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NYC’s Holiday Lights and Movie Sites

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and New York City at Christmas is a pretty spectacular sight. It’s no wonder the city has been the backdrop for so many holiday movies from 1947′s Miracle on 34th Street to Elf. Christmas trees, holiday lights, the world’s most famed department store windows, and ice skating rinks decorate NYC at Christmas and I couldn’t wait to see it all on On Location Tours NYC’s Holiday Lights and Movie Sites tour.

Macy's Herald Square

Macy’s Herald Square

As the city was turned into a true winter wonderland when the temperatures dropped to 25°F and NYC was blanketed in snow last Saturday, I couldn’t be happier to board On Location Tours toasty bus. We’d be traversing the city from the Upper West Side all the way down to Macy’s, with stops for photo ops along the way.

Trump Wollman Rink

Trump Wollman Rink

Just in case you haven’t had time to watch all your holiday favorites just yet (like me), video clips were played as we made our way through the city. It was fitting that the snow was falling as we crossed through Central Park, just as the snow was falling as John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale skated around Wollman Rink.

UNICEF Snowflake

The UNICEF Snowflake hangs at 57th Street and 5th Avenue

Sure, I could have walked to many of these NYC holiday lights and movie sites on my own, but I wouldn’t have necessarily recognized them from the movies or known exactly what they were. Like the giant, sparkling snowflake I’ve seen hung at 57th Street and 5th Avenue all the years that we’ve been visiting NYC at Christmas. It’s actually the UNICEF Snowflake and serves as a symbol of hope and a reminder of UNICEF’s commitment to reach a day when no children die from preventable causes.

Tiffany's

The iconic jewelry store’s holiday windows feature white dollhouse-size buildings decked out with dazzling gems and mini versions of Tiffany’s signature blue boxes.

Harry Winston

Harry Winston

Cartier

Cartier

Fendi

Fendi

We inched our way down 5th Avenue, past the glittering diamonds of Tiffany’s, where Zac Efron takes Michelle Pfeiffer for a modern day Breakfast at Tiffany’s in New Year’s Eve. Harry Winston and Cartier were wrapped up in jewels and sparkly aliens beckoned shoppers in Fendi.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Oohs and aahs filled the bus as the famous 76-foot tall Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree came in to sight! The 45,000 multi-colored lights twinkled and we were reminded that Macaulay Culkin’s mom knew this is no doubt doubt where she’d find her son as she finally reaches New York in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Lord and Taylor Holiday Window Displays

Old-fashioned, early 20th-century glamor is the theme at Lord and Taylor

Lord and Taylor Photo Booth

My mom and I posing at the Lord and Taylor Photo Booth

We had opportunities to post for pictures at NYC’s biggest department stores’ holiday window displays. Lord and Taylor has been decorating their windows for passersby since 1938, making them the very first department store in NYC to put up a display that didn’t advertise anything in their store and just for the delight of their customers. This year’s theme is old-fashioned glamor featuring black-and-white graphics with animated dolls. There is also a photo booth where you can pose for a picture and have it texted to yourself.

 

Macy's Holiday Window Display

A boy in a fantastical forest filled with icy woodland creatures


Macy’s has two displays and the windows on 6th Avenue tell the animated story of a boy as he imagines the magical scenes of a winter wonderland. The six windows are complete with snowfall, woodland creatures, glittery baubles, and other fantastical elements. A favorite window is the interactive one where you can control the falling snow by waving your arms and jumping up and down.

Henri Bendel's Holiday Windows

Al Hirschfeld’s take on some famous folk. Can you tell who’s who?

Henri Bendel’s windows pay tribute to late caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. We had fun checking out his take on the famous like Woody Allen, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

Bloomingdale's Holiday Window Display

Bloomies take on festive France

Bloomingdale's Holiday Window Display

Young and old alike were delighted by Bloomie’s windows

Bloomingdale’s holiday windows celebrate the holidays around the world and each window features famous landmarks from NYC, China, France, Italy, and England. Everyone on our NYC Holiday Lights and Movie Sites tour had different favorites, though France and NYC definitely got some oohs and aahs.

Barney's Holiday Window Display

Jay-Z was a little too futuristic for my taste

Barney's Holiday Window Display

My mom and I posing during our sleigh ride

Barney’s had my least favorite holiday window displays this year. The upscale department store collaborated with Jay-Z on the futuristic window displays and the windows even have warnings that they could cause epileptic seizures. I did like the last window on the corner of 61st Street and Madison. You can climb right into the window and go for a ride in Santa’s sleigh through the streets of Manhattan. Like Lord and Taylor, the sleigh ride is also a photo booth and you can snap a series of four photos and then head inside to pick up a printed copy. Best of all, it’s completely free!

Saks Yeti

Saks Yeti

That leaves Saks Fifth Avenue, who had my favorite holiday window displays with their super cute Yeti and projection light show. I put together a whole post about the Legend of the Saks Yeti and there’s even a video just in case you can’t make it to NYC this holiday season to catch the show for yourself.

Our NYC Holiday Lights and Movie Sites tour was a great way to easily cover all the department store holiday windows in one shot, plus see where some of my favorite holiday movie scenes were filmed!

Know Before You Go

  • On Location Tours Holiday Lights and Movie Sites tour is a seasonal tour that runs from November 29th – January 4th on Thursdays & Fridays at 6pm, Saturdays at 4pm. The tour lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours.
  • Tickets are $35 per adult and $25 per child.

On Location Tours promo codeGet 10% off On Location Tours in New York and Boston!  Use code JDOMBSTRAVEL when buying tickets via On Location Tours. Tours offered include New York TV & Movie Sites, Sex and the City Hotspots, Gossip Girl Sites, Sopranos Sites, TMZ Tour NYC, TCM Classic Film Tour, Central Park TV & Movie Sites, Boston TV & Movie Sites and more.

 

 

 

Disclosure: Thank you to On Location Tours for hosting us on the Holiday Lights and Movie Sites Tour in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter and bases herself in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and innovation strategist in higher education and is a regular contributor on johnnyjet.com. Her website, jdombstravels.com, is the 2012 Destinology Travel Bloggy Best Newcomer award winner. Google+

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9 comments

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  1. Val-This Way To Paradise

    Beautiful pictures…It’s a dream of mine to go to NYC for Christmas one year!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    You should, Val! It’s not warm and tropical, but I think you’d love it!

    [Reply]

  2. Larry D.

    Beautiful displays! Looks like an awesome tour.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    Definitely easier on the tour to see all the department store displays than walking like we did one year!

    [Reply]

  3. Marlene Dombrowski

    this was a great tour had so much fun seeing all the window displays

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    Glad you got to come and enjoy it with me, Mom! We’ll never forget literally being frozen after walking from Macy’s back up to Radio City.

    [Reply]

  4. Freya

    I love New York but I unfortunately never had the chance to visit during Christmas time, must be truly magical ! Maybe next year.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    It’s definitely my favorite time of year to visit, Freya! We’ve also been there for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and that is also a lot of fun to experience in person.

    [Reply]

  5. Heather

    Serendipity is one of my favorite movies, and probably the reason I’ll take Wollman rink over Rockefeller Center any day! A friend and I also tried the elevator race in the Waldorf :-)

    [Reply]

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