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Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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

By Jennifer Picht and Time Out contributors

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

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

1. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

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.

best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Filip Wolak

2. Rockefeller Center

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 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

3. Winter Village at Bryant Park

Things to do Markets and fairs

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Picasa/Central Par

4. Central Park Holiday Lighting

Things to do

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. 


5. Saks Fifth Avenue

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.

6. 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. 

Photograph: Courtesy Brookfield Place

7. Brookfield Place Winter Garden

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.

8. Time Warner Center

Shopping Shopping centers Upper West Side

The Shops at Columbus Circle take up the first seven levels of the enormous glass complex and include dozens of retail shops, such as Aveda, Bose, Borders, Coach and Whole Foods. Among the numerous bars and gourmet restaurants are Thomas Keller’s Per Se and the world-renowned Masa, with its $500 omakase menu.


9. Holiday Under the Stars

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. 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

10. Lincoln Center, Josie Robertson Plaza

Attractions 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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