The NYC holiday season is here! That means lots of festive light shows and displays, like LuminoCity Festival on Randall’s Island, Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, plus a new display the New York Botanical Garden. Plus all the classics, like department store windows, Rockefeller Center and Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. Don’t forget Covid-safe drive-through displays on Long Island and beyond. Here’s where to find them all!
HOLIDAY LIGHTS IN NYC
LuminoCity Festival, an outdoor event rooted in the tradition of Chinese lantern festivals, returns for a 2020 season, with coronavirus precautions in place. This year's spectacular display is again on Randall's Island, and follows "Lumi", a lightbulb, on a new adventure through supersized and fantastic illuminated installations. Food trucks will be on hand to provide bites and beverages. Buses will run between East 125th Street 4,5,6 subway station every 30 minutes. For $68, you can get expedited entry along with a Lumi nightlight, wristband and discount at the gift store.
Tickets must be purchased in advance. Masks and temperature checks are required.
Tickets: $38/adults; $32/seniors & students, $22/ages 3-12
Nov.27-Jan. 10, 4 - 10 p.m., daily
Randall's Island Park
20 Randall's Island
Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
Travel the world thanks to larger-than-life illuminated lanterns and light displays in the form of creatures from Asia, Africa, under the sea and beyond. This year's Bronx Zoo event will feature an 50 more lighted animals than 2019's display, as well as holiday-themed music, ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs and seasonal treats like hot chocolate and s’mores. (They're upping the number of s’more fire pits, too.)
Tickets must be reserved in advance; masks are required for all guests three and older. Note that parking at the zoo is $17 and should be purchased online as well.
Nov. 20, 2020-Jan. 10, 2021
5 p.m.- 9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 5 p.m.- 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday
Tickets: $34.95/adults; $31.95/seniors, $22.95/kids ages 3-12
2300 Southern Blvd.
GLOW at the New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden will be hosting GLOW, an all-new outdoor experience for the 2020 holiday season. The event will illuminate the garden's landmark landscape and its iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, creating a glowing world of color and light. Expect washes of brilliant colors, thousands of dazzling lights, and picture-perfect installations filling the Reflecting Pool and enlivening surrounding gardens and collections. GLOW will also feature artistic ice carving displays, roving dancers and musicians and more outdoor fun. Tickets fo on sale November 10.
Nov. 27 & 28; Dec. 5, 12, 18, 19, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30; Jan. 1, 2, & 9, 5–10 p.m.
Tickets: $30/adults; $18/kids 2-12, free/kids two and under
2900 Southern Blvd.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS ON LONG ISLAND
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Magic of Lights
You don't even need to get out of your car for this one! Magic of Lights is a two-and-a-half mile drive-through experience in Jones Beach State Park. The display features favorite holiday scenes and characters of the season, created using the latest LED technology and digital animations. Highlights include a drive-through "Blizzard Tunnel", 12 Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland and The Night Before Christmas. Also: the Toyota Mega Tree Spectacular featuring favorite holiday programming displayed across 240 feet of LED Christmas trees.
It's affordable, too, at just $25 per car if you purchase online in advance! (Receive $3 off weekday admission when you bring at least two non-perishable food items benefiting Long Island food banks.)
Nov. 13, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021; 5-10 p.m. weekdays; 5-11p.m. Fri-Sun.
Tickets: $25/advance; $30/at gate weekdays, $35 at gate Fri.-Sun.
Jones Beach State Park
1 Ocean Pkwy
Magic of Lights, New Jersey
Jones Beach not convenient? You can also catch the Magic of Lights in New Jersey at the PNC BANK ARTS CENTER.
Tickets: $25/advance; $30/at gate weekdays, $35 at gate Fri.-Sun.
Nov. 13, 2020 - Jan. 2, 2021, Sun. - Thurs., 5 - 10 p.m.; Fri. - Sat. 5-11 p.m.
116 Garden State Pkwy.
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Riverhead Holiday Light Show
The Riverhead Holiday Light Show is the largest drive-through light show in Suffolk County, with dozens of dazzling displays. (This year features more than ever, with lots of new light creations.) The lights "dance" in time with festive holiday music, and proceeds benefit area non-profits. The show is open select dates beginning November 19, 2020, through the end of December! Note: tickets purchased online are valid any day the Riverhead Holiday Light Show is open, with one visit per ticket. The experience lasts about 25 minutes.
