“I just love New York during the holidays. It’s so magical!” I often hear this exclamation, to which I grumble in reply, “It’s too damn crowded!” NYC is justifiably famous for its glittering holiday decorations, and people flock to the city from all over the world to enjoy them. As a New Yorker who’s survived decades of claustrophobic holiday seasons, I was apathetic about battling the crowds to view this year’s decorations. But a funny thing happened on the way to Macy’s; at first sight of the lavish holiday windows, I was awestruck by their beauty and artistry. My cynicism melted as I gaped in childlike wonder at the dazzling displays. Here are highlights of NYC’s spectacular 2012 Holiday decorations.
Click here for a photo gallery of NYC Holiday decorations.
Store windows –
Lord and Taylor – the city’s first department store to feature animated holiday windows celebrates the 75th anniversary of their displays by creating Christmas scenes from around the world. Besides Santa’s Pottery Barn-esque workshop, there’s a traditional German Christmas Market, the Central Park Zoo (with its familiar penguins and leaping sea lions), a chic Manhattan penthouse party, and a scene from snowy Japan. 424 Fifth Avenue (between 38th & 39th Streets)
Macy’s Herald Square – animated windows illustrating the 19th-Century NYC tale of Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus return to the windows on 34th Street. The Broadway windows are themed Macy’s Magical City, and feature NYC landmarks and holiday traditions (the Thanksgiving Day Parade, dancers from The Nutcracker, the Rockettes, etc.), plus scenes from inside the landmark store, and a tableau from Miracle on 34th Street (set and partially filmed on the site). There are also videos of classic NYC holiday fun, including vintage footage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Broadway between 34th & 35th Streets.
Saks Fifth Avenue – the central Fifth Avenue windows of this famed department store (just across from Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens and Christmas Tree) feature animated scenes of children enjoying the season, including snowman building in the falling snow, a magical library, and a rotating snow globe collection. On the corners and side streets are windows inhabited by chic, affluent New Yorkers in luxurious settings (apparently suffering holiday ennui). 611 Fifth Ave (between 49th & 50th Streets)
Bloomingdales – the store’s Lexington Avenue and East 59th Street facades are curtained in white lights. The Lexington Avenue windows feature animated carnival scenes inspired by Cirque de Soleil, and there are fun, interactive windows where viewers stick their faces into padded peepholes to become part of the clowning. Lexington and 3rd Avenues, between 59th & 60th Streets
Barneys New York – known for their unique, often humorous holiday windows, this year the high-fashion retailer presents Disney’s Electric Holiday, with large monitors showing an original 5-minute Disney animated film. In the short, Minnie Mouse dreams of going to Paris for Fashion Week, where she and other familiar Disney characters encounter Linda Evangelista, Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, and Sarah Jessica Parker before taking the catwalk. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize all the real-life fashionistas in the film, they’re all identified in the final credits. 660 Madison Ave. @ 61st St. Website
Christmas Trees –
Rockefeller Center – this towering tree, standing in Rockefeller Plaza, is illuminated by 30,000 LED lights and topped by a gigantic Swarovski crystal star. Together with the 8 ft. Angels in the Channel Gardens (a tradition since 1954), it’s a spectacular sight. Between 5th & 6th Avenues and 49th & 50th Streets, daily 5am – 11:30pm through January 7, 2013. The most stunning view is from the top of the Gardens at 5th Ave.
Citi Pond at Bryant Park – the large, sparkling Holiday Tree rises above the central ice skating rink and is surrounded by artisan boutiques and specialty food stalls, transforming Bryant Park into a fun holiday destination. Admission to the ice rink is free, but there is a charge for skate rentals. 5th – 6th Avenues, between 40th & 42nd Streets.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – set amongst medieval art treasures, this enormous tree is decorated with 50 antique Cherubs and Angels (clad in silk, no less). Below is an authentic 18th century Neapolitan Crèche (figurines depicting a Nativity scene, along with traditional village characters). Recorded music and candlelight compliment the old-world setting. Through January 6, 2013. 5th Avenue and 82nd Street 9:30am – 5:30pm (9pm Fri. & Sat). Closed Mondays. Suggested admission: $25.00
Fifth Avenue – between Sak’s (49th Street) and Central Park, the avenue is lined with stylish stores decked out in sparkling displays. Of special note are Cartier (52nd St), wrapped in an illuminated red bow and featuring a couple glowing panthers, Fendi (53rd St), which is belted and dripping with glittering lights, Henri Bendel (55th St) with 1920’s-themed windows and a huge golden tree, and famed jeweler Harry Winston (56th St), whose building is bedazzled with white lights and jewels. Hanging above the intersection of Fifth Avenue & 57th Street is the huge glowing snowflake that’s become a holiday tradition in the city. Finally, elegant Bergdorf Goodman (58th St) features stunning windows with a follies theme.
Holiday Under the Stars – twelve 14-foot illuminated stars hang from the ceiling of the 150-foot Great Room of Time Warner Center. The huge stars change colors and are choreographed to holiday music. Through January 3, 2013. Columbus Circle, Broadway (between 59th & 60th Streets)
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden – set in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, model trains chug over bridges and past miniature replicas of NYC landmarks made of plant elements such as nuts, bark, and leaves. Show favorites include the original Yankee Stadium, Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Through January 13, 2013. General hours: Weekdays 10am-6pm, Weekends 10am-7pm (hours can vary, so check the website). Adults: $20.00, Children: $10.00 2900 Southern Ave., Bronx, NY Directions