The TV-only celebration will still feature the iconic giant balloons, spectacular floats, and an appearance by Santa Claus.

thanksgiving parade

There are three things I look forward to every Thanksgiving: The big meal, watching all the Friends Thanksgiving episodes, and waking up early to catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with my family. The parade has been a Turkey Day staple for the last 94 years, but as we know, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of traditions this year. 

So, will the parade happen this year? Yes, but it's going virtual for the first time ever. The department store just announced that the 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a television-only special presentation without the crowds or traditional parade route. Although the event will be drastically reduced in size, some of its most iconic elements, including the giant character balloons, spectacular floats, street performances, and an appearance by Santa Claus, will still remain. 

"Under the unique challenges of these unparalleled times, we felt it was important to continue this cherished holiday tradition that has been the opening act to the holiday season for generations of families," said Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in a statement. "While it will certainly look different in execution, this year's Macy's Parade celebration will once again serve its historical purpose—to bring joy into the hearts of millions across the nation."

To execute the event safely, the number of participants will be reduced by about 75% with the taping of performances spread out over two days. All participants will be over the age of 18 and required to practice social distancing and wear face coverings during performances. Included in these pre-taped performances will be a handful of Broadway numbers, which is exciting news because Broadway itself has been shut down for several months, and won't be putting on shows until summer at the earliest. We can expect to see performances from the cast of HamiltonMean GirlsJagged Little Pill, and Ain’t Too Proud as part of the parade on November 26.

The parade's signature massive balloons, which typically require 80 to 100 handlers, will be flown this year using "an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles," the statement read. Instead of following the usual 2.5-mile route, the parade festivities will be recorded in and around the Herald Square area of Midtown Manhattan.

The "re-imagined" celebration will follow a similar model to this year's 4th of July fireworks display in New York City. (The Independence Day commemoration featured several small firework shows in unspecified locations around the city to ensure social distancing, CBS New York reports.) 

Despite its altered format, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will still be special. "It will not be the same parade we're used to. [Macy's] is reinventing the event for this moment in history. And you will be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day on television, online—not a live parade, but something that will really give us that warmth and that great feeling we have on Thanksgiving Day," de Blasio said during a press conference on Monday, according to NBC News.

More than 50 million viewers nationwide will tune in on Thanksgiving Day, according to Macy's, making it the largest holiday broadcast in the United States. As of right now, there are plenty of parade-related details on the Macy's site, but no information regarding specific performers, floats, or bands has been released yet. 

When Is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The parade coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning (Thursday, November 26) and runs through noon in every time zone. Tune in to NBC to watch Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Al Roker break down the bands, floats, and performances.

Where Can I Watch the Macy's Parade?

This year's parade will not be a live event, so, even if you live in the New York City area, you'll have to catch the festivities on TV. Tune in to NBC at 9:00 local time to watch the three-hour event. It's always broadcast at the same time in different time zones, so those living on the West Coast don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the parade on TV.

If you can't wait until November 26 to watch the magic unfold, you can explore the parade's history and view photos of past floats on the Macy's site.