Nov. 19-Dec. 30
Long Island Sports Park
149 Edwards Ave.
Smith Point Light Show
The Girl Scouts of Suffolk County on Long Island are back with this one-and-a-half-mile trail of dazzling holiday light displays at Smith Point County Park Campgrounds. Expect new designs from the scouts themselves and some returning favorites. Proceeds benefit Girl Scout programs for girls and families across Suffolk County; girl scouts can get a discount on tickets as well as two badges. Hot tip: ask for the "fireworks glasses" for extra visual fun!
Tickets: $20/car, pre-sale; $22/car, online; $25/car, at gate
Dec. 1 - Dec. 30, except Dec. 24 & 25
Smith Point County Park Campground
Fire Island Beach Rd.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS IN THE CATSKILLS
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Peace, Love & Lights
Site of the Woodstock Music Festival, the Bethel Center for the Arts is hosting Peace, Love & Lights, a completely contact-free, drive-thru show. With over one mile of illuminated light displays it features a spectacular 120-foot Twinkle Tunnel as well as themed areas, such as Groovy Way (taking you on a trip back to ’69 with custom displays), an Enchanted Forest highlighting the Sullivan Catskills, Snowflake Alley, Santa’s Workshop ands more. A walk-through option is also available.
For additional fees, you can also book a socially-distant dinner with Santa, toast up some s'mores and visit the museum dedicated to the music fest.
Nov. 23-Jan. 3, 5-10 p.m.
Bethel Center for the Arts
200 Hurd Rd.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS IN PENNSYLVANIA
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Sesame Place Furry & Bright Christmas Drive-Thru
Brand new for the 2020 season is Sesame Place's Furry & Bright Christmas Drive-Thru. Roll through a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling lights, holiday décor, a festive Christmas soundtrack, and everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends dressed in their warm winter best. Guests will be greeted along the way by their furry friends dressed in their warm winter best atop festive floats. Other highlights include giant Candy Canes, Snowflake Way, an illuminated nine-foot menorah, and to cap off the trail, the jolly man himself, Santa Claus, wishing everyone a happy holiday season.
Nov. 10 - Dec. 23, 5-8 p.m.
100 Sesame Rd.
Free Traditional Favorites, No Tickets Required
Luminaries at Brookfield Place
Create your own light show with Luminaries, the annual interactive light show at Brookfield Place. Designed and created in collaboration with the LAB at Rockwell Group, the display features colorful lanterns suspended in the enclosed Winter Garden public courtyard. Light shows, set to winter season tunes, take place daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
This year's installation will feature touchless wishing stations, allowing visitors to send a motion-activated wish to the canopy of lanterns above, prompting a magical display of lights and colors.
For each wish, Brookfield Place will donate $1, up to $25,000 to ROAR (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants), which supports New York City restaurant employees facing unprecedented economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nov. 27, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021
230 Vesey St.
Battery Park City
Holiday Under the Stars at Columbus Circle
The Shops at Columbus Circle are back with the annual Holiday Under the Stars display. The installation can be seen from every floor and features 14-foot, specialty-crafted stars which light up from the inside for a spectacular view. Visit from 4-7 p.m. for a dazzling light show which begins every half hour on the hour.
Through Dec. 24, 2020
Show: 4-7 p.m., every 30 minutes
The Shops at Columbus Circle
10 Columbus Circle
photo: Mimi O’Connor
The Department Store Holiday Window Displays
It’s a New York Christmas tradition to head to the big departments stores to not only shop, but check out the festive displays, which draw crowds all season long.
For 2020, Macy's dedicates the widows of its flagship store on 34th Street to first responders, essential workers, marchers for equality and resilient New Yorkers. The store's windows will express gratitude and thanks for the heroes of this challenging year, with an overarching theme of "Give. Love. Believe." Six windows will feature animated and interactive scenes of Macy's elves decorating, New York City during the holidays, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Santa and more.
Additionally, Macy’s will present new digital windows on 34th Street that celebrate the magic of Santa Claus at Macy’s, and give visitors an opportunity to engage in fun and interactive games.
The Herald Square windows are on view Nov. 19, 2020-Jan. 1, 2021. Macy's in downtown Brooklyn will feature a similar display, on view from Nov. 27, 2020-Jan. 1, 2021.
Macy’s Herald Square
151 W 34th St.
This year, the Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship holiday windows are inspired by the spirit and sentiment of the brand's colorful “Give Happy” campaign. Each window is dedicated to a single hue and sentiment such as "Give Love" and "Give Light." Windows feature video wall backgrounds and mirrored sides creating a vibrant "infinity-type" glow. Two of the windows even smell of evergreens and peppermint!
