Holiday Windows Walk: See Midtown Manhattan's Iconic 2021 Christmas Displays
Few things signal the holiday season in NYC like the unveiling of the spectacular holiday windows at Midtown Manhattan’s department stores. One of our favorite annual holiday traditions, a holiday windows walk is a rite of the Christmas season. Come along to see the stunning holiday lights from Bloomingdales to Macy’s with Bergdorf and Saks in between, and find more stunning holiday lights displays and seasonal things to do in our Guide to Christmas.
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If you haven't been to Midtown lately, take note: The crowds are definitely returning, and it's only the beginning of the holiday season—once the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is lit, they'll only increase! Still, we enjoyed an enchanting winter walk, with few crowds, beginning our journey at Bloomingdale's, arriving right at dusk, and working our way south to Macy's, stopping along the way. The biggest crowds were at Rockefeller Center, with eyes trained on the Saks' light show.
A skateboarding dino bedecked in glow-in-the-dark decor is one of the fun sights at Bloomingdale's 2021 holiday windows installation.
Bloomingdale's 2021 Holiday Windows
Lexington Avenue at 59th Street
Bloomingdale's holiday season campaign is "Give Happy," and its six holiday windows invite smiles from passersby young and old. Each of the jam-packed scenes marries old and new, so everyone will find something familiar. There's plenty of glitz, glamour, and graphics—and retro details like a touch of grandma's crochet. The interactive robot scene where you can put yourself into the display thanks to a street-facing camera was a popular stop.
Creatures feathered, furry, and scaled all take a starring role in Bergdorf's 2021 holiday windows.
Bergdorf Goodman's 2021 Holiday Windows
Fifth Avenue at 58th Street
Celebrate "the present moment," with Bergdorf's over-the-top display. These jam-packed windows, which frame the store from 58th Street and all along Fifth Avenue, ooze with opulence. Each scene is an intricately constructed feast for the eyes. Our favorite: The under-the-sea themed scene with a sparkly, motor-cycle riding mermaid.
There's plenty of kid-pleasing whimsy in Saks' holiday windows—all drawn from illustrations by local school kids.
Saks Fifth Avenue's 2021 Holiday Windows
Fifth Avenue at 50th Street
Following 2020's love letter to NYC, Saks again honors the Big Apple with window displays designed by local children, who were tasked with illustrating their holiday dreams. The scenes are pure childhood whimsy. There's plenty of sparkle, moving pieces, smiling children, and tons of small details inspired by their doodles. The spinning strawberry is hard to miss, as is the fun amusement park scene. While you're there, be sure to catch its popular light show, which runs every 10 minutes after dark.
Tip Toe's journey is laid out storybook-style in Macy's Broadway holiday windows display.
Macy's 2021 Holiday Windows
34th Street at Broadway
Macy's returns with a stunning storybook display starring Tip Toe, a blue-hued reindeer who played a starring role in last week's parade as she goes on a journey of self-discovery, ultimately embracing the store's recurring "Believe," theme and helping Santa lead his sleigh. These were easily the favorite of my daughters, ages 8 and 12, who loved the message and the construction, which has a cotton-candy sweet confectionary look to it and plenty of sparkling snowflakes.
Holiday Under the Stars is a long-time favorite Midtown light display. Photo courtesy of The Shops at Columbus Circle
More Spectacular Midtown Holiday Displays to See
59th Street at Fifth Avenue
An enchanting polar scene has taken over this famed fountain, with polar bears, penguins, seals, and snow leopards playfully posing in a multi-tiered display. Some twirl on make-believe ice, others balance dancing presents on their noses, or pop up from behind icebergs in a game of peek-a-boo. From the fountain, head south to pose with giant, illuminated toys and brilliantly lit trees, which pepper the avenue.
The Shops at Columbus Circle
I'm a sucker for the longtime "Holiday Under the Stars" display that adorns the 150-foot-tall lobby at this towering development. The light-and-music display is activated daily every half hour from 5pm-11pm, but it's stunning in the daylight and a beautiful backdrop for the seasonal Broadway Under the Stars performances on Thursday evenings through December 16.
34th Street at 11th Avenue
More than 2 million twinkling lights have been installed throughout the Hudson Yards complex, both indoors and out. Even the Vessel is lit up like a Christmas tree.
Empire State Building
34th Street at Fifth Avenue
Gold, glitter, and candy are the stars of the Empire State Building's annual window displays. Pop inside the lobby on weekdays to see the Art Deco building decked out with lights, wreaths, a Christmas tree, and menorah, plus hear a live pianist playing holiday tunes.
Originally published in 2020.
Unless noted, photos by the author