Brighten up the holiday season in the Big Apple—it’s unquestionably one of the most stellar spots in the world to enjoy the holiday season. And come Christmas time, NYC transforms into a winter wonderland, where you’ll find crowds swarming famous landmarks, unique events gathering within more intimate hideaways, as well as festivities and illuminated decorations of all kinds all throughout town.
Get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” over holiday wreaths, Christmas trees, and some seriously spectacular Christmas lights during the most wonderful time of year. No one does it bigger and brighter than the Empire State, so grab those shades and stroll through an endless parade of magnificence and luminance by running towards these seven best places in NYC to see Christmas lights.
Head To These 7 Places To See The Best Holiday Lights In NYC
Rockefeller Center gets in the Christmas spirit with these beautiful lights. (Anthony Quintano/Flickr)
1. Rockefeller Center
Since the Depression-era, this massive and postcard-picture worthy spruce has drawn in holiday enthusiasts from all around the globe. Dressed in tens of thousands of environmentally friendly LED lights, golden angels, oversized wreaths, toy soldiers, and other illuminated shrubbery, it really is a must-do for anyone at least once in a lifetime-- especially the iconic Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, which always rocks n’ rolls with amazement. It’s no wonder why folks travel near and far each year to ogle at the humungous Norway Spruce because it’s safe to say that the inviting landmark always manages to spread around tons of holiday cheer.
While in the area, be sure to pair the spectacle with a show at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or to dance the night away at the Rainbow Room. Bring the little kiddies along for Breakfast with Santa as well. It’ll be a Christmas to remember for sure!
No one does Fifth Avenue Christmas lights better than Saks Fifth Avenue. Enjoy! (malone545/Flickr)
2. Fifth Avenue
What’s NYC without a stroll down the world-famous Fifth Avenue—and especially so at Christmastime?! Come the holiday season, iconic stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Tiffany and Co., all try to outdo each other with spectacularly eye-catching window displays that, as of late, often feature multimedia collaborations with well-known artists. It really is the Big Apple’s most storied shopping strip and will for sure make you feel warm, fuzzy, and totally alive with pure holiday spirit.
What’s even better is that hotels along the prestigious promenade also make a show of it with their very own shimmering extravaganzas: Highlights typically include The Peninsula New York (at 55th St.) and The Plaza (at 59th St.). Oh, and don’t forget to look up into the skies to catch the shimmering UNICEF snowflake that dangles overhead on 57th Street-- it's crafted out of 16,000 hand-cut Baccarat crystals! Sweet.
Time Warner Center does a beautiful display of holiday lights. Bring your camera! (Andrew Dallos/Flickr)
3. Holiday Under the Stars
Take a break from high end Christmas shopping to check out Time Warner Center’s state-of-the-art holiday lights. The Shops at Columbus Circle house one of the largest specialty-crafted displays of illuminated color-mixing in the world, as shoppers can look on in amazement at dozens of 14-foot stars hanging from the ceiling of the 150-foot Great Room—each are choreographed to reflect a changing color scheme and
magically flash and flicker along with festive holiday tunes.
What’s more is that in addition to the world class shops already on site in the mall, there’s also the Columbus Circle Holiday Market set just across the street. Find gifts galore, along with additional sightings of one-of-a-kind holidays display.
You'll love the miniature train set at the Botanical Garden during the holidays. (Salim Virji/Flickr)
4. New York Botanical Garden
Those wanting something more family friendly and to enjoy the holiday spirit without having to brave the Manhattan crowds should escape to the Bronx, where the New York Botanical Garden always excites visitors with an impressive Holiday Train Show. Holiday lovers will be surrounded by illuminated trees that all take in the gardens' seasonal offerings, as well as handsome model trains zooming past 150 replicas of famous NYC landmarks along a quarter-mile track.
This truly is an inviting cold-weather holiday experience for adults and kids alike, so bundle up and explore the gardens' 250 acres of attractive landscapes before stopping to watch ice sculpture demonstrations and illuminated "Light Up the Night" performances on site. Make sure not to miss out on the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a stunning example of Victorian-style glasshouse artistry that always dresses up nicely for Christmas.
Go skating at the Bank of America Winter Village to celebrate the season. (Shinya Suzuki/Flickr)
5. Bank of America Winter Village
Well known as one of the best spots in the entire city for a comprehensive one-stop holiday experience, the Bank of America Winter Village takes over Bryant Park every holiday season with over a hundred pop-up shops that lend a European-style Christmas market atmosphere. It also boasts Manhattan’s only admission-free skating rink as well as numerous eateries and snack bars all sitting in the shadow of a giant Norway spruce.
The festivities typically begin right as Jack Frost starts nipping at the nose in late October or early November and the holiday market always attracts passerbyers with a stunning display of holiday lights that adorn the park grounds. Get ready to admire the magic and mystery of the season within a Christmas utopia that’s bedecked with more than 30,000 white-and-red lights and over 3,000 ornaments. Good cheer and Christmas wonder await.
See the world's largest menorah at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. It's totally cool. (photo-gator/Flickr)
6. World’s Largest Menorah
For eight nights every holiday season, Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza welcomes thousands of visitors to gather round a 32-foot slash 4,000-pound menorah that’s been deemed as the largest in the world. Have yourself an incredibly Happy Hanukkah by enjoying the annual Jewish Festival of Lights, beginning usually in mid-December, with a bunch of community leaders and special guests who all take part in a massive public celebration of live music, special gifts for children, hot latkes, and phenomenal candle lights for all to see.
People in Dyker Heights say "YOLO" to their electric bills and go all-out for Christmas. (actoraine/Flickr)
7. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Come Black Friday of each year, the neighborhood of Dyker Heights undergoes a stunning transformation, as residents along several blocks begin dressing up their homes with elaborate holiday decorations. From simple Christmas trees or a recreation of the nativity scene, to more kitschy pieces like life-size reindeer, huge inflatable Santas, Christmas carols blaring from loudspeakers, and tens of thousands of twinkle lights, "Dyker Lights” has long earned the title of NYC’s best neighborhood sampling of holiday home decorations.
Follow the crowds and tour buses out to southwestern Brooklyn and make sure to stare at the array of eye-popping displays that can be found from 83rd to 86th Streets, or between 11th and 13th Avenues. More than a couple hundred homes participate each year, so you’re sure to see miles and miles of lights draped over every surface in sight.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.