Last year, I embarked on an unforgettable journey to the city, making my way to The Skinny Bar and Lounge for the Naughty or Nice event. The evening was nothing short of enchanting, leaving me so imbued with the Christmas Spirit. I could not resist extending my adventure to Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. As Strolled down the entire length of Fifth Avenue I reveled in one of the most magnificent experiences I have had in quite some time, all while being captivated by New York City’s iconic holiday displays.
Initially, I had planned to walk back. But as the night grew colder, I opted for a cab ride back to my car. I arrived home well past 1 AM, but the sheer beauty and festive atmosphere made every moment worth it. Christmas in New York City truly embodies the quintessential New York experience. It is where the people are kinder, and the iconic holiday window displays of the city exude pure magic.
When I shared with a friend that it had been five years since I last treated myself to the enchanting stroll along Fifth Avenue. Her response was, “Touristy stuff.” However, the reality is that these festive showcases are not just for tourists. They offer a fabulous experience for locals and children alike. Picture their wide-eyed amazement as they immerse themselves in the enchantment.
New York City’s iconic holiday displays evoke a dreamy nostalgia that graces us once a year. These ornate holiday windows are adorned with countless Christmas lights and an abundance of winter wonderland decor. They exude a magical aura that warms the heart. It is an experience that transcends labels and invites everyone, tourists, and residents, to bask in the festive spirit.
Bloomingdale’s marked a remarkable milestone last year. Its 150th anniversary—and celebrated in grand style by unveiling some of the most spectacular holiday window displays in New York City. It is only fitting that we kick off our top picks with Bloomingdale’s, a beacon of elegance and style.
Among the captivating scenes was a window featuring a colossal golden sewing machine. It is a symbol that resonates with the essence of Bloomingdale’s itself. Just ponder the countless designs, styles, and trends this iconic department store has helped propel into popularity over the past century.
Other windows showcased various fabrics and timeless dresses that have been instrumental in keeping Bloomingdale’s thriving for more than a century. When you add flashing lights and gracefully rotating mannequins to the mix, it is no wonder these displays stand out as some of the best during New York City’s holiday season.
Bloomingdale’s 2003 Holiday Window Display Unvailed
In a dazzling kickoff to the holiday season, Bloomingdale’s unwrapped their window display this year with a night of festive revelry. The soirée was masterfully hosted by Amber Ruffin, co-writer of Broadway’s Some Like It Hot. And featured the star-studded presence of two-time Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff. The night was further elevated with captivating performances by Tony nominee Norm Lewis [The Phantom of the Opera] and the Broadway sensation Jessica Vosk [known for her roles in Wicked and Fiddler on the Roof]. This year’s theme, inspired by the whimsical world of Wonka, embraces the spirit of “the Best Holiday Ever.”
A press release promises that the windows will bring the wonder of the holidays to life with vibrant displays, abundant sparkle, and oversized candies and chocolates, all echoing the enchantment of the film. Frank Berman, Bloomingdale’s EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, enthusiastically declared, “This year, our holiday is truly the Best Holiday Ever.” He highlighted the Wonka carousel as a testament to their marketing prowess and the commitment to creating unique experiences. Bloomingdale’s, pulsating with the magic of film and theater, unfolds not just as a retail destination but as a vibrant celebration of the season.
1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street—Upper East Side
Cartier left me breathless last December—there I stood, marveling at the entire store wrapped like a magnificent gift adorned with a breathtaking bow. And elevate the standard for New York City’s iconic holiday displays. Cartier’s decorated windows to complement its exquisite gift-wrapped exterior made it a masterpiece of holiday enchantment.
It is no wonder Cartier approaches decoration with such grandeur. Their reputation for opulence and elegance precedes them. And their holiday adornments are no exception—every bit as stylish as their renowned jewelry.
In the realm of the best Christmas window displays in New York City, Cartier exudes unparalleled charm. A stroll down Fifth Avenue transforms into a romantic date night under the mesmerizing glow of their bright lights.
Cartier’s signature shade of red takes on an extra layer of magic during the Christmas season. And deciphering which gleams with greater radiance becomes a captivating puzzle amidst the festive lights. The brilliance of the external lights or the dazzling allure emanating from the diamonds within. It creates an atmosphere where the holiday spirit and luxury intertwine seamlessly.
