Whether you're browsing for a bargain or just lusting after luxury goods, window shopping costs nothing, and it can be as much fun as actually purchasing and taking the objects of desire home — plus there's no credit card bill to worry over later on. These are some of our favorite places to look and not spend (or not spend much, anyway):
1. Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
Fifth Avenue — and a few stretches adjacent to it — is home to international haute couture boutiques and iconic American high-end retailers. Here the interior design and window displays are just as amazing as the merchandise, especially during the Christmas season. For the full experience, start in midtown, at Bergdorf Goodman. The luxury goods department store, established in 1899, is on the west side of Fifth Avenue, between 57th and 58th streets (Bergdorf's men's store is directly across from it, on the east side of the avenue). Continue walking down Fifth Avenue and along the way you'll pass Saks Fifth Avenue (between 49th and 50th streets) and Lord & Taylor (at 39th Street). At 34th Street make a slight detour west to hit the original Macy's, on Broadway at Herald Square.
2. Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles , California
Even before Julia Roberts went shopping here in the film Pretty Woman, the palm tree-lined Rodeo Drivewas synonymous with Hollywood luxury. The three-block-long Beverly Hills shopping district, between Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, has both high-end designers — Armani, Bijan, Brooks Brothers, Cartier, Chanel, Gucci — and more affordable stores, such as Banana Republic and Guess. Just don't plan a window-shopping excursion on Sunday, when most of the shops are closed and the windows are dark.
3. Maiden Lane, San Francisco
If you'd like to scout out the latest fashions, visit the charming, boutique-lined, two-block-long Maiden Lane, which is bordered by Geary and Post streets on one side and Stockton and Kearny streets on the other. It features such ultra-upscale retailers as Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent and Hermès. Between 11 and 5 on most days, the lane is closed to traffic and dotted with umbrella-shaded tables where you can order espresso drinks, fancy salads and light meals.
4. Magnificent Mile, Chicago
Walk along this 13-block stretch — at the northern part of Michigan Avenue, between the Chicago River and Lake Shore Drive — and you'll pass trendy boutiques, pricey hotels and landmark architecture. It's Chicago's Fifth Avenue, with 3.1 million square feet of shopping in about 460 stores, including Armani and Tiffany, and some 275 restaurants and 51 hotels. It attracts 22 million shoppers each year.
5. Aventura Mall, Miami
One of the five highest-grossing malls in the country and voted Best Local Shopping Destination by the readers of the Miami Herald, this 2.8-million-square-foot retail heaven, located on Biscayne Boulevard, is one of the best places to window-shop in all of South Florida. Bloomingdale's, Kenneth Cole, Nordstrom and Burberry are just some of the 300 or so stores you'll find here.