NYC Sightseeing

Things to see and do in New York City

Where is the best place to watch the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

And a few other questions that need answering about the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

The countdown is on! Every day we get closer and closer to the biggest and best parade NYC sees each year: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

The floats will carry singers and dancers, the marching bands will make beautiful music, the balloons will soar high and Santa Claus will close out the show to the delight of all. It’s a tradition as strong as any other in NYC and it never gets old. If you’re even considering visiting NYC for Turkey Day to take in the parade, allow us to answer some questions you surely have been asking:

What is the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route?

parade route

(Click to Enlarge) 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route – Image: Google Maps

This year’s NYC Thanksgiving Parade route is the same as it’s been. The parade will start on 77th Street and head south on Central Park West down to Columbus Circle. From there, marchers will turn across Central Park South until 6th Avenue, where they will head south. The parade travels south down 6th Ave until 34th Street when it turns toward home and like every year, ends at Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. Sound confusing? Just look at the map.

What time does the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade start?

Kermit the Frog getting ready for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo: Flickr / kowarski

Kermit the Frog getting ready for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Photo: Flickr / kowarski

Wake up early Thanksgiving morning because the parade gets underway at 9 a.m. local time and lasts about three hours.

Oh, that’s early. What time do I need to get to the parade to get a good spot?

parade viewing

Arrive early for that front row seat – Photo: nbcbayarea.com

Well, people tend to start showing up by 6 a.m. along Central Park West. Early, right?

Does that mean Central Park West is the best vantage point of the Thanksgiving Parade?

Central Park West is on of the best spots to view the parade. Photo: Flickr / Diariocritico de Venezuela

Central Park West is on of the best spots to view the parade – Photo: Flickr / Diariocritico de Venezuela

That’s debatable, but it’s where people tend to go initially for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the better places to see the parade, for sure. Second, it’s the starting point of the parade, so they will start seeing the floats first and it will end earlier too. Maybe they want to get out early for Thanksgiving dinner.

Where else can I go to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade?

6th ave parade

6th Avenue is another great viewing option for the parade – Photo: Flickr / Diariocritico de Venezuela

If you don’t make it to Central Park West, 6th Avenue is your best bet. Remember this as a general rule of thumb: the further north you are, the better off you are. With the national TV broadcast being shot on 34th and up to 38th street, it will get crazy down there. Also, you cannot get grandstand tickets, so don’t even bother trying. There are over 2 miles of viewing space, I’m sure you can find something.

You’re probably right, but what is the Thanksgiving Parade TV info?

Al Roker Parade

Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, and Matt Lauer host the broadcast for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC – Photo: NBC Universal

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will broadcast live on NBC from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. This will also be where you see the best performances, in front of Macy’s.

Who participates in the Macy’s Day Parade?

A Balloon from the 13th MAcy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1937. Photo: Walter Kelleher/NY Daily News

A Balloon from the 13th MAcy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1937. Photo: Walter Kelleher/NY Daily News

You really have a lot of questions, you know that? This year’s lineup hasn’t fully been released yet, but generally it’s marching bands, performance groups, clowns, balloons, more balloons, and of course people looking to sell something. Have an album release right before Christmas? A new movie hitting theaters soon? You can buy your way into the parade, but it costs a pretty penny.

Lol, commercialism.

Well, they have to fund this thing somehow.

True. So how do I get to the Thanksgiving Day Parade?

penn station

Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving, 2008 – Photo: railfanwindow.com

Public transportation is probably your best bet, but remember it’s going to be chaotic no matter what you do. It you’re in NYC, the B or C will take you to Central Park West. From outside of NYC, take NJ Transit or the LIRR to Penn Station to find a C train. You can drive in, but really, who wants to deal with Thanksgiving traffic?

Is it true I can see the Balloon Inflation the night before the parade?

mr potato head inflation

Balloon inflation begins a 3 p.m. the day before the parade

Yes! This is a really cool event that often goes overlooked, but if you head up to the Museum of Natural History, inflation begins Wednesday at 3 p.m.!

Sweet! Any final tips for me and my fellow Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade goers?

parade

Have fun at the parade! – Photo: Flickr / Anthony Quintano

Yes. Dress warm, it’s probably going to be cold out. Wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be standing for a while. Don’t bring any signs, because that’s just dumb and blocks other people’s views. Be in a good mood, because all of those people and the chaos will definitely test your nerves. Bring a camera, because duh. Most importantly, have a fun and happy Thanksgiving!