5th Ave. and 52nd Street—Midtown West
Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks Fifth Avenue stands as the undisputed crown jewel of holiday window displays in New York City. It elevates luxury from its interiors to an extravagant street spectacle. The building’s facade becomes a mesmerizing canvas for a holiday light show that harmonizes with timeless Christmas melodies. It is not just a display. But a transformation that propels the New York City holiday spirit to unparalleled heights.
Immerse yourself in the magic as the Christmas light show unfolds in 10-minute intervals, casting its enchantment from 5 pm to 11 pm every night. Brace yourself for bustling crowds, for this spectacle is one of the city’s most sought-after window displays.
If you are up for an even more exclusive experience, Saks Fifth Avenue offers private tours of their cherished New York City window displays. For $5,000, guests can peek behind the curtain and unravel the secrets behind the creation of these dazzling displays, adding an extra layer of magic to the holiday season.
Fifth Avenue at 50th Street—Midtown East
Bergdorf Goodman’s 2022 holiday window displays in New York City unfolded under the captivating theme, “Magic in the Making.” It showcased the store’s artistic prowess with seven windows dedicated to various crafts such as scrapbooking, metal craft, paper maché, and dressmaking. The meticulous attention to detail was evident in every display.
These holiday windows have become a cherished seasonal tradition, immortalized in two published books “Dreams Through the Glass: Windows from Bergdorf Goodman” by Linda Fargo, priced at $374.04. And “Windows at Bergdorf Goodman Special Edition” is sadly no longer in print, showcasing the allure of their most beloved displays.
Fast forward to this year, and Bergdorf Goodman’s window display maintains its enchanting magic with a recent unveiling featuring a special guest appearance by none other than Martha Stewart. The 2023 theme, “Isn’t it Brilliant,” is brought to life through the interplay of light, mirrors, and chrome across the seven windows.
True to tradition, Bergdorf Goodman’s visionary design team, which includes luminaries like Thom Browne, C. D. Greene, Balmain, Rodarte, Alexander McQueen, Naeem Khan, Simone Rocha, Jil Sander, Christopher John Rogers, and Paco Rabanne, crafts each window in-house. Every individual design narrates its own tale, seamlessly aligning with this year’s overarching theme. Marvel at mirror mosaic domestic animals in “First Light” or vintage-inspired signs paired with a neon idea bulb in “The Best and Brightest.”
Fifth Avenue at 58th Street—Midtown West
Commencing at the end of November, revel in the splendor of the “Shine On” light show at Hudson Yards. A shining star among New York City’s iconic holiday displays. This new Christmas light extravaganza seamlessly blends the indoor and outdoor realms in a mesmerizing dance of light and music. As the clock strikes 5 PM each day, “the moments” unfold, beckoning spectators into a visual symphony synchronized with festive tunes.
While Shine On diverges from the traditional holiday window displays, its grandeur is nothing short of breathtaking. It boasts over two million Christmas lights that illuminate the scene. A visit to the Hudson Yards Christmas light display offers more than just a visual feast. Indulge in high-end shops and savor the delights of wonderful restaurants, completing the immersive holiday experience.
34th Street at 11th Avenue—Midtown West
Step into a Christmas wonderland at Macy’s, where the magic of the season comes alive in more ways than one. Beyond the enchanting Holiday Windows that captivate onlookers—the entire facade transforms into a luminous spectacle adorned with countless lights. It sets the stage for an immersive holiday experience inside. Ascend to the 8th floor, and you will discover the legendary Santaland—an iconic Christmas haven.
Macy’s holiday window displays in New York City are an absolute MUST-VISIT. As the store stretches across an entire city block, encompassing over 1.1 million square feet of festive delight. Last year’s theme, “Give Love,” unfolded with the appearance of Tip Toe, the blue-hued reindeer, fresh from her Broadway parade debut. Nestled within nostalgia-inducing vignettes, Macy’s celebrated togetherness, hitting all the right notes with scenes featuring hand-knit blankets.
In a grand unveiling for 2023, Macy’s animated holiday window takes center stage. This year’s displays revolve around “the magic of friendship,” featuring Tiptoe the reindeer engaging in delightful activities with her friends, Polar Bear and Penguin. Each display transports viewers to a distinct holiday wonderland, adorned with whimsical materials and interactive elements, promising a journey through the joyous spirit of the season.
West 34th Street at 6th Avenue—Midtown West
Tiffany & Co.
