cheeseburger hood, hot dog headrests, pickle hubcaps and french fry windshield wipers.
Best of all, Macy’s just confirmed to TPG that Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell will be driving the 5,000-pound convertible down the parade route.
New Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons 2023
On a chilly November morning on the far outskirts of the Meadowlands, we also got a peek at the new balloons for this year’s parade. Since it takes several hours to fill these massive floatables up with helium, we didn’t see them all in the air. However, we did get the inside scoop on everything to watch for.
Beagle Scout Snoopy balloon by Peanuts Worldwide
Ok, we can’t lie: Seeing a 42-foot-long, 34-foot-wide, 55-foot-tall Snoopy being inflated for the “Ballonfest” preview, with trusty Woodstock along for the ride, was a special highlight of our preparade reporting.
According to Kathleen Wright, Macy’s director of production operation for the parade, this is the 10th version of Snoopy to float in the parade (the last version was astronaut Snoopy). The Peanuts pooch debuted in the 1968 Macy’s Parade (55 years ago) and has been the longest-running character balloon ever since.
Kung Fu Panda’s Po balloon by Universal Pictures’ Dreamworks Animation
“Kung Fu Panda 4” will be coming to the big screen in 2024. Before it debuts, the title panda, Po, will literally be filling the sky on Thanksgiving. The 39-foot bear is crafted from 1,000 yards of fabric.
Leo balloon by Netflix, Inc.
There’s long, and then there’s Leo balloon long: The 73-foot long balloon is the length of two telephone poles laid out end to end. The float is so massive it took nearly 50 gallons of paint to get his green skin glowing. (Leo, in case you were wondering, is the main lizard character voiced by Adam Sandler in a new animated movie set to debut soon on Netflix).
Uncle Dan balloon by Illumination
Nope, I didn’t know who Uncle Dan the duck was either. However, I have it on good word that he’ll be the star of a new animated comedy called Migration, which will premiere in the near future. Even without knowing Dan, it’s easy to be impressed by his massive sandwich. The fake food experts at Macy’s say that if it was real, it would include the ingredients of 7,300 normal-sized sub sandwiches.
Monkey D. Luffy balloon by Toei Animation Inc.
Anime’s favorite pirate, Monkey D. Luffy, the beloved captain of the Straw Hats, is 50 feet tall — the length of a semi-trailer truck. (That is one of the many reasons balloons are inflated near the parade’s start on Central Park West and not in New Jersey where most of them are stored.)
Pillsbury Doughboy balloon
Here’s a fun fact to consider while watching the smiling Doughboy balloon float through the New York City streets: It would take more than four million Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to create a “dough-sized” version of the balloon.
Blue Cat and Chugs by Cool Cats balloon
In case you’re not familiar with Blue Cat, don’t feel bad — I wasn’t either. But I can now tell you that this blue feline cartoon character is the first ever NFT-based balloon in the parade, according to Macy’s. Chugs, by the way, is a milk carton the 34-foot-tall Blue Cat is holding.