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We were balloon handlers in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — here’s what we wore to stay warm

We braved the cold to hold up a giant balloon, and we'd do it again.
Courtesy Daniella Musacchio

There’s a lot to look forward to on Thanksgiving morning: the anticipation of eating food and desserts galore, spending time with family and of course, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Even though I’m from New York City, I’ve always preferred to view the parade from the comfort of my warm home, curled up with my dog on the couch. Standing outside for hours during the end of November? No thanks. But when I was offered the opportunity to be a balloon handler in this year’s parade, there was no way I could pass that up. Even better, two fellow Shop TODAY editors would be joining me in handling a giant Pikachu and Eevee balloon. Consider our inner child healed — and our coworkers jealous. 

While we were each provided with a very stylish Pokémon-themed coverall, we were instructed to wear layers underneath that were warm, yet not too bulky. From fleece-lined thermal underwear to supportive sneakers, below is everything we wore to stay warm and comfortable during the parade — and plan on wearing to stay toasty throughout the upcoming winter season.

Our Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade essentials

HotHands Toe Warmers

Some friends who had been balloon handlers in the past recommended that I bring toe warmers with me, and I'm so glad I did. All you have to do is stick them to the bottom of your socks and they get to work right away. They kept my toes warm for hours, well after the parade was over. I'll definitely be bringing the remaining pairs with me on my upcoming ski trips this winter. Goodbye, numb toes!

Lerway Winter Warm Gloves

These affordable touchscreen gloves with over 5,000 5-star reviews on Amazon kept my hands warm throughout the entire event and allowed me to easily snap photos on my phone. The silicone strips on the fingers and palms helped me have a secure grip on the balloon handles and make these gloves a great option for driving, biking and other outdoor sports.

Lululemon Women’s Run for It All Gloves

"While I normally wear these gloves for running, I found that they were great for keeping my hands warm during the parade," shares associate editor Emma Stessman. "They're super lightweight but are surprisingly warm thanks to their inner fleece lining. They also have tech-friendly fingertips so I didn't have to take them off to send happy Thanksgiving texts and take photos and videos before the parade!"

Thermajane Fleece Lined Thermal Underwear 

"When I put these thermal underwear on, I quickly understood why they were a bestseller with more than 30,000 five-star ratings," Stessman says. "They're fleece-lined and stretchy, so they kept me warm and comfortable as I walked. They're also super easy to layer. I threw on a sweatshirt and leggings over my long underwear on the way to pick up my costume and they fit perfectly underneath without looking bulky."

Nooyme Thermal Underwear

"It was the perfect base layer for under my jacket and parade-issued coveralls, keeping my cozy without leading me to overheat during the 2.5-mile stroll down the parade route," senior social media editor Kate McCarthy shares about this thermal underwear set that she ordered for the parade. "I particularly enjoyed how there was a light compression in both the leggings and top, but it didn’t leave me feeling like my arms or legs were being constricted. This is definitely a set I’ll be wearing all winter long."

Gymshark Marl Seamless Leggings

These super high-waisted Gymshark leggings are my absolute favorite for walking and jogging outdoors because they are thick enough to keep my legs and abdomen warm. I've worn them under snow pants while skiing several times, so I knew they'd be a great option to wear under my parade costume coverall. Plus, they're 40% off right now for Black Friday! If you're in-between sizes, I recommend sizing up.

REI Co-op Merino Wool Lightweight Hiking Crew Socks

"Whenever I’m doing any sort of outdoor activity and I know my feet might get cold I always turn to these merino wool socks," shares McCarthy. "I have pairs for skiing, pairs for hiking, and I always grab these lightweight ones when I want to wear them with sneakers so they don’t feel too bulky in my shoes. Moisture wicking and quick drying, I was never worried that my feet would be too cold (or too sweaty) when marching in the parade."

Columbia Women's Slope Edge Jacket

"I’ve had this jacket for years and it has become my go-to for any outdoor activity," McCarthy says. "Skiing, hiking, running, I’ve done practically every winter activity in this and stayed cozy and warm the entire time. This jacket is lightweight and not bulky, so it’s perfect for layering under the costumes we have to wear as balloon handlers. The thermal reflective lining makes it feel like I’m wearing a far heavier, and the high collar is great for when you want to skip a scarf but still feel toasty."

Allbirds Women’s Tree Runners

Since the big day involved a lot of walking, I opted for my favorite pair of walking sneakers. These lightweight shoes seriously feel like walking on clouds. I understood the Allbirds hype the moment I slipped my feet into them two years ago.

Brooks Ghost Max

"I always know my feet will be ready to roll while wearing these Brooks Ghost Max sneakers," McCarthy says. "These shoes keep me comfortable walking all over the city and on long runs through Central Park, so it’s only fitting that they made an appearance at the parade. With plenty of cushion and support, I never stress about sore feet or blisters when I put these on."

New Balance Women’s Fresh Foam X 1080 V13

"Not only is the parade route about 2.5 miles, but the morning for us balloon holders starts about two hours before the parade does, with all of us going to pick up our costumes and getting shuttled to the starting point. So overall it's a lot of time on your feet," Stessman says. "That's why I wanted to make sure I had the comfiest shoes possible — and these ones definitely fit the bill. New Balance sent me a pair to try while I was training for the New York City Marathon, but I quickly discovered that they weren't just great for runs, they made for a really comfortable walking shoe, too. They have super soft cushioning and are designed to be flexible and supportive, so I can walk or run in them for miles without feeling pain."