For more information about Macy’s events around the country, swing by visitmacysusa.com

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About NYC Museums

The Museum of the City of New York is giving out free breakfast every morning: With a City Sights or New York pass, get your day started with an H&H Midtown Bagels East bagel and cup of coffee graciously given to early-bird museum visitors. This also includes a 20 minute talk with tips about getting the most out of the Big Apple and an exclusive screening of Timescapes, a 22-minute film that gets into the history of New York.

bagels

Photo: Museum of the City of New YOrk

There’s a bar on top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar allow for panoramic views of New York City with an unbeatable view of Central park. This rooftop luxury is definitely a hidden treasure within the Met. However, the elevator that takes you up top may be a little tricky to find, so don’t hesitate to ask any of the guides for help.

photo: Met Museum

You can stay overnight at the American Museum of Natural History: Watch art work come to life once the sun goes down. Targeted mostly towards children, this huge sleepover includes endless activities including the exploration of nocturnal animals and a showing of Mysteries of the Unseen World in the LeFrak theatre. Also, with a registration of 15 people or more, you’re qualified for discounted price.

photo: Buff Strickland

The Museum of Modern Art has a rain room: Stand in the rain without getting wet. This technological demonstration allows you to be completely surrounded by water, yet dry where your body movements are sensed. This is looks just as cool as it sounds, and is an opportunity for awesome silhouette shots. It is known to have a long wait time, so make sure you get in line by at least 6 AM.

photo: Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art PS1 has a huge experimental music series called the Warm Up: This summer event takes the cake for a unique and distinctive activity. The line-up includes experimental acts and DJ’s that are upcoming artists with insane talent. Going from June 28th to September 9th, every Saturday means for discovering art in all places.

photo: Digital Music News

Celebrating Mother’s Day 2014 in NYC

Last year, to the liking of many, we put together a guide for Mother’s Day in NYC. After many requests for an updated version we’re back with the Gray Line New York 2014 Guide to Mother’s Day in NYC. Are you looking for things to do in NYC on Mother’s Day? Well, all moms are different, so here’s our guide on how to please your mom this year:

For The Mom With A Green Thumb

photo via nybg.org

Take Mom to the New York Botanical Garden’s Daffodil Hill for a special day out with the whole family. The NYBG’s Mother’s Day Garden Party will feature live music, fun games, casual picnicking, crafts to keep the little ones occupied and much more. There will be food and drink samples from nearby gardens and, of course, various food trucks, beer and wine for purchase.

For The Theater Mom

photo via newyorkcitytheatre.com

Just because it’s Mother’s Day, it doesn’t mean that Broadway is dark. Take Mom to a matinee of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella for a classic musical for dreamers of all ages. Or maybe Mom is looking for a little more intrigue and laughter. Bring her to the Walter Kerr Theatre to see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder for the hilarious tale of a man murdering his was to an inheritance. Either way, you can’t miss on the theater-loving mom.

For The Mom Who Can’t Get Enough Heartbreak

photo via si.com

No team in baseball has caused more heartbreak in the past 10 years than the New York Mets. From the September collapse, to the other September collapse, to Bernie Madoff, to Bobby Bonilla’s contract… the list just keeps going on. But the best thing about the Mets, the thing that makes them such a special franchise, it their fans. The Mets have the most loyal fans in baseball. Despite all of the despair, Mets fans keep coming back for more with optimism in their eyes. Does this sound like your mom? Well then there is nothing she would love more than spending the day at Citi Field with her child.

For The Shopaholic Mom

phoro via brooklynflea.com

You don’t always have to plan your mother’s day around a special event. If you know what Mom loves, treat her to a day full of adventure. If you mother has a shopping “problem” then you should take her on a shopping spree through the city. Hit the streets of SoHo and take mom to some great boutiques of all kinds. If you have the mom who loves to find a bargain, maybe swing by Brooklyn Flea where you will find some incredible items at shockingly low prices.

For The Tourist Mom

flatiron building nyc

Photo via Gray Line New York

Ever since you moved to New York, Mom has always made a point of getting to The Big City to visit you. Well it’s about time to take her up on that offer and show her around town. Take Mom on a double decker bus tour through Lower Manhattan and learn about places like the South Street Seaport and Madison Square Park. Maybe go to Brooklyn and hop off at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to take in the Cherry Blossoms together. There’s a world of opportunity for the tourist mom, all you have to do is hop on and see where the day takes you.

So, what kind of mom is your mom? Does she not fit into any of these categories? Tell us who she is on Twitter at @GrayLineNewYork and we’ll add more recommendations to our guide!

What’s in an NYC Street Name: Houston Street

houston street

Way, way back in the olden times, William Houstoun, a delegate from the State of Georgia married a girl named Mary. Mary’s father was a pretty wealthy guy and wanted to honor his daughter’s new husband, so he named a street after him. And so begins the history of Houston Street.

The most interesting thing about this particular road is the pronunciation of its name: Houston. It is spelled just like that city in Texas, which to the average observer would make you think that it also sounds the same when spoken, but that is not the case. Since Houston Street was named after William Houstoun, it is pronounced the way his name was: HOUSE-ton, like the place you live followed by the unit of mass that is equal to 2,000 pounds. It is not HUGH-stun, like the actor whose last name is Jackman followed by the type of gun that uses electric volts to shock its targets. The easiest way for a New Yorker to spot a tourist is by listening to the way they pronounce that street.

houston street nyc

Bowery at Houston Street

Another cool thing about Houston Street is that it is the divider of neighborhoods. Have you ever heard of the NYC neighborhood SoHo? It’s an abbreviation meaning “South of Houston.”

