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Where to see Christmas lights in NYC

The most stunning Christmas lights NYC has to offer make spending the holidays in the city even more magical
Photograph: Teddy Wolff
By Jennifer Picht and Time Out contributors |
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Around Thanksgiving in NYC, the city transforms into a magical wonderland with all the Christmas lights. NYC displays range from over-the-top à la inflatable Santas and reindeer found at the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn to simplier but just as festive versions—like the display in Central Park. Revel in the magic 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.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in New York

Best Christmas lights in NYC

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Photograph: Teddy Wolff
Things to do

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

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.

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best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Things to do

Rockefeller Center

icon-location-pin 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 shrubbery. Needless to say, this inviting landmark certainly brings it’s A-game in terms of spreading holiday cheer.

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Winter Village at Bryant Park
Photograph: Courtesy Bryant Park Corporation
Things to do, Markets and fairs

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Before Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park will already be attracting the masses (opens October 27). Apart from a free, open-to-the-public ice-skating rink, more than 170 holiday shops, outstanding food and tons of planned seasonal activities, this holiday market attracts passerby with it’s 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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Picasa/Central Par
Things to do

Central Park Holiday Lighting

It just wouldn’t be the holidays if the city weren’t using up enough electricity in a month to power a small country for a decade. 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. Families can listen or open a songbook to join in with the Mistletones for some holiday carols. Ice carvers from Okamoto Studios will be carving a nutcracker and a polar bear on site and everyone can watch while they much on some cookies and cocoa. The event with all the fixings is on November 29, 2018, but the lights are illuminated all through the holiday season. 

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best christmas lights nyc
Shopping, Department stores

Saks Fifth Avenue

icon-location-pin 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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Rolf's Restaurant
Restaurants, Austrian

Rolf’s Restaurant

icon-location-pin Gramercy & Flatiron

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. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Brookfield Place
Shopping, Shopping centers

Brookfield Place Winter Garden

icon-location-pin Financial District

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.

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Photograph: Jessica Lin
Shopping, Shopping centers

Holiday Under the Stars

icon-location-pin 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. 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.

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Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions

Lincoln Center, Josie Robertson Plaza

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

There are many stunning Christmas trees in NYC, but the bushy spruce erected in Lincoln Center’s main plaza is one of the prettiest. The tree, adorned in glowing white and blue snowflakes, is just another seasonal signifier that Santa Claus is coming to town.

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best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Marianna O'Leary
Theater

Radio City Music Hall

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Home to the incredible, high-kicking Rockettes, 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.

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