Where to see Christmas lights in NYC

Get your camera ready for some seriously spectacular Christmas lights—NYC is coated with twinkling displays
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/m01229
By Jennifer Picht and Time Out contributors |

Every winter, the city gets covered in Christmas lights. NYC transforms into a dazzling winter wonderland once the best New York attractions start boasting their holiday wreaths, Christmas window displays and twinkle lights for all to see. 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 merriest time of year.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in New York

Best Christmas lights in NYC

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.

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 50,000 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.

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 (opened October 28). Apart from a free, open-to-the-public ice-skating rink, more than 150 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.

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Rolf's Restaurant
Restaurants, Austrian

Rolf’s Restaurant

icon-location-pin 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. 

Photograph: Courtesy Brookfield Place
Shopping, Shopping centers

Brookfield Place Winter Garden

icon-location-pin 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. In honor of the stunning arrangement, comprising 650 LED lanterns hanging from the ceiling, there will be a special lighting ceremony on Tuesday, November 28 at 5:30pm. Check it out and enjoy free performances, sweets and make sure to pack your skates and enjoy ice-skating along the waterfront.

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.

Photograph: Shutterstock

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.

best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Marianna O'Leary

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.

best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Phil Roeder
Hotels, Spa hotels

The Plaza Hotel

icon-location-pin 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?

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