My parents are planning to take my family and my sister's family to New York next Thanksgiving for a week to see the sights and to see the Macy's parade. We would like to stay near the parade and would love suggestions on the best hotels/ strategies for seeing the parade. We'll have five kids all together ranging from 4 to 9 years of age.
That sounds like quite the treat! We love NY and go there all the time. We've only done the Parade once and it rained, so that was a bit of a bummer. The best place for watching the whole parade is from Columbus Circle which is at the corner of Central Park South (CPS) and Central Park West (CPW). It's a fabulous location with easy access to subways and lots of great sites. You're also right on the doorstep of Central Park which is full of activities for your kids. Depending on your budget, you can go high-end and stay at the Trump International Towers which is quite nice and has lots of amenities for the kids plus a pool in the hotel which is always a bonus. You can also view the parade directly from the hotel as well. (Just request a room with a view and you probably won't want to be higher than the 10th floor then). For a mid-priced hotel that's nice, you might want to try the Parker Meridien. Hip and fun. Great in-house burger joint. There are also the chain hotels like the Marriott Marquis which are along the route as well. As for strategies, it depends a lot on what your kids like to do. You can watch all the floats get blown up the day before the parade from 3-10pm on 77th and 81st street between CPW and Columbus Avenue.
This website also has some great strategies on watching the parade http://www.nyctourist.com/macys_map.htm.
Non-parade favorite activities include the American Museum of Natural History, watch the Christmas tree lighting at Rockfeller Center, ice skating at Rockfeller / Wollman Rink, and a visit to the Little Airplane Production. If your kids like performances, you might want to catch a matinee of the Lion King or the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. We love going on a scavenger hunt in one of the big art museum like the Met or MOMA. We go and pick up a bunch of postcards in the gift shop and break up in teams to find the object in question and take a picture in front of it. It's quite fun especially with a larger group like yours. Must do eats are frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity's, candy shopping at Dylan's candy store, official NY hotdog and pretzel from a street vendor, NY bagel from H&H, a slice of NY pizza and a trip down to Chinatown for some amazing Chinese food.
Have a marvelous trip!
I definitely agree on watching the floats get blown up the day before. You can really be up close to the balloons, the crowds are much smaller and it's exciting to see the prep work behind the scenes. Bring some hot chocolate to stay warm. For the day of the parade, I recommend staking out your seats along the route as early as possible - send one of the parents to do this. Of course, the best would be to see the parade from the hotel. The kids up in the windows seem to enjoy the bird's eye view much more than the kids on the ground straining to see the balloons over everyone. Either way, it's a lot of fun and excitement for the kids!
We go every other year to see the parade. We have stayed at the Doubletree Times Square both times. One year we went street level, the next we paid for a parade view room (the way to go!) We were warm, no crowds, a potty! This weekend is magical in NYC! After thanksgiving, it turns into Christmas!