NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be back in person Thursday after the pandemic forced the event to scale back to a TV-only audience last year.

Preparations were underway Wednesday on the Upper West Side, where the giant balloons came to life.

READ MORE: Time Out New York Shares Top Things To Do In NYC This Holiday Weekend

As CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported, the balloon inflation is an amazing way to get a sneak peek before the crowds pack the parade route.

The New York City tradition was open to the public on Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. at 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.

The biggest change this year is all attendees over 12 must be vaccinated and must wear a mask.

WATCH: CBS2’s Jessica Moore Joined By Her Family At Balloon Inflation 

Macy’s has added four new floats and six new balloons, including “Baby Yoda.” There will also be the classics, like “Snoopy,” “Ronald McDonald,” plus “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Pillsbury Doughboy,” “Papa Smurf,” and the list goes on.There are 15 giant character balloons in total, 36 inflatables, 28 floats, 800 clowns, 8,000 marchers, nine performance groups and, of course, Santa Claus.

For the balloon handlers, precision and safety go hand-in-hand.

“All of our balloon teams go through trainings. We do both field trainings and classroom trainings. We make sure that everyone knows how the balloons should fly. Different wind conditions mean different flying height,” said production director Kathleen Wright.

Spectators told Duddridge this event is what gets them into the holiday spirit.

“This is my first time, and I really badly have been wanting to go to New York for who knows for how long. Finally I get to see the stuff on TV in real life,” one reveler said.

“We really enjoy Thanksgiving. I came here because I just got back from a deployment and this is on my wife’s bucket list,” Jerry Ortiz, visiting from South Carolina, told CBS2’s Jessica Moore.

“It’s like awesome. It’s like they’re actually coming to life. It’s fun to see what’s going to be in the parade,” Emily Hoffmann said.

Jeff Krencik planned the surprise of a lifetime for his three kids from Tampa, Florida.

“They’re huge and the energy of the city is great. The people are great. Being here in person, it’s nothing like seeing them on TV,” Krencik said.

READ MORE: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Holiday Magic Back To Streets Of New York City

“We got to see a lot of big balloons,” one child told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

“I think it’s amazing,” Manhattan resident Gianna Martinez said.

“All of my friends said they’re not coming, so it’s gonna be a pretty hard brag I’m gonna show off,” Manhattan resident Crismeril Peguro said.

WATCH: Macy’s Parade Executive Producer On What To Expect This Year 

Thursday’s parade steps off at 9 a.m. from 77th Street and Central Park West. Marchers head down a 2.5-mile route past Columbus Circle, along Central Park South, and then down Sixth Avenue to 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, ending in front of Macy’s Herald Square.

There is limited viewing along the route and high security. Expect to see lots of police in the crowd. Spectators are asked to leave large bags, backpacks, umbrellas, and strollers at home.

If you couldn’t make it to the balloon inflation, CBS2 has you covered. Click here to watch our special “Thanksgiving Eve: A Celebration.”

PARADE ROUTE & STREET CLOSURES

Parade formation begins at 8 a.m. at the following locations:

  • West 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
  • West 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
  • Central Park West between West 77th and 86th Streets

Parade begins at 9 a.m. from Central Park West and West 77th Street and proceeds on the following route:

  • South on Central Park West to Columbus Circle
  • South through E/S Columbus Circle to West 59th Street
  • East on West 59th Street to 6th Avenue
  • South on 6th Avenue to West 34th Street
  • West on West 34th Street to 7th Avenue (dispersal area)

The following streets will be closed for balloon inflation Wednesday, per the NYPD:

  • At 7 a.m. West 81st Street and West 77th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic.
  • At 8 a.m. West 72nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenues will be closed to vehicular traffic.
  • Additional vehicular traffic closures at noon are as follows:
    • Central Park West from West 73rd to 85th Streets
    • West 74th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 75th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 76th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 77th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 78th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 80th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 81st Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 82nd Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 83rd Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 84th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • West 85th Street between Columbus and Central Park West Avenues
    • Central Park Transverse Road at Central Park West and West 81st St. (both directions)
  • After 10 p.m., West 81st Street and West 77th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue as well as Central Park West from West 59th Street to West 86th Street will be closed to all traffic.

The following streets will be closed for the parade Thursday:

  • Broadway between West 34th Street and West 41st Street- Midnight to 1 p.m.
  • 6th Avenue between West 23rd Street and West 42nd Street – 2 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • 7th Avenue from West 34th Street and West 42nd Street – 2 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • West 34th Street between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue – 10 p.m. (Wed) to 5 p.m.
  • West 59th Street E/B between 7th Avenue and Central Park West – Midnight to 2 p.m.
  • West 59th Street W/B between 5th Avenue and Central Park West – 2 a.m. to 2 p.m
  • West 35th Street between 5th Avenue and 8th Avenue – 2 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • West 36th Street between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue – 2 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 37th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue – 4 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 38th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue – 4 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 8th Avenue between 34th Street and 40th Street – 4 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Broadway between 38th Street and 59th Street – 4 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • West 33rd Street between 7th Avenue and 10th Avenue – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 39th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 40th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 49th Street between 5th Avenue and 7th Avenue – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • West 50th Street between 5th Avenue and 7th Avenue – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Central Park 65th Street/ West 66th Street Transverse Roads 7 a.m. until conclusion
  • Additionally, from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. vehicles will not be able to access:
    • 6th Avenue between West 33rd and West 59th Street
    • 8th Avenue between West 57th Street and West 59th Street
    • 8th Avenue between West 33rd and West 40th Streets
    • Broadway between West 59th Street and West 57th Street
    • Broadway between West 34th and West 40th Streets (only escorted deliveries)
    • West 42nd Street between 5th and 8th Avenue
    • West 57th Street between 5th and 8th Avenue

For more information on street closures, CLICK HERE.

For more on MTA service updates, CLICK HERE.

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CBS2’s Jessica Moore and Ali Bauman contributed to this report.

Natalie Duddridge