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Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

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

Written by
Jennifer Picht
,
Shaye Weaver
&
Collier Sutter
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New York City transforms into a magical wonderland with millions of holiday lights right after Thanksgiving, giving us 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. More than ever, we're in need of some magic, so 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
  • 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.

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  • 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 5:15 on December 3, but the lights are illuminated all through the holiday season. 

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The Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Army Plaza
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

5. The Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Army Plaza

Fifth Avenue in midtown is lit up and has an incredible display of twinkling ornaments and Christmas trees at The Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Army Plaza, just across from The Plaza Hotel.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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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. 

  • Attractions
  • Upper West Side

Instead of a single tree this year, elements of this installation include the illumination of Josie Robertson Plaza, alternating between a warm and cool-colored light display; floating lanterns on the Paul Milstein Reflecting Pool in Hearst Plaza; and lights on trees throughout the campus. The installations become viewable around dusk and through the night, and will be on display through the New Year. 

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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