A pedestrian looks inside a Tiffany's window in Manhattan.The city's...

A pedestrian looks inside a Tiffany's window in Manhattan.The city's most famous retailers are known for splashy displays that have become as much a holiday tradition there as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or sidewalk Santas. (Nov. 21, 2011) Credit: AP

My parents took me to the city every December when I was a kid. We'd hit Radio City Music Hall, or a Broadway show, but the two things I could always count on was a stroll past decorated store windows and a hot pretzel.

Times have changed, but the pretzel guys and window displays are still there, though midtown pretzels can get pricey, and the displays are . . . less traditional. Dickensian figures have made way for high-tech, interactive gizmos, light shows and Lady Gaga.

Here's a route to six stores: From Penn Station, take 34th Street east to Fifth Avenue, north (left) on Fifth Avenue to 60th Street, east (right) to Lexington Avenue. Here's what you'll see en route.



WHAT You'll find two displays, one a nostalgic retelling of the famed 1897 New York Sun editorial, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" (on 34th Street), the other a modern "Believe" display (on Broadway) honoring the Make-A-Wish Foundation, with an interactive make-your-own ornament touch screen.

WHERE West 34th Street and Broadway



WHAT The most traditional, with sweet, hand-painted clay figures and drawings by kids from local schools and Women in Need shelters. By Christmas Day, Santa will fly over those gingerbread houses 907,200 times and that little girl will make 4 million-plus snow angels. Phew.

WHERE Fifth Avenue at 38th Street



WHAT The actual windows offer a not-terribly-festive display, mainly showing off designer dresses. The real deal is on the building's facade, where six projectors bring to life a 3-D light show, "The Snowflake and Bubble Spectacular" (running every 13 minutes and best seen from across the street; a clock on the building ticks off the time till the next show).

WHERE Fifth Avenue at 49th Street



WHAT The "Carnival of Animals" theme features one opulent dress per window, surrounded by a dazzling menagerie, each animal made from a specific material -- metal, fringe, mosaic tile, intricately folded paper, wood, or crystals, beads and sequins. Don't miss the vintage 1940s photos in a display around the corner.

WHERE Fifth Avenue at 58th Street



WHAT Their windows are famed for being hip, outrageous, urban. Instead of Santa, you'll find Gaga's Workshop here (enter on 60th Street) and windows (on Madison) depicting Lady Gaga-themed tableaux. Tweet your holiday wish (to #gagastars) and you may see it on a video display.

WHERE Madison Avenue at East 60th Street



WHAT Each window celebrates a vintage Bloomies shopping bag, which open to reveal festive dioramas. Special cameras snap your photo, which is added to the window display and their Facebook page.

WHERE Lexington Avenue at 60th Street

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