Get us in your inbox

Search
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape
Photograph: courtesy Sony Music

Where to see stunning holiday lights in NYC

The most stunning holiday lights NYC has to offer make spending the holidays in the city even more magical

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Advertising

Since New York City transforms into a magical wonderland with millions of holiday lights right after Thanksgiving, it's good to know where to find the best Christmas lights in NYC.

We'll see over-the-top inflatable Santas and reindeer found at the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn to more iconic New York displays, such as in Central Park, Rockefeller Center and at Saks Fifth Avenue. Take it all in and get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” at these landmarks, holiday markets and neighborhoods that create the most picturesque holiday light displays during the holiday season.

You can find even more on our Google map!

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in New York

Best Christmas lights in NYC

  • Things to do

On the day after Thanksgiving, the neighborhood of Dyker Heights undergoes a transformation, as residents along several blocks in the area festoon their homes with elaborate holiday decorations. And we're not talking about a Christmas tree or a simple nativity scene: Among the kitschy pieces you might see are life-size reindeer, huge inflatable Santas and snowmen, Christmas carols blaring from loudspeakers and tens of thousands of lights.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Fifth Avenue's Pulitzer Fountain has transformed into a winter wonderland for the holiday season. The Fifth Avenue Association has unveiled its "The Fifth Season" installation featuring 32 hand-crafted animal sculptures by Harlequin Designs in Brooklyn, 5,000 feet of lighting, a skating rink and 24 handmade icebergs surrounding the Pulitzer Fountain, all accompanied by music from composer Paul Brill. The installation builds on last year’s "Make It Bright" series of glowing oversized toys, including a teddy bear, dreidel and red truck adorning Fifth Avenue from 47th to 60th Streets. You can see more photos and share your own by using the hashtag #TheFifthSeason, tagging @fifthavenue, @harlequindesign, @bychorus and charity partner @cityharvestnyc.

Advertising
  • Art
  • Art

Lovers of art: the Flatiron is home to a new, only-in-NYC piece that is sure to delight you. "Interwoven" is a new interactive installation by design firm Atelier Cho Thompson now on display in the Flatiron North Public Plaza on Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street. The piece, which seeks to celebrate the joys involved in being able to physically interact again, is the winner of the annual Flatiron Plaza Holiday Design Competition and will stay put through January 2, 2022. The experience is made up of backlit papers that are hung on a grid and invite those walking by to share their response to the prompt: "I dream of a world where together we can..." According to an official press release regarding the installation, the specific prompt was selected by Youth Fellows from the People's Bus NYC, a community-led, intergenerational initiative that focuses on engaging people in the city's civic life "through beauty and joy."

  • Things to do
  • Midtown West

Yes, Rockefeller Center is a major tourist trap during the holidays, but you can’t deny it’s beauty. (You can be a jaded New Yorker without being a total a Grinch.) Folks travel near and far to hit the slick stuff and ogle the humungous Norway Spruce covered in thousands of LED lights, as well as the golden angels and other illuminated shrubberies. Needless to say, this inviting landmark certainly brings it’s A-game in terms of spreading holiday cheer.

Advertising
  • Things to do

For more than 20 years, the Central Park Conservancy has been draping the Charles A. Dana Center in holiday lights and ringing in the season alongside a hot-cocoa-bearing Santa. This year, the lighting will be virtual—families can listen in or join in for some holiday carols, while ice carvers from Okamoto Studios carve a nutcracker and a polar bear on site. The event is scheduled for 5:30pm on December 2, but the lights are illuminated all through the holiday season. 

  • Things to do
  • Midtown West

Catch some dazzling set pieces and over a million lights at Hudson Yards during the "Shine Bright at Hudson Yards" event. The complex will be completely covered in 115-miles of string lights, 725 evergreen trees, 16-foot-tall illuminated set-pieces in the shape of hot air balloons throughout the public square and gardens and a 32-foot-tall hot air balloon centerpiece suspended in The Great Room of The Shops and Restaurants.

