See NYC’s 2019 holiday windows (without facing the crowds)

December 9, 2019

All photos © James and Karla Murray

The city may have created additional pedestrian space around Rockefeller Center this year, but the throngs of tourists are still filling the streets around the Christmas tree and holiday windows. If you’d rather not deal with the crowds, photographers James and Karla Murray have captured the best of this year’s windows, from the magical “Frozen” themed light show at Saks Fifth Avenue to the artistic displays at Bergdorf Goodman. Ahead, see what’s on view this year and learn a bit more about what goes into creating these whimsical scenes.

Saks Fifth Avenue

With Lord & Taylor and Barney’s officially closed, there are fewer stores along iconic Fifth Avenue with windows to see, but Saks Fifth Avenue’s light show is reason alone to make the trip. The department store began experimenting with this technology back in 2004 when they debuted 50 oversized snowflakes on their facade that twinkled along with “Carol of the Bells” playing for the crowds to hear. In 2015, Saks revealed its now-famous Winter Palace, which uses more than 300,000 programmable points of light and more than 225,000 crystals to create a 10-story magical light show across the entire Fifth Avenue side of their flagship building. As Vice tells us, that the first Winter Palace show took more than 10,000 man-hours to produce.

This year’s light show and window display were inspired by the Disney movie “Frozen 2.” The show is set to songs from the popular movie, and the six center windows depict scenes and characters from the movie as Elsa journies through the four spirits of nature (wind, fire, water, and earth). Inside, on the ninth floor, Saks is also presenting Disney’s Frozen 2 Enchanted Forest Experience, an immersive experience with performances and lots of photo-ops (tickets are $5, and sales go to the New York-Presbyterian Children’s Hospital).

Saks also has non-Frozen holiday windows that use theatrical lighting and textural backdrops to showcase some of the store’s high fashion.

Bergdorf Goodman

And further up near Central Park, Bergdorf Goodman’s windows wrap around the corner and provide a less-crowded viewing experience. This year’s theme is “Bergdorf Good Times,” which, according to the store, evokes “the time-honored spirit of a holiday fête but with a twist, as each window captures a different and unexpected scene of revelry, celebration, and indulgent fantasy.” To create the displays, the artistic team used mediums such as neon, Italian mosaic tile, needlecraft, and custom-painted finishes.

“Jackpot,” a psychedelic depiction of a retro pinball machine, might be the most colorful window at Bergdorf’s.

An all-green display depicts a “wild” card game, while a black-and-white window is an Art Deco twist on musical chairs.

Soft sculptures, felted objects, and needlework create this retro slumber party-themed display.

And in the “Queen’s Gambit,” thousands of sparkling sequins complete this royal game of chess.


Down on 34th Street, Macy’s lays claim to being the first department store to display holiday windows, which they did in 1874 at their original 14th Street store. In 1899, they also became the first store to feature interactive windows. Today, it takes a team of more than 200 to create the displays, and the installation itself takes 21 days and nights.

Macy’s has a “Believe in Wonder” theme this year. The six Broadway window displays feature the main character “Santa Girl” and take viewers through her journey, which begins with her dreaming of Santa and the magic of Christmas during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s also uses brightly colored neon throughout the display.

Santa Girl’s dog, Willow the Golden Retriever, is also dreaming of Santa. Kids will love reaching up to touch his nose!

In the fourth window, Santa arrives with gifts. The interactive display uses claw machine-like arms to move the packages.

The fifth window allows guests to navigate Santa’s truck by grabbing a connected wheel.

The final window in Santa Girl’s journey is probably the most interactive; by looking into the kaleidoscope, viewers can take a picture of themselves as Santa, which will then appear in the display.


And finally, if you venture to the east side, Bloomingdales’ windows are as inventive as ever, with this year’s “An Out of This World Holiday” theme paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The space-theme displays feature futuristic elements like robotic arms decorating a tree and a chance to karaoke to “Jingle Bells.”

See even more in the photo gallery below. And watch this great video from James and Karla Murray to take a live tour of the holiday windows:

All photos by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft. Photos are not to be reproduced without written permission from 6sqft.

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