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Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and a Holiday Cabaret Show

Thursday, November 24, 2022

My mom and I were up early this morning so we could get ready and head into midtown to find a good place to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We left the hotel at 06:30 and took the train over to Grand Central Station. From there, we walked until we found an entrance to the parade route and then went in search of a good place to stand. We didn't have to go far and we found a spot that wasn't very crowded at 44th Street and 6th Avenue.

I went out in search of coffee for the both of us, finding a Starbucks two blocks away that was open. The queue inside was, understandably, quite long and it took me 45 minutes to get the coffee. By the time I returned to where my mom was waiting, the area had filled up considerably. Behind us was a couple with two young children who were adorable. The four people in front of us had brought folding chairs, but all but one of them had left by the time I returned from Starbucks. The old woman who remained with the chairs was quite crotchety and gave the couple behind us nasty looks each time their little boy would cry or get fussy. She was clearly a bitch... and her attitude didn't improve throughout the morning.

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The parade began at 09:00 on the Upper West Side, so it took a little while before it reached our area. Happily, the wait didn't seem to last too long and soon the first balloons were in sight. The first float that came by was the Thanksgiving turkey, with Mario Lopez seated on top. A few marching bands walked by us as well, though they didn't stop to perform along our section of the route. The Jolly Green Giant float came next. A very nice man behind us in the crowd had asked us if he could quickly pop to the front when this float came by because his wife was riding on it; everyone around us readily agreed and we made room so he could see his wife. By a stroke of bad luck, his wife was on the other side of the float and he wasn't able to see her!

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The balloons and floats began to arrive more quickly, along with several appearances by celebrities (though I didn't know who many of them were). Baby Yoda was among my favorite balloons. My oldest nephew would have enjoyed the balloon from “Diary of a Whimpy Kid” since he's read through the entire book series. One part of the parade that my mom and I enjoyed was seeing the number of male cheerleaders and flag bearers with the marching bands! Almost every band had some men among the cheerleaders – except for the bands from the more conservative parts of the country, whose groups were not diverse in any way.

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The only international band was from Mexico and they put on a delightful performance for us! Soon, a float with Dionne Warwick came by; while I recognize her name, I couldn't actually pick her out of the crowd on the float. The Blue's Clues float was next, along with the latest actor to be on the show, Josh Dela Cruz (I did recognize him from watching the TV show with my niece and nephews). The Sesame Street float was quite fun and full of the various characters from the show.

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A string of floats and balloons came along and we all enjoyed getting to see them. There was one boy near the front of our section who knew most of the celebrities and the balloons. Each time a new one came by, he would get very excited; his enthusiasm was wonderful! Several of the celebrities noticed him as they passed by; many of them pointed to him and waved as well, which made him even more excited.

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There was a man directly in front of us with his daughter, who was celebrating her birthday. Before the parade, he jokingly embarrassed her and got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to her. It was a moment of levity... but then he kept mentioning her birthday to everyone that walked by (shouting at the celebrities or parade volunteers). It was annoying and obnoxious; happily, nearly everyone he shouted at just ignored him. The crotchety woman in front of us with the four empty chairs continued to be bitchy; people were trying to push into the space occupied by the chairs, but she snapped that her friends were joining her soon. Mom and I slowly began to nudge the chairs forward with our legs; it was incredibly rude to just leave the chairs empty throughout the parade. When the three others rejoined the woman (half-way through the parade), I refused to make extra room for them and their chairs.

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The Lego float was one of the more creative, with moving parts and a dragon that emitted smoke. The largest of the parade's balloons was from Dragon Ball Z. This was followed by a float carrying Miss America. The Bluey balloon came next; this was from another show that my niece and nephews thoroughly enjoy, so mom and I snapped a selfie with the balloon. The “Women in Space” float which came next was very cool!

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The next band was an LGBT group (I forget which one it was) and they did a fun performance for us as well. Shortly after that, the Disney float came by, carrying various cartoon characters, as well as the Disney princes and princesses. More bands followed and soon the SpongeBob balloon was carried along, with some of the balloon handlers trying to get the crowd to sing the show's theme song (I joined in...).

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Several celebrities came by who I didn't recognize and one of the floats was of Baby Shark (yes, that horrendous kid's song). This was followed by some dinosaur balloons and more bands. There was a float from Louisiana with some local band. The lineup continued with Smokey the Bear and a float of baked goods. The bowling balloons were quite amusing as they moves all around the street, acting as though the giant bowling ball was going to hit the pins.