1000 Third Ave. at 59th St.
Upper East Side
Hudson Yards debuts a new light display dubbed, “Shine Bright.” The holiday décor presented by
includes over two million twinkling lights, or 115 miles of string lights! The whole complex shimmers inside and out, with The Vessel, Edge, The Shops, and The Public Square and Gardens adorned in lights. Plus: illuminated giant hot air balloons! (P.S. you can visit the North Pole and Santa via augmented reality at Hudson Yards!)
Through Jan. 3, 2021
10th Ave. & 34th St.
Not a window, but an entire building wrapped up in a big red bow—plus, the iconic Cartier panthers illuminated and sitting atop, or scaling the building. Simple and stunning in person.
653 Fifth Ave. between 51st & 52nd
The Tree at Rockefeller Center
There's no public tree lighting this year (you can catch it on NBC on December 2, from 7-10 p.m.) but you can go see the illuminated tree at Rockefeller Center. You can visit the tree daily from 6 a.m.-midnight, and on Christmas Day, it's lit for 24 hours. On New Year's Eve, you can visit from 6 a.m. - 9 p.m. (You can also catch the Saks Fifth Avenue light while you're there.) Visit the spot to get into the holiday spirit!
Dec. 2-Jan. 2021
30 Rockefeller Plaza
The Windows at Sak's Fifth Ave
Sak's warrants its own section thanks to a huge light show it puts on every 10 minutes and it's all-new this year. Using LED lights and 3D projectors, a two-minute show plays out across the building's 10-story facade. The music accompanying the light show is a world-premiere medley saluting different holiday traditions, including José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad," the theme from holiday film favorite Love Actually, Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" and more.
The store's windows are dedicated to the theme, "This is How We Celebrate." The center six windows showcase how different people celebrate in iconic settings around the city, with scenes such as a musical celebration on in Times Square, a classic barber shop with kids and their pets, and a friendly competition of holiday lights and decor at neighboring houses in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. (More on that, below.)
Sak's Fifth Ave.
611 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street
Big Bunches of Cheer on Sixth Avenue
If you're in Rockefeller Center, it's a quick walk over to Sixth Avenue and 50th Street, where you'll not only find Radio City Music Hall decked out for the holidays, but some oversized decorations that make for fun photo ops. A set of cheery larger-than-life red Christmas ornaments and an enormous string of lights can't be missed on the west side of the street.
1251 Sixth Ave.
From locals who go all out and foot the electric bill to neighborhood installations, these are other spots where Christmas lights and the holiday spirit really shine!
Ziggy in the Seaport District
If you like your holiday lights a bit more abstract (but still lovely!) head to 200 Water Street to check out "giant kaleidoscope" "Ziggy," hosted by the Downtown Alliance. Composed of painted rebar and 27,000 feet of iridescent cord, the piece is a project of New York-based team Hou de Sousa. The artists describe it as a "polyvalent creature that strings together gateways, apertures, and seating," which sounds great for exploring and snapping photos with the kids. (Look familiar? It was in the Flatiron District last year, the winner of the sixth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition.)
Now through Winter 2021
200 Water St.
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
This southern Brooklyn neighborhood goes all out with what at this point, are world-famous Christmas displays. You can visit on your own and stroll the blocks from (roughly) 83rd to 86th Street, or sign-up for a tour from A Slice of Brooklyn. The company is now in its 13th year of guiding people through the lights. (Tickets are $55/adults, $45/kids, with buses leaving from Manhattan. Organizers say buses have been equipped Covid-19 precautions, masks are required and temperatures of passengers will be taken before boarding.)
Word to the wise: If at all possible, go on a weeknight to avoid huge crowds.
81st through 86th Streets & 11th through 13th Avenues (approximately).
Joe DiMartino's Winter Wonderland on Staten Island
One man has managed to nearly surpass the department stores in sheer brightness and spirit of giving. Joe DiMartino's house is a magnificent sight to behold every winter as he fills it with intricate displays, colorful decorations, and plenty of lights to please the eyes. He began the tradition in honor of his wife's death in the September 11 tragedy, and now uses the public attention he's received to raise money for a local hospital's children's cancer ward. Stop by to marvel at the displays, and drop a donation in the bin for a good cause.
107 Sharrotts Rd.
Santa's Corner in Whitestone
After taking a break for a year due to traffic concerns from onlookers, this awesome Queens house is back and better than ever. Put together by retired firefighter Kevin Lynch and his family, the light display is amazing to behold in person. Lynch once claimed that his goal is to be seen from the moon — he might not be quite there yet, but it certainly comes close.
23rd Ave. & 166th St.
—Mimi O’Connor & Jesseca Stenson