Top of my New York list was to check out the festive shop windows, a prolific New York holiday tradition and no wonder! Every year designers transform the department store windows into miniature Christmas worlds attracting passers-by like us to gaze in awe.
Several evenings we walked 5th Avenue from 39th to 59th Street along with gazillions of other people to check out the spectacular window scenes. The attention to detail, colours and theming are incredible. Macy’s was Son’s favourite – twinkling lights, a giant Christmas tree and on our trip several years ago the theme was a toy factory. He had to be dragged away.
We couldn’t just look in the windows at Macy’s – a trip to Santa Land on the 8th floor was also on the must-do list. The shop was unbearably crowded at ground level but amazingly, on a Monday evening once we got past the lower floors and the horribly packed elevators we found Santa Land blissfully empty.
A stroll through gorgeous wintery scenes with many reindeer and bears brought big smiles from Son – we were equally enamoured – a treat for adults and kids alike. Plenty of friendly elves en-route calling out festive greetings heightened the atmosphere and anticipation. Right at the end was Santa himself – again we had no wait at all and were immediately directed into a little “cottage.” Beautiful theming and a fat, friendly and jolly Santa – Son could not wipe the smile from his face. I was super impressed with the whole experience too. We were not rushed in any way, they took a picture but encouraged us to take plenty of our own and we felt under no pressure to buy their offering. We did though!
Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales and Barneys had window displays to wow but up there on my top spot was Lord and Taylor on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Street. We had a look at night-time then returned on a Friday morning to find we had the store front to ourselves. Extravagant scenes with animated figures all themed around Christmas in various cities around the world this was right up my street. Seven years ago I was seriously impressed and can only imagine what delights they must have created this year.
It wasn’t all about looking in the windows, some shopping had to be done but with a four year old in tow toy shops tended to take priority. Toys-R-Us was our first port of call in Times Square. I have to say this establishment is no favourite of mine at home, I avoid it as much as possible, but the Times Square version was just a bit different. We found three floors with every toy under the sun, were amazed by the Lego models and loved the 60 foot Ferris wheel right in the centre. Every cab has a different theme, it wasn’t cheap to ride but we did it. Fifteen minutes later when we got off Son was still massively excited – a fairground ride through the middle of a toy shop – hard to beat.
Award for best NYC toy shop though must go to FAO Schwarz – just visiting this place is an experience. We loved this shop so much we came twice – once on an empty and blissful Wednesday afternoon, once on an unbearably packed Saturday morning – choose your time carefully. Three floors of toys to wow children of all ages, we fell in love with the vast collection of furry animals and discovered nothing compares to toy shopping here.
The experience starts at the door – we were greeted by a man dressed as a toy soldier who was friendly and happy to pose for pictures. My highlight was the giant floor piano on the first floor – who can forget Tom Hanks dancing on this in the movie Big? Every fifteen minutes two members of staff dance and play tunes on the piano – fabulous. In between they allow children (and adults) free rein – also a lot of fun.
Those shop windows all aglow and those NYC toy shops did not disappoint – quite the contrary I think they spoiled us for evermore. Nothing quite compares….