Who needs the North Pole when you can head to the Big Apple for festive holiday shopping? Explore the best of the city’s neighborhoods and retail institutions and find something for everyone on a shopping tour around New York City.
Bedazzled Department Stores
New York is known for its outrageously festive department store windows that re-create classic tales and celebrate the best of the holidays with stunning artwork and moving displays. After you wait in line to check out the windows, take a spin through these major department stores for a bit of holiday shopping.
Macy’s truly is a miracle on 34th Street after its designers complete the annual window display. One set of windows revisits scenes from the beloved movie “Miracle on 34th Street” while another set of windows changes each year to focus on a different holiday theme.
Around town, the other department stores that cannot be missed, thanks to both impressive windows and equally impressive shopping selections, include Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York. Bring along willpower or a fully-loaded wallet as the wares at these swanky department stores generally come with a hefty price tag, which may not be a problem if Santa himself is footing the bill.
Following in the great European tradition of mini-holiday villages, New York honors this tradition with its own take on holiday markets and pop-up shops.
Bryant Park is aglow with twinkling lights as artisans, bakers and candy makers fill up glowing glass stalls to pedal their goods at the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. This Euro-style open-air marketplace hosts over 125 vendors selling toys and puppets for wee ones, jewelry, handmade goods and plenty of sweet and savory treats including kettle corn, dumplings and chocolate treats including the chocolate pizza from cocoa-legend Max Brenner.
The Grand Central Holiday Fair is the city’s only indoor holiday festival filling up the 12,000 square foot Vanderbilt Hall with toys, jewelry and crafty goods. High-end designers and artisans include luxury textiles from Aviva Stanoff, unique engraved jewelry from the Barber's Daughters and handmade leather animals from Sandy Vohr.
Stroll through the Union Square Holiday Market with a warm cider and peruse the goods from over 100 merchants. Looking for something specific? The Market Concierge can point you in the right direction for cool housewares, unusual kids’ gifts, tasty food and more.
While there are discount retailers galore, including TJ Maxx, Marshalls and SYMS, there are a handful of NY originals that cater for bargain hunters willing to sift through racks for the perfect present.
The downtown location of Century 21 is a NY staple for fashionistas on a budget. Today, the designer discounter also has outposts in the outer boroughs and nearby New Jersey to share the savings. In the Lower East Side, Gabay's carries overstock designer inventory for dirt cheap with great deals on those names usually relegated to the city’s finest department stores and boutiques, including Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Marc Jacobs and Yves Saint Laurent.
Fill the stockings and deck the halls with Christmas and Hannukah gifts for the kids from the best toy stores in the city. While you can purchase many of these same toys online or at a local box store, there’s something magical about going straight to the source.
FAO Schwartz has been a childhood staple for mini New Yorkers for nearly 150 years with unique toys and an unforgettable toy-shopping experience brought to life in the 1980s Tom Hanks movie “Big.” A visit to the flagship store itself is a sweet gift for kids as they can design their own signature muppet at the Muppet Whatnot Workshop, adopt a baby doll at the newborn nursery or play a tune on the giant foot-powered piano.
The LEGO store at Rockefeller Center is a new addition on the holiday shopping scene since opening in the summer of 2010. Pick up the coolest LEGO sets for aspiring architects, or inspire your favorite kid’s imagination with a stroll past the Pick A Brick Wall loaded with LEGOs in all shapes, sizes and colors.
There’s no getting around it—it’s nearly impossible to make just a quick stop at the American Girl Place New York store on Fifth Avenue. In addition to carrying the signature dolls and accessories, the store sells experiences like the doll hair salon and a special meal, including brunch, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, for your girl and her doll at the on-site café.
Load up on edible gifts at New York’s finest food shops that prepare specialty dishes and foods to complete any holiday feast.
It’s OK if you don’t know your way around a cheese plate—the cheese purveyors at Murray's Cheese Shop have been doing this since 1940. They have the best selections and recommendations on the stinkiest, runniest, ripest and tastiest artisanal, organic or handmade cheeses in town. And they deliver, too, so even if you can’t make it home for the holidays, you might send a stinky blue or delicate goat milk cheese in your place.
On the Lower East Side, Russ & Daughters makes Hannukah a little happier with its traditional collection of homemade potato latkes and smoked fish. If your holiday host can’t make it to New York, bring along a baker’s dozen of the classic bagels and other specialties like pickled herring, sweet babka and some caviar to ring in the new year. Uptown, Zabar's can put together a holiday basket packed with succulent smoked salmon and toppings or a sweet feast of rugelach for the perfect hostess present.
You can take your gingerbread house to the next level with brightly colored candy from Dylan's Candy Bar, a sweet candy emporium that would impress Willy Wonka himself. The store carries over 5,000 kinds of candy and has 300 bins of bulk candy with more gummy creations that you can imagine. The Belgian chocolate bars or chocolate-drizzled popcorn make perfect stocking stuffers, if they make it to Christmas morning.