Click here to see the amazing 2014 Department Store Holiday Windows.
Taking a leisurely stroll from Macy's to Barneys to look at all of the magical holiday windows is a long-standing tradition for my family. In our pre-parenting days, my husband and I took this walk during the wee hours of Christmas Eve. Once our son was born, we moved it to Thanksgiving weekend at a much earlier hour. It's a wonderful and totally free way to kick off the holiday season, and creates lasting memories that our son will cherish long after he's forgotten about the toys under the tree.
Just like last year, we made it a Mommy Poppins playdate by inviting along fellow writer Raven and her daughter. Although our seven-year-olds enjoyed everything they saw, their hands-down favorite was the animated Disney short that screens in Barneys' windows. I admit, I'm partial to more old-school animatronic displays, but technology and digital decorations are an integral part of many of the windows this year.
Click through our NYC department store holiday windows slide show and find out about the themes and interactive elements of each display. If you'd like to relive the windows of yesteryear, check out our holiday windows posts from 2009, 2010 and 2011. And of course you can find lots of other seasonal fun in our NYC Holiday Guide.
Macy’s Herald Square
151 West 34th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
As always, Macy's has two different displays. The windows on the Sixth Avenue side are dedicated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and celebrate the holidays with animatronic displays devoted to NYC traditions like Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, department store Santas and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. At the first window, see how fashions have changed throughout the last century with an interactive book of looks that you can move remotely by swiping your hand. On the 34th Street side, Macy's has revived its Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus windows. If you long to see the Miracle on 34th Street windows Macy's has featured in the past, you can check out parts of the display inside the store in the Santaland waiting area.
Lord & Taylor
424 Fifth Avenue at 38th Street
Just like last year, Lord & Taylor has abandoned its traditional Victorian windows in favor of more modern displays. Ironically, this year's theme purports to honor the past by celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Fifth Avenue store's holiday windows. The displays, all beautifully done, evoke various seasonal scenes, including a Japanese garden festooned with bright red lanterns, a holiday party at a sleek urban loft and a snow-covered Delacorte Musical Clock at the Central Park Zoo.
Saks Fifth Avenue
611 Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets
Saks mixes old-fashioned animatronic displays with state-of-the-art technology. Quirky holiday images like spinning snow globes and pop-up storybooks are juxtaposed with laptops screening video kaleidoscopes of passersby. Want a moment in the spotlight? Head to the ninth floor photo booth and pose for a family portrait, which will be projected in one of the windows. As in years past, the store's entire facade comes alive with a bright light display after dark. It's best seen from across the street, where you'll also find the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
712 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street
This one-window display may look modest from afar, but it's worth examining close up. The mannequins are decked out in fantastic flapper-style gowns made from offbeat materials like dried black beans and cupcake wrappers. Absolutely fabulous!
Tiffany & Co
727 Fifth Avenue at 57th Street
The famous jewelry store's holiday windows are set inside a swanky NYC townhouse decked out for Christmas. You'll wish you lived there... or at least were pals with the owner. Make sure to look up: UNICEF's stunning sparkly snowflake is suspended above this intersection.
754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street
As usual, Bergdorf's opulent holiday windows are a knockout. While they're not traditional (not a Santa or tree in sight), kids and adults alike will ooh and aah at the displays, which are themed around the fabulous Follies of yesteryear. Marvel at white peacocks, a mosaic sea lion, sparkly mirrors, and to-die-for clothes and accessories.
660 Madison Avenue at 61st Street
Without a doubt, Barneys Disney Electric Holiday windows have the most little kid appeal. Every few minutes, catch an adorable (if needlessly controversial) short starring Minnie Mouse fantasizing about being a Parisian runway model alongside Mickey, Donald, Cruella, Captain Hook, Snow White, Tiana and even Goofy. The flick also features cartoon versions of Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga and other famous folk from the fashion world. If you can't get to the store to see the short in person, you can watch it on Barneys website.
59th Street and Lexington Avenue
There are two sets of windows, both on the Lexington Avenue side, at Bloomies this year. We loved the Cirque du Soleil displays, inspired by the upcoming film Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D, with animatronic acrobats (slowly) flying through the air in fantastical settings. There are also a pair of interactive windows, where you peek into a porthole and your photo is snapped in a cartoon holiday scene. The pics are displayed in the window and potentially on Bloomingdale's Facebook page. If you have a smartphone, scan the QR code in the window to download the free 59th & Lex app, and then look at the displays through the viewer. They'll come to life in a whole new way! Hard to describe, but very cool.
While our group did all of the windows (save for Bloomies) in one shot, that may be a bit much for younger children. You can either skip the out-of-the-way windows like Macy's, Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale's, and concentrate on the others, which are all within 10 blocks of each other. Or you can catch one of the many MTA buses that go down Fifth Avenue (M1, M2, M3, M4 and the M5). If you do decide to hit all of the displays in one go, consider taking a play break at Bryant Park, where you'll find a carousel, an ice-skating rink, a fabulous holiday market and, most important of all, public restrooms. Need to warm up? You're right by the main branch of the New York Public Library, which has a great Children's Center.
Find more seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide and great gift ideas in our NYC Shopping Local Gift Guide.