Every year, the holiday season draws millions of camera-toting tourists to New York City. Along with ice-skating rinks popping up at parks around the city, holiday markets in the public squares, and the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, ogling the elaborate holiday window displays at New York’s department stores is a time-honored tradition.
This year, the city’s major retailers have invested some serious time and money in their window displays, in the hopes of luring shoppers inside. (After all, 24 percent of department store sales are made in November and December, as the New York Times pointed out.) Here’s where to see the best of them:
Every year, Bergdorf Goodman, on the southeast corner of Central Park, puts on the city’s most eye-catching displays. This year, the luxury retailer partnered with Swarovski to create enchanting, elaborate scenes. There are crystal-encrusted suits of armor, a dreamlike amethyst cave, a fortune-teller’s lair, an enormous pearl-encrusted sculpture of Neptune, and a glittering birthday party in honor of Swarovski’s 120th anniversary. These windows are not to be missed.
Lord & Taylor
Animated holiday windows have been a Lord & Taylor tradition since 1937. The Christmas displays at the Fifth Avenue flagship never include commercial products, but are considered “a gift to New York City.” This year’s windows feature a custom Victorian gingerbread house being supported by dozens of dancing gingerbread men, an ornate mansion counting down the days to Christmas with a surprise in each window, a huge cuckoo clock, and a Parisian-inspired bakery full of cupcakes and macarons. It took a team of over 50 people nine months to fabricate the displays, which were created off-site and hoisted up from the store’s basement by hydraulics.
The first department store to feature Christmas displays, Macy’s beloved holiday windows trace their roots back to the early 1870s. This year’s editions celebrate the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas with a series of six windows narrating the classic Peanuts story using animatronics. Each installation is planned about a year in advance, and Macy’s will begin planning next year’s displays—which take a team of 250 artists, carpenters, sound engineers, animators, and electricians to create—shortly after this season’s windows are dissembled.
Inspired by the wintry season, Chillin’ Out is the theme at Barneys Madison Avenue flagship. Four unique windows feature bespoke installations created in collaboration with renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, Utah-based Ice Castles, artist collective Okamoto Studio, and Lexus. In Chihuly’s window, hand-blown glass icicles look like fireworks suspended over a black pool of water. The Ice Castles installation is housed in an ice locker created for the confines of Barney’s windows. In Okamoto Studio’s window, live ice carvers create holiday-themed sculptures. Finally, crystal-covered penguins race around a track on model Lexus cars in an entertaining spectacle.
For the holiday season, Bloomingdales collaborated with Jeff Leatham, acclaimed florist and artistic director for the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, to create a series of semi-abstract displays inspired by the five senses. Having designed sets for the likes of Alexander Wang, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Burberry, Leatham was up for the task of creating the luxury department store’s over-the-top holiday windows. One display depicts a gold puppy in a bed of red roses under a Christmas tree. Another shows a giant red bear emerging from a sea of peppermint candies.
Saks Fifth Avenue
A series of frozen wonders of the world have taken over the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue, including a model of the Colosseum and the Taj Mahal. In addition, the façade facing Fifth Avenue has been transformed into a fairy tale winter castle with a light show every evening until January 10.