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Google takes you on a VR tour of New York’s amazing holiday window displays

The festive window displays of New York City’s biggest stores are a serious crowd-puller during the holiday season, but the bitterly cold temperatures and crowded streets can easily take the fun out of it for some.

And if you live a long way away, you can forget any hope of seeing the elaborate displays unless you’re visiting as a tourist.

But this year, in a bid to spread some festive cheer, Google is offering everyone with an internet connection the chance to drop by the stores from the comfort of their favorite armchair.

Viewable using a VR headset, smartphone, tablet, desktop or laptop, Google has created a pretty cool Window Wonderland experience by stitching together hundreds of high-resolution photos of displays from 18 of the city’s most famous stores.

“You’ll feel like you’re standing on the streets of Manhattan during the holidays, gazing at the windows as if you were walking next to them,” Google’s Aman Govil said. “If you have a virtual reality headset like Google Cardboard or Daydream, you can even be surrounded by the sounds and sights of the city street, taking in the storefront view alongside other onlookers.” And you won’t even get so much as a frozen nose or an elbow in the side. Brilliant.

Be sure to check out Lord & Taylor’s Enchanted Forest featuring ice-skating bunnies and raccoons fishing on a frozen pond. Barneys, on the hand, hosts the South Park crew, while Saks offers a dazzling assault on the senses with its stunning Nutcracker “Sweet” displays. And note how the imagery also cleverly captures any movement in the displays.

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“At any point in your virtual walk, you can zoom in to see the details on these intricate displays, like gorillas peering out from a lush green jungle embellished by beads and flowers at Bergdorf Goodman” Govil explains.

A neat touch is the inclusion of audio guides featuring the stores’ creative directors describing the phenomenal amount of work that goes into designing and building the displays.

To view on a smartphone, visit the Window Wonderland site and choose a store from the list. Then simply scroll left and right to “walk” past the decorated windows. For a 360 experience, tap on the 360 icon bottom left, while VR users should tap on the icon beside it.