Even the biggest Scrooge would be impressed with Chicago’s holiday spirit, from the grand spectacle of lights at Lincoln Park Zoo to the lines of ice skaters waiting for their turn at Millennium Park. (Insider tip: Head to the outdoor rink on the terrace at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Peninsula Chicago for shorter lines and incredible views.) But we’ve always been partial to the artistry of holiday window displays, and they make for an easy way to celebrate the season. Ready for festive eye candy? Follow our walking tour of windows in the Windy City:
Start at Macy’s on State Street. You’ll want to spend the most time here, where nostalgia reigns supreme. Macy’s honors the holiday traditions its forbearer Marshall Field’s began decades ago. (Macy’s took over the department store in 2006, much to locals’ chagrin.) Each of the nine elaborate windows nods to history and tradition — the Frango Factory window depicts workers making the famous little minty chocolates, the Tiffany Ceiling window re-creates the huge domed Tiffany ceiling installed in 1907. Even if you aren’t familiar with ins and outs of Chicago’s retail history, you can admire the intricate details and sentimentality of the designs.
Next, head a couple blocks east to reach Michigan Avenue, where you’ll spy those ice skaters at Millennium Park. From here, stroll north. We suggest a leisurely walk, so you can aptly take in all the lights lining the Magnificent Mile. Pass over the Chicago River, by the iconic Wrigley Building and into one of the best shopping districts in the world. You can’t help but notice the stunning year-old Burberry store, as it looks like an enormous wrapped gift. Continue north until you hit Walton Street and then head a block west and a block north to quickly check out the windows at Barneys New York. The theme here is “A New York Holiday” aimed to highlight rapper/mogul Jay Z’s collaboration with the chic department store. While there are only three windows to see, each is inspired by the show-stopping displays at the New York flagship, just played out on a smaller scale here.
Finally, head back to Michigan Avenue via Oak Street, where you can walk by super-luxe shops (Tom Ford, Lanvin, Prada) and spy into their oh-so-chic confines until you reach the 900 North Michigan Shops anchored by Bloomingdale’s. By this time, you’ll likely be ready for a warm-up, and you can checkout plenty of store windows from the inside of this luxury shopping center, as well as a huge multi-story Christmas tree and elaborate trimmings. While there are numerous big-name stores here (J. Crew, Club Monaco, L.K. Bennett), the most interesting shops are the local ones — visit space519 for an eclectic mix of cool finds, Atelier Azza for gorgeous hand-embellished clothing and J. Toor for bespoke menswear. Got kiddies in tow? Grab a hot chocolate at King Café Gourmet & Go on the first floor and go meet a very realistic Santa on the third level — he’s there for those last-minute Christmas Eve requests.
Photos Courtesy of Patrick Pyszka and Macy’s