If you have not experienced the timeless magic of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, consider it a cinematic must-watch—wondering where you have been all this time. The enduring allure of Tiffany’s windows, immortalized in this iconic film, transcends mere aesthetics. Audrey Hepburn’s character, mesmerized, finds solace at the Tiffany flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York. In her words, “…The only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”
Without giving too much away, the movie is an absolute gem. And the real-life Tiffany’s Iconic Holiday Window display mirrors the enchantment seen in the film. Perhaps even exceeding it. Established in 1837, this iconic store has evolved into a global luxury house, celebrated for its extraordinary jewels, relentless innovation, and exceptional craftsmanship. A legacy that extends seamlessly to its Holiday Window Display. The iconic Tiffany blue, seamlessly woven into the displays. It adds a touch of enchantment, transforming the windows into a winter wonderland of sheer fantasy. Visiting Tiffany’s during the holiday season is not just an experience. It is an immersion into a world of magical extravagance.
57th Street and 5th Avenue—
The enchantment of American Girl holds a special place in my heart, especially reminiscing about those days with my niece. Undoubtedly, it stands as the ultimate window display in New York City, tailored for the delight of the little ones.
Immerse yourself in the enchanting scene—from the artfully crafted faux snow to the American Girl dolls donning their winter ensembles. It is a spectacle designed to ignite the imaginations of the little ones. As twilight descends, the twinkling lights cast an additional layer of enchantment. It turns the display into a magical winter wonderland.
You can extend the joy by venturing inside the store with your little one, where a treasure trove of souvenirs awaits. American Girl dolls, revered as prized collectibles, offer a unique and delightful experience. Embrace the opportunity to acquire an American Girl® 2023 Shimmering Silver Holiday Collector Doll, crafting enduring memories after indulging in one of the city’s most captivating window displays.
75 Rockefeller Plaza—
The Empire State Building
Beyond its famed observation deck that soars 1,250 feet into the sky, the Empire State Building transforms into a holiday beacon, drawing crowds for a distinct festive celebration. The Christmas light show, a cherished tradition in New York City, unfolds against the iconic skyline. Synchronized to classic holiday tunes like “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls,” the mesmerizing display paints the night with snowflakes, Christmas trees, and other joyful imagery. A splendid Christmas tree and a pianist serenading guests with classic tunes add to the enchantment.
At its base, this iconic New York City structure boasts some of the city’s finest holiday window displays. Given its synonymous association with the city, these displays often showcase other renowned landmarks, featuring glimpses of the Brooklyn Bridge, et cetera.
While reveling in the window displays, take advantage of the opportunity to step into the lobby, which is open to the public. The Empire State Building’s holiday magic extends beyond the exterior. It invites everyone to partake in the festive spirit within its historic walls.
20 West 34th Street—Koreatown
Louis Vuitton’s Christmas window displays in the heart of New York City weave a spell of enchantment. A burst of vibrant colors adorns these displays, creating a dazzling contrast against the backdrop of the city’s gray buildings. As a beacon of luxury, Louis Vuitton transforms its windows into a captivating showcase. It adds a touch of magic to New York City’s iconic holiday displays.
1 57th Street and 5th Avenue—Midtown East
Step into the perpetual enchantment of Christmas at FAO Schwarz, a globally renowned toy haven that turns every day into a festive celebration. Unsurprisingly, the store’s windows come alive with the essence of the holidays, adorned with classic figurines and oversized toys that embody the spirit of the season. In the realm of New York City’s iconic holiday displays, FAO Schwarz stands as a beacon. It beckons both the young and the young at heart into a world of timeless joy.
30 Rockefeller Center—Rockefeller Center
New York City’s iconic holiday displays weave a tapestry of enchantment in the heart of the city that never sleeps. It captures the spirit of the season in every corner. From the timeless elegance of Tiffany’s to the whimsical scenes at FAO Schwarz, each display tells a unique story. It draws residents and tourists alike into a winter wonderland of lights, colors, and festive joy.
As I reflect on my journey through the glittering streets, from Bloomingsdales to the towering Empire State Building, I am reminded that Christmas in New York City transcends mere celebration. It is a magical experience that unites us all in the warmth of the holiday spirit. From Saks Fifth Avenue’s dazzling light show to Macy’s animated windows. This city’s landmarks become canvases of artistic brilliance, spreading joy and wonder to all who behold them. As the holiday lights twinkle and the city sparkles with festive fervor, New York City’s iconic holiday displays stand as testaments to the enduring magic of the season.