Window shopping is an amazing experience in December, when Manhattan's biggest department stores reveal their holiday window displays. Checking out some holiday windows is a must-do during your holiday season visit to New York City.
The windows displays are almost always on on view shortly before Thanksgiving and remain up until just after the New Year, so they can be experienced by visitors throughout the holiday season. Most stores host a special event to mark the unveiling of the year's designs and in recent years there has been a greater amount of commercial support for the windows, with merchandise, books and souvenirs available for sale at the stores and reflecting the year's theme.
If you'd like some hand-holding for the experience, consider On Location's Holiday Lights & Movie Sites Tour, which makes it easy to cover the city's major holiday attractions and window displays no matter how cold it is!
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Bergdorf Goodman Windows
The holiday window displays at Bergdorf Goodman are typically unveiled in mid-November and reflect the sophisticated signature design of Bergdorf Goodman. These windows feature not only high-fashion, but also authentic antiques and are probably my favorite holiday windows in New York City. The pictures just don't do these windows justice -- they are each a work of art and should be "required viewing" on any holiday windows walking tour.
See: Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows Guide & Photos
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Lord & Taylor Holiday Window Displays
Every year Lord & Taylor features classic holiday window displays along Fifth Avenue. Lord & Taylor Window Displays are typically unveiled in late November, featuring imagery and mechanical movements that make them both traditional and very enjoyable for families.
See: Lord & Taylor Holiday Windows Guide & Photos
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Barneys New York Windows
If you're shopping on Madison Avenue, Barneys New York's holiday windows are a must-see. Every year they are hip and stylish, with a nice dose of humor. In recent years there have been performances and other "live" elements to these window displays. Call ahead to find out when the best times are to see the displays -- usually I find they are best experienced after it gets dark... which is pretty easy during the winter in New York City since the sunsets around 5 p.m.
See: Barneys New York Holiday Windows Guide & Photos
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Bloomingdale's holiday window displays are playful and family-friendly. They are typically unveiled in late November just before Black Friday so they can be enjoyed by holiday shoppers throughout the season. Although the window displays along Third Avenue are also decked out for the holiday, the ones along Lexington Avenue are the ones you really want to see, as they are the ones that feature the annual theme. Lately, they have included interactive elements, so make sure your cellphone is charged to fully enjoy the experience. Also, Bloomingdale's has some of the best Salvation Army Bell Ringers in the city -- so be sure to stop and enjoy their performance as well.
See: Bloomingdales Holiday Windows Guide & PhotosContinue to 5 of 6 below.
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Macy's holiday window decorations are typically unveiled in early November. Each year Macy's has windows depicting scenes from Miracle on 34th Street (in recent years they have shifted to "Yes Virginia," the animated movie based on the same story) and a second set of windows with a changing holiday theme. These are perhaps New York City's most famous holiday window displays and are always on view in time for visitors in town for Thanksgiving.
See: Macy's Holiday Windows Photos & Guide
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Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows
The Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays are unveiled in late November and are a great choice for visitors with children, because they are often designed around a seasonal book for children, and feature playful animations. Saks Fifth Avenue's windows are also conveniently located across from the Rockefeller Center promenade. They also have a very beautiful lighting show on the facade of the building that visitors can enjoy during the evening.
See: Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows Guide & Photos