Three hundred pounds of glitter, 4,200 costumes, floats, marching bands, clowns, performers and 34 gigantic helium-filled balloons as tall as 4-story buildings; the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returns to Manhattan streets Thursday for its 96th year.

Some new balloons are joining the procession this year including Stuart the Minion, Baby Shark, and Striker, a soccer themed balloon in honor of the U.S. Men's national team playing in the World Cup. And of course many old favorites will glide down the parade route alongside them from, SpongeBob SquarePants and Smokey Bear to the reliable unofficial mascot of the parade, Tom the Turkey.

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s parade:

The first balloon floats were designed and used in the parade in 1927, like this dragon, though they filled them up with air and had to prop the balloons up on sticks, and didn't use helium to inflate balloons until the year later.

Watch balloons getting inflated

Balloon inflation starts at noon Wednesday and is open to the public through 6 p.m. The access point for members of the public is 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue. In addition to balloons getting blown up, members of the public can also see balloons getting assembled between 81st and 86th Streets.

A swift fire Monday morning in South Kearny tore through several luxury trailers meant to be used by celebrity performers like Mariah Carey during the parade, the New York Post reported. But fear not, there were no reported injuries, the balloons were unharmed, and the trailers will be replaced, officials told the Post.

Parade Time and Route

There are 2.5 miles of public viewing along the NYC route this year.

The 2.5 mile parade route kicks off at 9 a.m. Thursday morning from West 77th Street and Central Park West. From there, marchers travel south on Central Park West, taking a left on West 59th Street, then a right to snake down 6th Avenue until West 34th Street. The parade officially ends a block away at Herald Square, in front of Macy’s flagship department store, and will wrap up by around noon.

Where to watch

Early birds set up shop as early as 6 a.m. along Central Park West, but if you’re in place later further along 6th Avenue could provide better viewing. Here are some more suggestions on where to watch the parade. It will also be broadcast live on NBC for those who want to watch from the warmth of their own homes.

Elephants and tigers and other Central Park Zoo animals marched in the earliest Thanksgiving Day parades between 1924 and 1926.

Street Closures

Expect a tangle of street closures starting early Wednesday morning, with more phasing in Thursday. As of early Wednesday, West 81st, West 77th, and West 72nd Streets will be closed off to traffic. By noon Central Park West between West 73rd to 85th Streets will also be blocked off.

Additional avenues and cross streets including Broadway and 6th and 7th Avenues and cross streets between West 33rd Street and West 85th streets will all be shut down through around 2 p.m. Thursday. For specifics see a full list of street closures.

If you’re traveling into Manhattan to view the parade. Here’s an idea: take the subway!

Weather is looking good!

The weather is looking sunny, with highs in the low-50’s, with calm winds. For this event the wind is no small detail. In 2019 for example, wild gusts forced balloon handlers to keep the floats low to the ground. As a result, many floats appeared to be crawling down Fifth Avenue.

Parade History

Held nearly annually since 1924, the parade first featured Central Park lions and tigers before pivoting to manmade balloon floats in 1927. Since then, it’s reoccurred annually except during World War II when there was a run on helium and rubber between 1942 and 1944. In 2020 the parade was held virtually, with pre-recorded performances to avoid attracting large crowds, though balloons still drifted down 6th Avenue and some diehard fans still turned up. The crowds returned as usual last year.