New Yorkers could use a parade now more than ever. Luckily, the 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is almost here (macys.com/parade, hotline 212-494-4495, or download the free app for iPhone). Not only are there massive balloons, marching bands, 900 clowns and Santa Claus at this perennial favorite, there's also a Queens-based '80s-tribute dance troupe making its parade debut.
LOGISTICS Starting at 9 a.m., the Macy's parade follows a familiar route: It begins at 77th Street and Central Park West, then heads south along Central Park, jogging eastward to Sixth Avenue at 59th Street. After a stretch southward on Sixth, it turns right on 34th Street, ending in front Macy's, of course. Spectators can line up along most of the route, except for the stage and media area near the department store (the festivities will be broadcast on NBC from 9 a.m. to noon).
INFLATION AREA The rare place where inflation is not a dirty word, the assembly area where balloons are blown up -- essentially, the area surrounding the American Museum of Natural History -- is a beloved pre-parade stop, viewable from 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.
PERFORMERS This year's honor guards and marching bands come from places as far-flung as Michigan, Wyoming and Texas. But from closer to home, the all-female Spangles Dance Company of Queens (spanglesdance company.com -- make sure to watch the videos), is adding its unique retro vibe by performing "The Heat Is On," the 1980s Glen Frey classic from the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack.
BALLOONS It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a 51-foot-tall Charlie Brown chasing his elusive football, and this iconic balloon is back for its 60th year. Hello Kitty, Papa Smurf and Kermit the Frog also are making return appearances among the 16 giant balloons.
Giving a jolt of fresh artistic energy to the proceedings is a new balloon by KAWS, also known as Brian Donnelly, a street art pioneer who has lately gone more mainstream with his odd characters. KAWS' Companion, a shy fellow with his face in his hands, will be floating down the streets with more recognizable balloons. It's the latest in Macy's Blue Sky Gallery series, enlisting fine artists to contribute to the parade.
FLOATS & CELEBS Star-studded and relentlessly branded, 28 floats will inch along the parade route this year. Singer Chris Isaak croons atop the Woodland Family Gathering (sponsored by Ocean Spray); 75 Years of March Madness from the NCAA features basketball greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Christian Laettner, and multi-award-winner Whoopi Goldberg sails down Sixth on the Jolly Polly Pirate Ship. At the end of the parade route, the stage will feature performances by Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Carly Rae Jepsen and Kidz Bop, among others.