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Balloons and bagpipes -- New York on parade

  • Story Highlights
  • New York turns green for the city's traditional St Patrick's Day Parade
  • Wearing a costume lets you join in the the Village Halloween celebrations
  • Inflatable cartoon characters are the highlight of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
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There's always something happening in the city that never sleeps, but if you're in New York at the right time you'll get to see New Yorkers coming together for one of the city's big annual events.

Giant inflatables are the highlight of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

Giant inflatables are the highlight of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

St Patrick's Day Parade (17 March)
St Patrick's Day is when New York's sizeable Irish-American community celebrates its long association with the city, with thousands joining a flag-waving parade of traditional marching pipe bands.

Dating back to 1762, it's far more traditional than New York's other parades. There are no floats or corporate sponsors involved -- just vast numbers of green-clad revelers. Indeed, it's the one day of the year when shamrock-adorned hats and stick on ginger beards are considered appropriate attire.

The event kicks off at 11 a.m. at 44th Street, making its way past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street and the American Irish Historical Society at 83rd, finishing at 86th Street at around 5:00 p.m. Needless to say, New York's Irish bars get pretty crowded in the evening.

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Met in the Parks (June)
An al fresco treat for opera lovers, every summer New York's Metropolitan Opera Company lays on free outdoor performances in the city's parks.

The 2009 program will feature performances in each of the five boroughs, at Staten Island's Tappan Park, Crotona Park in The Bronx, Queensbridge Park in Queens; Coffey Park in Brooklyn, East River Park in Manhattan and at SummerStage in Central Park.

If that's whet your appetite for evenings of outdoor classical music, "New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks" takes place in July at parks around the city. Take a blanket and a well-stocked picnic hamper for maximum enjoyment.

What do you think are New York's seasonal highlights? Sound Off below.

Independence Day (July 4)
The day America declared its independence from Britain in 1776 is a national holiday celebrated in style throughout the country. But, naturally, New York is where the celebrations become a full-blown extravaganza.

The highlight of New York's Independence Day celebrations is the Macy's fireworks display. Usually, fireworks are launched from the East River, but the 2009 fireworks will be launched from barges positioned between 24th and 50th Streets on the Hudson River.

That means Manhattan's West Side and New Jersey will provide prime viewing spots and will consequently be packed to the gills with tens of thousands of rubbernecking New Yorkers.

Photo See photos of Candace Bushnell in New York. »

Village Halloween Parade (31 October)
Halloween is a big deal in America and the nation's biggest and best Halloween parade takes place along New York's Sixth Avenue.

Greenwich Village's "anything goes" attitude is what makes this event special, translating into eye-popping costumes, heaps of audience interaction and dazzling giant puppets, brought to life by showboating puppeteers.

The parade begins at 6.30 p.m., starting on Spring Street and making its way to 23rd Street. You'll need to stake your roadside spot early if you want to see more than the backs of other spectators. Better still, wear a costume and you're entitled to join in the parade -- nothing is too outrageous.

Even if you're cheering from the sidelines, you should get into the spirit of things by donning a ghoulish mask at the very least, thousands of which suddenly appear in local shops in the days leading up to the parade.

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (fourth Thursday in November)
A New York institution, the inaugural parade in 1924 included live animals on loan from from Central Park Zoo. The zoo animals have long been retired, replaced by floats that act as moving anchors for enormous helium balloons of various colorful cartoon characters. These floating colossi are the highlight of the event and attract annual crowds of around three million New Yorkers.


The parade runs from 9 a.m. to midday and follows a two-and-a-half mile route through Central Park West to Herald Square. A new route for the 2009 parade has yet to be confirmed -- check the web site for details.

To enjoy the giant balloons without battling the crowds, wrap up warm and see them inflated the night before the parade on West 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

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