After a pandemic-abridged version last year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade we know and love is back for its 95th year. Fifteen character balloons, 28 floats, 36 inflatables, more than 800 clowns, 10 marching bands, 9 performance groups and Santa Claus will travel the full 2.5-mile route through Manhattan once again, from the Upper West Side to Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. Spectators are invited back this year, too, with proof of vaccination. Here are five reasons you won’t want to miss this year’s festivities, which air from 9 a.m. to noon Thanksgiving morning across all time zones, on NBC and Telemundo and streaming on Peacock.
1. There will be fabulous Broadway performers
After more than a year without the Great White Way, it will be extra special to see performances from some of Broadway’s hottest shows as they make their triumphant return to the stage. This year, the casts of Tony-winner Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and SIX — a modern twist on the six wives of King Henry VIII, which opened right before the pandemic struck — will perform, as well as the stars of long-running Broadway hit Wicked. Audiences will also get a sneak peek at NBC’s upcoming live adaptation of Annie.
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2. You’ll see the longest float in the history of the parade
Six new floats will join the parade this year, including “Celebration Gator,” a 60-foot-long alligator that will be the longest float to ever appear in the parade. Created by the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the float will celebrate the state’s unique landscape and culture, decorated with azaleas, magnolias, and New Orleans French Quarter architecture, and starring Oscar- and Emmy-winning New Orleanian jazz musician Jon Batiste.
Another new float comes from NBC streaming service Peacock. The “Birds of a Feather Stream Together” float will feature the main cast of Peacock’s musical comedy Girls 5eva — Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell, and Renée Elise Goldsberry. This float will also be the first ever to offer its own live feed, with cameras on the front and back giving viewers an on-the-ground look at what it’s like to be part of the festivities.
Don’t Turn That Channel: The National Dog Show is right after the parade! Are you up on all the details — from how to watch to the new breed that’s appearing for the first time this year? Get the whole scoop with our brand-new guide, here: Everything You Need to Know About the 20th annual National Dog Show
3. Some major music superstars will be performing
There’s something for everyone in this year’s roster of musical guests. Country superstar Carrie Underwood will perform select songs from her first holiday album, My Gifts, released in September. Other performers include the classic rock legends of Foreigner, K-pop girl group aespa, who will be the second-ever K-pop group to appear in the parade, and Rob Thomas, Matchbox Twenty frontman, who just released his first holiday album, Something About Christmas Time.
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4. There’s a Baby Yoda balloon!
This year’s 15-balloon lineup includes several newcomers: Grogu, more commonly known as Baby Yoda, from the hit Star Wars spinoff series The Mandalorian; Ada Twist, Scientist, the main character of the best-selling children’s book-turned-animated Netflix series; and Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee. And Macy’s new holiday mascot, Tiptoe the blue reindeer, will become the first-ever balloon puppet to march the parade route.
5. Grab the tissues for the joyful return of America’s finest marching bands
High school and college marching bands from across the country are usually some of the most fun performers to watch because of the way their excitement shines through, but last year the parade recruited only local bands in order to reduce COVID risk. This year, however, a cross-section of America’s most outstanding bands will perform once again, including the Ann Richards Marching Stars of Austin, Texas, the only all-female competitive marching band in the country, and Trabuco Hills High School’s Thundering Mustangs, who are making their Macy’s Parade debut all the way from Mission Viejo, California.
Lauren Vespoli is a Brooklyn-based freelance culture writer and audio producer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine and Vox.