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The Toys R Us float had singer Jordin Sparks on it (I recognize the name, but I couldn't name any of her songs). The US football/soccer balloons were very creative, with a player kicking the ball; if only the US had a chance in the 2022 World Cup, but the men's team is garbage. Ronald McDonald was not far behind, in person and as a giant balloon.

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The Snoopy balloon this year had him dressed as an astronaut. The recent Artemis I rocket launch had a Snoopy on board as well. The Peanuts float behind the balloon was complete with several of the main characters. Behind that was a very good marching band that stopped to do a full performance for the crowd.

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A beautiful peacock float was up next, carrying some starts from some signing movie that I have never heard of before. A float carrying Jimmy Fallon and the Roots came by, though I didn't recognize them (to be fair, I cannot stand Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show). Several smaller balloons followed behind them. The Hallmark float was quite creative: it was a 3D advent calendar.

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The odious Elf on a Shelf had a float, which was every bit as creepy as the doll itself. I hate that damned elf. Humbug! A little later on was a very cool float of a metallic dragon that reminded me of the dragon puppets at the lunar new year. Gloria Estefan rode by on a simple float of wooden platforms, but she did not perform.

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Macy's had a large float designed to resemble a Christmas tree and full of people. Soon the big man himself arrived: Santa! The float was of Santa's sleigh, complete with reindeer and Mrs Claus. The Santa was absolutely fantastic! He was enthusiastic and jolly, waving to everyone in the crowd. He looked every bit the part and was clearly enjoying himself. I believe... I believe... Thus ended the 2022 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

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Mom and I headed over to 6th Avenue and made our way up to 59th Street, where we would be meeting my dad. The crowd was large, but not a slow moving as one would expect. We made it to our designated meeting spot first and we waited about 15 minutes for my dad to arrive. We then walked over to Rockefeller Center so we could visit the observation deck.

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I had done the Top of the Rock observation deck many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it because I believe it offers the best views of the entire city. The rooftop has an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building, with lower Manhattan behind it, on one side; Central Park dominates the views from the opposite side of the roof. My parents had never been there before though, so I thought this would be something they would like to do while in the city.

Our tickets were for 13:00 and we took the elevator to the top floor, which was happily not very crowded. I had been surprised when I was able to book tickets for Thanksgiving Day. When we got to the top floor terrace, my parents were wowed by the views. I pointed out several landmarks throughout the city to them, from Billionaire's Row to the new World Trade Center to Long Island City (where we were staying). The sun wasn't in the best of positions and it silhouetted much of lower Manhattan, but we could still see most everything quite well.

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After we left Rockefeller Center, we stopped at a pizza place to get some lunch. I have eaten there several times and enjoyed it every time. The pizza slices are proper NY-style, inexpensive, and tasty. Back in December 2013, I bought an entire pizza from this place to take with my ex-boyfriend and me as we waited in Times Square for the New Year's Eve ball to drop.

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We then took the subway to lower Manhattan to visit the World Trade Center memorial. We spent some time walking around the site. I have yet to visit the top of the new tower that had replaced the twin towers; I always tell myself that the next time I come to the city I will do it, but I never actually buy a ticket. Maybe next time... I had spent several hours at the top of the original World Trade Center back in 1998 (?) during my first visit to NYC, when my grandmother had traveled with me. It had always been a dream of mine to visit the city and somehow my mother convinced my grandmother to take me. I still have a lot of fond memories of that trip, especially when I revisit areas like this where I visited with her.

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It was late afternoon by this time and we took the subway back to Queens and our hotel. We spent the rest of the day relaxing there. I ordered Chinese delivery for dinner, which I really enjoyed. I am not a fan of the traditional food for Thanksgiving dinner, and I always push for a non-traditional meal each year. If it is just my parents and me, I can usually convince my mom to do something different (Italian, Chinese, etc); I know that mom would prefer the full turkey dinner, but she is very good at humoring me.

I spent the evening blogging and then watching some TV with my parents before bed time. It had been a very long, yet exciting and fun-filled, day! This was our second time attending the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and it had been the entire reason that we had come to New York in the first place. Perhaps we'll go to another parade sometime in the future...

Friday, November 25, 2022

We had a more easy-going morning today since we didn't have to be anywhere super early. For breakfast, my mom found a quaint dinner a short walk away from the hotel. The food was good and the staff were very friendly. As we ate, I overheard a couple behind us talking on what was evidently a first day. One of the guys was very new to NYC and was going on about how different everything was to where he was from (I think Vancouver); the other guy was obviously not as interested in the date and I could tell from his tone that he wanted to get out of there. It was painful to overhear.

