1. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The newly pedestrian-friendly stretch of Broadway forced the parade to change its route in 2009, snaking around the southwest corner of Central Park to Seventh Avenue. The parade drew an estimated 3.5 million spectators and included other firsts such as a new float for Santa and balloon versions of Spider-Man, Ronald McDonald, and the Pillsbury Doughboy.
2. New Year’s Eve in Times Square
The one million revelers crowding Times Square in the hours before midnight are small potatoes compared with the one billion around the world who watch the iconic ball drop on television. Newly refurbished, the ball now weighs six tons, holds 2,268 Waterford crystals, and is backlit by 32,256 Philips LEDs.
3. West Indian-American Day Carnival
Nearly three million paradegoers swell the population of Brooklyn when this five-day festival culminates in a Labor Day parade. There are enough bands, dancers, and bright colors to almost give Mardi Gras a run for its money.
4. National Puerto Rican Day Parade
Adding tens of thousands of spectators each year, attendance at the annual celebration of all things Boricua is quickly approaching the three million mark. This year’s 53rd installment marches up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street on June 13.
5. St. Patrick’s Day Parade
An estimated 850,000 Irish, Irish at heart, and others just looking for a reason to drink on a weekday afternoon crowded Fifth Avenue in 2009 for one of the oldest parades in the country. Its 249th running takes place on—you guessed it—March 17.
6. Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting
NBC got a chance to celebrate on its front lawn again in 2009, when it broadcast the city’s most recognizable holiday tradition on December 2. Michael Bublé, Aretha Franklin, and Barry Manilow performed in front of the 76-foot Norway spruce, brought in from Connecticut.
7. Village Halloween Parade
Thanks to news reports about the tradition’s sponsorship woes, an outpouring of public—and corporate—support helped the 2009 parade afford a few last-minute floats to carry on as usual and entertain the nearly two million spectators lining the Avenue of the Americas.
8. NYC PrideFest and Parade
New York’s celebration of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month spans the week of June 19 to 27 this year and finishes off with the million-strong parade, which files down Fifth Avenue before winding its way into the West Village, where the party continues throughout the night.
9. AIDS Walk New York
Signage throughout the city, celebrity-studded PSAs encouraging donations, and an anticipated 45,000 participants raised nearly $6 million for H.I.V. programs and services at last year’s walk. The Central Park event returns in May 2010 for its 25th anniversary.