How to watch this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — and what to expect

There'll be performers, balloons and floats, but no big crowd.
/ Source: TODAY

Here's something to be thankful for in 2020: The 94th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is on!

But be warned: Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, this year's turkey day gathering is going to look a little different from in previous years. For one thing, it's broadcast only — so don't plan to come and cheer the floats on the avenues!

The turkey takes to the streets in the 93rd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, from 2019.Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Still, with an expected audience of 50 million viewers, the best seat in the house is always going to be ... in your house!

Here's everything you need to know about tuning in this year:

When is the Macy's parade on?

The 94th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on Nov. 26 from 9 a.m. - Noon in all time zones on NBC. Telemundo will simulcast the parade in Spanish. There'll be an encore presentation from 2-5 p.m.

Plus, Macy's, NBCUniversal (TODAY's parent company) and Verizon are providing a livestream from the streets of Manhattan with personalized messages and co-viewing experiences, which kicks off at 9 a.m. EST on Verizon's Twitter feed and YouTube platforms.

TODAY's Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb (seen here at the 2019 parade) will again be hosting.Peter Kramer / NBC

Who's hosting?

On NBC, your hosts are TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker; on Telemundo the event will be hosted by Adamari Lopez, Jessica Carrillo, Rodner Figueroa and Nastassja Bolivar.

Is it really a parade?

Kind of. Though the procession is skipping the usual 2.5-mile route down the streets of Manhattan this year to avoid large crowds, most of the usual lineup of 45 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; and 12 performance and marching ensembles are in place to perform.

Where is all of this happening?

The good news is that much of what you'll see on NBC or Telemundo will look familiar, because all the good stuff is happening right outside of Macy's Herald Square location, at 34th Street in Manhattan.

The Rockettes will also be high-stepping at this year's event.Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Who's performing?

Though names are subject to change, you'll catch Lauren Alaina, Jimmie Allen and Noah Cyrus, Ally Brooke, Sofia Carson, CNCO, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, Karol G, Christopher Jackson and the cast and Muppets of "Sesame Street," Tori Kelly, Patti LaBelle, Ella Mai, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, Leslie Odom Jr., Keke Palmer, Dolly Parton, Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha, Jordin Sparks, Sebastián Yatra and Brett Young.

Expect appearances from Sesame Street favorites, Jordin Sparks and Dolly Parton.Getty Images

In addition, performances by the Broadway casts of "Ain't Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations," "Hamilton: The Musical," "Jagged Little Pill" and "Mean Girls" are expected to sing and dance. (High school and college marching band performances are being deferred to 2021.)

Plus, expect the Big Apple Circus, the NYPD Police Band, the West Point Marching Band and the step skills of Zeta Phi Beta. And for the fourth year, the Macy's Singing Christmas Tree will feature the voices of 60 Macy's colleagues, who'll join the festivities from their homes in a chorus filled with the spirit of the holiday season.

All performers will be tested for COVID-19 and undergo wellness checks before their performances, and all participants are to be socially distanced during the performances and will wear protective equipment.

Santa Claus is on his way!Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP

What about Santa Claus? And the Radio City Rockettes?

Them, too! It wouldn't be a parade without Santa and the Rockettes!

What are we missing?

Well, for one thing, nobody's marching down a parade route. And some segments are being taped the night before. The overall number of participants has been reduced by 75 percent, and no one under 18 will be in the parade. The traditional Giant Balloon Inflation public event is also not taking place.

And this year, the signature giant character balloons will not be flown with handlers, and will be pulled along with special anchor vehicles, according to a news release.

Giant balloons, like this one flown of Charlie Brown in 2016, will be controlled not by handlers but by special vehicles.Saul Martinez / Reuters

You're also missing out on either the questionable joy of standing outside in freezing cold New York City weather, or the absolute joy of watching people standing outside in freezing cold New York City weather while you hunker down with pancakes on your couch.

We figure that's OK, all around!