Advertising
  • Shopping
  • Department stores
  • Midtown East

Saks Fifth Avenue’s ten-story facade makes this department store a can’t-miss stop on your Christmas lights tour. In the past, festive LED light projections included “Snowflake Spectacular,” and a yeti, who according to a tie-in tale by Daily Monster creator Stefan J. Bucher, came down from Siberia to live on the roof of the department store. The usually two-minute show repeats every seven to eight minutes and ties in with the holiday display in the store's 12 windows.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is bringing a gorgeous, new after-dark illuminated spectacular to its grounds in November. Between November 19 and January 9, visitors to BBG will be able to walk through the Cathedral of Light tunnel, a Fire Garden on Lily Pool Terrace, a Field of Light and an animated light installation covering Cherry Esplanade (and visible from the Robert W. Wilson Overlook). Colorful light displays highlighting the garden’s trees, landscapes, and architecture with more than 18 distinct works of light art and a series of light-based artworks by local artists will be installed in the Plant Family Collection. "Lightscape" is coming to BBG in partnership with Sony Music. It was launched at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London in 2014 and has sold out year after year across the U.K. and in Chicago. This is currently the only East Coast Lightscape (lucky, us!).

Advertising
  • Shopping
  • Shopping centers
  • Battery Park City

Get your camera ready for this one! Out of all the dazzling Christmas lights in New York, one of the festive displays we can't wait to see is the Luminaries installation at Brookfield Place. The arrangement, comprising 650 LED lanterns hanging from the ceiling, is truly stunning. Check it out and enjoy free performances, sweets and make sure to pack your skates and enjoy ice-skating along the waterfront.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for the 2021 season with three major events that will help illuminate the cold season! There's currently a drive-through experience at the Nassau County Museum of Art calle d"A Bug’s Night" that lets you navigate across over 20 acres of vivid lanterns and holiday lights. There's also an escape at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. The botanic garden will be illuminated for over eight acres. In addition to the lantern display, a live DJ, projection mapping, food vendors, and more will keep the party going. This kicks off on Thanksgiving, which lands on November 25 this year. Queens County Farm will also be a radiant oasis with a dazzling display of holiday lights and handmade lanterns in the shape of flowers, tractors, farm animals and much more. 

 

Advertising
  • Things to do

Join Santa Claus on Wednesday, December 8, at 6 pm, around the Washington Square Park tree for its annual lighting. The Rob Susman Brass Quartet will play holiday songs and the Washington Square Association will provide songbooks.

  • Shopping
  • Shopping centers
  • Upper West Side

Take a break from Christmas shopping and check out Time Warner Center’s state-of-the-art holiday light display. The spectacle features a dozen 14-foot LED stars that do a colorful “dance,” flashing more than 16.7 million color mixes in time to classic Yuletide tunes at 4pm each day. You’ll be so moved, you won’t even care that you maxed out your MasterCard getting Aunt Judy that back massager she’s been wanting.

Advertising
Rolf’s Restaurant
  • Restaurants
  • Austrian
  • Gramercy

This bar and grill combines traditional German food and beer with a healthy serving of kitsch, notably with its annual Christmas decorations. Year-round, you can enjoy a wide range of German dishes, especially meats and sausages, while an array of faux medieval paintings peaks out behind obsessively entwined oak branches. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs

Before Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park has already been attracting the masses (it opened before Halloween). Apart from a free, open-to-the-public ice-skating rink, more than 60 holiday shops and outstanding food, this holiday market attracts passersby with its stunning display of holiday lights adorning the park grounds, including its larger-than-life Christmas tree. Even if you’re simply passing by this Christmas utopia, take a moment to grab some hot cocoa, sit back and admire the magic.

Advertising
  • Theater
  • Midtown West

Home to the incredible, high-kicking Rockettes (on hiatus this year), Radio City Music Hall is one of the most cheerful and well-lit landmarks during the merriest time of year. It’s no shock since the venue is known for its always-packed holiday show: Radio City Christmas Spectacular. It’s twinkling Christmas tree is certainly captivating enough to make us want to stop and take a photo or two.

  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels
  • Midtown West

While taking a winter stroll through the iconic Central Park, it’s worth stopping by the Plaza Hotel to enjoy the hospitable venue’s lovely holiday decorations. From Christmas wreaths adorned with ornaments, to pine-covered trimmings covered with rows of white lights, the view could cheer up even the Scroogiest New Yorker.

Need to get into the Christmas spirit?

Recommended

    More on Christmas

      You may also like
        Advertising