New York City’s world-famous department stores get dressed up every holiday season with special eye-catching displays. It never gets old, and it’s always magical. And always free. Start at Macy’s on 34th St. and work your way north to Bloomingdales at 59th, to see everything in a few leisurely hours.
Macy’s Herald Square — This year, the windows on Sixth Avenue promote the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. Wishes are the theme, with frosty white-and-silver animated marionettes with spinning about. One of the windows is an interactive display with touch-screens where kids — including grown-up kids — can create digital ornaments that are projected in the window, which you can have emailed to you by following the instructions in the window. 34th St. and Sixth Ave., as if you needed directions.
Lord & Taylor — This venerable merchant has traded in its traditional Victorian Christmas displays for contemporary holiday scenes, although with the traditional whirring figures and opulent settings. Windows also include artwork by NYC school children. Fifth Avenue at 38th Street
Saks Fifth Avenue — Forget Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Saks is celebrating New Year’s Eve with a combination of mannequins dressed in couture silks and sequins and some animated things that are difficult to describe. When you finish looking at the windows, turn around to see the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, across Fifth Avenue and at the other end of the Channel Gardens, which also are decorated for Christmas with trumpets and angels. Fifth Avenue at 50th Street.
Henri Bendel — The main window of this upscale boutique shop celebrates the Radio City Rockettes. Take a close look — the mannequin is dressed completely in colorful jelly beans. Bendel’s is at Fifth Avenue at 56th Street. Be sure to stop long enough to inhale the diamonds in the window at Van Cleef & Arpels, on the corner.
Tiffany & Co — Inspired by the Victorian carousel at Bryant Park, these windows are like looking through an old-fashioned ‘stereo-opticon’. The windows tell the story of escaped carousel animals, who happen to be holding or wearing fabulous Tiffany diamond earrings, necklaces, brooches and such. Fifth Avenue at 57th Street. Remember to look up, too, and admire the huge crystal UNICEF snowflake that hangs across the intersection.
Bergdorf Goodman — This year’s display is called “Carnival of the Animals”. One window is made up entirely of hand-cut mosaic tiles, another is a 3-D construction of paper, including the mannequin. . Each window is more interesting and intricate than the next, no wonder a team of window designers spends an entire year creating these traffic-stoppers. Fifth Avenue at 58th Street
Barneys — You have permission to go gaga over these windows, transformed into the world of Lady Gaga. There’s a video installation of her as a constellation of stars, and other interpretations of her as a mermaid and a futuristic motorcycle, to the sounds of Lady Gaga’s hit music blaring through the loudspeakers. Dancing on the sidewalk is permitted. The windows are the most colorful part of the store, which is famous for its vast selection of black clothing and accessories. Fashionable black, that is. Madison Avenue at 61st Street
Bloomingdales — This year’s windows pay homage to the store’s iconic and ubiquitous brown paper shopping bags, the Big Brown Bag and the Small Brown Bag, depending on size. Gifts and little animated sculptures spill out of them. Remember to smile, since a camera snaps photos of gawkers, and you may wind up on the Bloomingdale’s Facebook page. Lexington Avenue at 60th St.
Quite a sparkling walk!