I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Whether you're young or just young at heart, few sights capture the spirit of the season quite like a tour of New York City's holiday window displays. The elaborate designs, assembled by teams of talented set designers, engineers, and composers, are usually a year in the making. Many contain animated features and are often based around traditional themes or delightful children's characters. And most are typically kept highly secret until a long-awaited November reveal. So, grab your warmest gear and most comfortable walking shoes and head out, camera in hand. (Tip: Most people—including tourists—usually make their rounds during the early evening hours. To avoid crowds and to get the best views, try a late evening trek.)
The following tour is roughly two miles and showcases six of the major department stores beginning at Bloomingdales (1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street). Crooner Harry Connick, Jr., who performed tracks from his new release, "Your Songs," unveiled this year's display, so you can only guess what jazzy elegance awaits your arrival.
After Bloomies, head west to Madison Avenue and Barney's (660 Madison Avenue at 61st Street) to see the newest windows designed by Simon Doonan. This year's panoply is a tribute to NBC's long-running sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live. For an insider's preview, check out Doonan's own sketches.
While children may not have appreciated the tribute to SNL (Coneheads notwithstanding), after a short walk they will adore the display at Bergdorf Goodman (754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street) where this year's windows feature scenes from the film The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Next, head straight down Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center where you can catch a view of this year's tree and hundreds of skaters. Take a moment to regroup, snap some photos, and perhaps gulp down some steamy hot chocolate or warm cashews from a nearby street vendor. Look across Fifth Avenue to view the light show projections at Sak's Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street) before heading over to see its windows up close.
Continue down Fifth Avenue to Lord & Taylor (39th Street and Fifth Avenue) to view its take on the holiday season, usually a traditional one, as it is the store with the longest history of window displays in the city. Finally, continue walking down Fifth Avenue to Herald Square and Macy's (Broadway between 34th and 35th Streets) to see what windows director Paul Olzewski has in store. Last year's windows were interactive—and big hit with young fans—so this year's display will be nothing short of magical.