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After breakfast, we took the train into Manhattan and headed to Chinatown. Neither of my parents had been there before, so we spent a little while walking around the neighborhood. The weather was slightly rainy, so there were not as many street vendors out. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable to explore some of the side streets, window shop at some of the stores, etc.

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I took my parents through lower Manhattan and over to the Brooklyn Bridge. We stopped for a coffee so we could warm up a bit before heading to the bridge itself. The crowds walking across the Brooklyn Bridge were larger than I would have expected for lunchtime, but it was a holiday weekend. Neither of my parents had walked across the bridge before, so I was glad to share the experience with them. The views from the bridge are very nice.

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Once on the Brooklyn side of the East River, we walked over to the charming Dumbo area. This section of town is full of little shops and cafes, converted warehouses, and a beautiful riverfront park. We spent some time wandering through the streets as we made our way to the park. The views of the Manhattan Bridge through the warehouses is really unique.

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Once at the park, we meandered along the riverfront, marveling at the view of the New York skyline. This area affords one of the best – and most famous – views of lower Manhattan. I took... a ridiculous amount of photos, but I was enjoying the views. My mom was tired of taking selfies with me... but that didn't stop me from making them take more (and from taking more candid photos). Nearby was a carousel, which was called Jane's Carousel. We snapped a photo of it for my niece since her name is Jane. Nearby was a restaurant named Luke's (one of my nephew's names). Sadly we didn't see anything for Jack, my other nephew.

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Making our way back to the subway, we went to the southernmost tip of Manhattan island, where we caught the Staten Island Ferry. This was another thing in the city that my parents had never experienced and, while it is not terribly exciting, I do think the views from the ferry are quite nice - plus the ferry ride is free! We grabbed some snacks for a late lunch before boarding the boat. We sat inside throughout the ride, but we had window seats so we could see everything quite well. We passed by the Statue of Liberty en route to Staten Island. I climbed to to crown back in 1998 (?) during my first visit to New York; my grandmother kindly indulged me at every turn during the trip and patiently waited below while I went to the top. My parents have also visited the Statue of Liberty before, so we didn't need to take the boat to that island.

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Once we reached Staten Island, we turned back around and took the ferry back to Manhattan. We then went to Washington Square and then to get a hot chocolate at Max Brenner's. We went to the main location and had to wait a bit as there was quite a long queue, but it was well worth the wait. The hot chocolate was rich and creamy – by far the best hot cocoa I've ever had. The cups were small, but it was just enough for us.

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We then went back to our hotel to rest for a couple of hours before our show later in the evening. We used this time to get our bags packed and ready to go for tomorrow morning. We would probably get back from the show tonight around midnight, giving us only a few hours to sleep before we have to leave in the morning at 04:00 for the airport.

Tonight's entertainment was a cabaret-style dinner show at 54 Below. This is a small, intimate space with a small stage and several dining tables. The performers typically come from Broadway actors/actresses, signing a variety of songs that are typically centered around a specific theme (Disney villains/princesses, different artists, etc). Tonight's show was Christmas-themed, with the songs coming from the catalog of Rankin/Bass.

To my utter surprise, our table was at the very front of the room, next to the stage! Our food arrived shortly before the show began; my roast chicken was outstanding. I was excited when the show began and the performers all came on stage to sing the opening number. My mom had a big smile on her face and I knew she was really enjoying the show. I had suggested this show to them since I knew she would like the songs being performed.

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Rankin/Bass are behind some of the classic holiday stop-motion movies of the 1960s/70s: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. The singers took turns coming to the stage to perform a rendition of a song, accompanied only by a talent pianist. They were all so talented and were enjoying themselves throughout the evening.

The show lasted roughly 90 minutes, which flew by and before we knew it, we were heading back to the subway. The show at 54 Below was a lot of fun and I look forward to returning there again in the future. We got back to the hotel at 23:30 and went right to bed.

It was only a few short hours later that our alarms went off at 03:00 so we could get ready to leave for the airport. We were all exhausted, but we pulled it together enough to get through the morning. We took an Uber to nearby LaGuardia airport. Our flight departed at 06:15... and thus ended my six-months of traveling.

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It was a roller-coaster of a trip, with more bumps along the way than I've ever dealt with during extended travels. It was all worth it though because I got to visit some truly spectacular places and make some great new friends. Now it's time to start planning my next trip...

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Posted by Glichez 20:35 Archived in USA

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