Which NYC street name do you want to learn more about? Make a suggestion on Twitter at @GrayLineNewYork and we might feature it in out What’s in an NYC Street Name series!

The Best Observation Deck of NYC?

esb-totr

As the double decker bus tour of NYC, we get asked lots of questions about the city and its attractions. One of the most common questions we see comes in the form of a this or that situation. People always want to know which is really the best observation deck in NYC: Top of the Rock or Empire State Building. Well, the answer’s really not all that clear.

First, let’s look at the stats.

Number of Decks

  • Top of the Rock: 3
  • Empire State Building: 2

Number of Stories

  • Top of the Rock: 68th floor, 69th floor, 70th floor
  • Empire State Building: 86th floor, 102nd floor

So if your main criterion for your decision is height, the Empire State Building goes over 30 stories higher than the Top of the Rock. But you also have to consider what you want to see. Both of these buildings have incredible views of NYC, but when you go to the Top of the rock, you also get Manhattan’s most famous building in your view: The Empire State Building. Also, the Top of the Rock is closer to Central Park, which is one of the coolest aerial views around.

Ultimately, I’d recommend making your decision based on how you answer these questions:

Do you want to go during the day or night?

  • Day: Top of the Rock
  • Night: Empire State Building

Do you care more about the view of Central Park or the financial district?

  • Central Park: Top of the Rock (You can’t really see Central Park at night, though)
  • Financial District: Empire State Building

Do you want the Empire State Building to be in your pictures?

  • Yes: Top of the Rock
  • No: Empire State Building

Really, you should just do both and decide for yourself which is the best way to see the city from above. If not, here are some pictures to help you make your decision:

Top of the Rock Pictures

top of the rock nyc

top of the rock, central park

top of the rock

Empire State Building Pictures

empire state building panorama

click to enlarge panorama

empire state building

view from empire state building

So, What is ‘Hop on, Hop off’ Anyway?

hoho bus

What is a Hop on, Hop off bus tour?

We get a lot of questions from our visitors all about our bus tours and how they work. One of the most common questions we get is about our top products, the hop on, hop off double decker bus tours. As people who work with these buses every single day, sometime take for granted the fact that not everyone has been exposed to this type of tour previously.

ESBThe Hop on, hop off bus tour is becoming more and more popular throughout the world. Here in New York City, this is how it works

  • When you redeem your ticket, it is valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, or another pre-determined amount of time.
  • We have 50 spots throughout the city where our bus makes stops on our various tours. You can check out our map online here.
  • You can ‘hop on’ the bus at any of these stops you purchased a ticket for. For example:
      • If your ticket is for the downtown tour, you can hop on at stops 1-22
      • If your ticket is for the uptown tour, you can hop on at stops 23-39
      • If you have an All Loops ticket, you can hop on at any of the 50 stops
  • Once on the bus, you can ride for as long as the bus remains in service and on its loop. The bus will continue to make stops at each of the pre-marked destinations.
  • Any time the bus makes a stop, you can ‘hop off’ and further explore the area on your own. Maybe you want to grab some lunch, maybe you want to use your Empire State Building tickets; you can hop off for as long as you like.
  • When you hop off, you hang onto your tickets. You will need them next time you want to hop on again.
  • Buses come through each stop every 15-20 minutes, so if you find yourself waiting at one of our bus stops, be patient because another bus will be there soon!

So, are you still confused about what “Hop on, Hop off” means? Do you have other questions you would like to see answered? Let us know on Twitter at @GrayLineNewYork. 

See New York City in One Day

BrooklynBridge2

New York City can be pretty big sometimes. Big and intimidating. When you travel here, you probably ask yourself how can I see all of New York City in one day? Is there a tour that I can see the top NYC sights in a short time so I can save the rest of my week for other sightseeing activities? Well, now there is.

Statue of LibertyIntroducing the all new New York City in One Day Tour!

In this 6-hour personalized tour of 12 people or less, you will sightsee by foot, minibus and boat. See all of the top New York attractions like the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge with a knowledgeable, local tour guide. Experience the neighborhoods of Manhattan, the New York skyline from the Hudson River, and more when you sign on for the New York City in One Day Tour.

ESBHighlights:

  • 6-hour New York sightseeing tour, led by a friendly local guide
  • See top New York attractions by foot, minibus and sightseeing boat
  • Relax aboard a minibus and pass sights such as the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center
  • Stroll past New York City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge, and wander along the High Line, an elevated parkland walkway
  • Enjoy a 1.5-hour New York Harbor sightseeing cruise and view the Statue of Liberty alongside other sights
  • Small-group tour with a maximum of 13 people ensures personalized attention from a guide

You can book this brand new tour now online (New York City in One Day Tour) or by calling our visitors center 1-800-669-0051