Nothing glitters as much as NYC in the winter. Vibrant colors and Christmas light displays mark the arrival of the holiday season, and some places really pull out all the stops. Take to the streets of NYC and witness some shining and twinkling light displays that would make the stars jealous. From returning favorites like the Tree at Rockefeller Center and Macy’s holiday windows, to over-the-top displays in Dyker Heights and LuminoCity Festival on Randall’s Island, here’s where the holiday spirit really shines! For more ideas on how to do Christmas in NYC with kids, click here!
One of the many light experiences happening this holiday season, the LuminoCity Festival is 12 acres of light art on Randall's Island. Creations include a skating unicorn and a castle "in the clouds." In addition to the fantastic light installations, a market on site will serve food and drink. Buses will run between West 125th Street 4,5,6 subway station every 30 minutes. FYI- tickets can be purchased as an add on during checkout only - tickets cannot be purchased on site.
Randall's Island Park
20 Randall's Island
Hello Panda Lantern Festival
This winter festival will celebrate the holiday season with a lantern park, diverse entertainment, food, modern art exhibitions, interactive games, cultural handcrafts, cultural heritage experiences, and live stage performances. It’s the largest ever lantern festival in New York, running from Dec. 6 through Jan. 26!
5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
123-01 Roosevelt Ave
Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
It's back! For the first time since 2007, the Bronx Zoo will feature dazzling light displays that will cover and sparkle acres of the zoo. Bigger, brighter and greener, the holiday celebration will light up the Bronx from November 21st to January 5th.
5 p.m.- 9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 5 p.m.- 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday
$29.95 adults/$22.95 kids
2300 Southern Blvd.
Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor
A newcomer to the lights displays, this gorgeous collection of playful light sculptures is a must-see. Featuring glowing lanterns in the shape of vibrant flowers, mushrooms, animals, jellyfish and more, this event lights up the night. Walk through a tunnel of light, enjoy cultural performances or just explore the many bright creations of this festival.
Through Jan. 12, 2020 (except on Mon. and Tues.)
1000 Richmond Terrace
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, this light show features colorful lighted lanterns that will be on display above visitors' heads for the duration of the exhibit. Stop by between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. to witness some spectacular light shows or simply create your own by accessing any of the three Wishing Stations situated on the ground floor. Make a digital "wish" and watch it come to life in the lanterns above!
Full schedule coming soon.
230 Vesey St.
Battery Park City
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.
Macy's theme for the year is "Believe in the Wonder" and it's presented by the main character “Santa Girl”, who teaches us about the power of magical thinking and reminds us we all have Santa’s spirit in our hearts. Traditional message, told through a suite of interactive, colorful and fun windows with an on-trend 80s vibe. Expect among other things: kaleidoscopes, gorgeous neon, the chance to insert your santa selfie in a scene and a big doggie who wags his tail when you scratch his nose.
Macy’s Herald Square
151 W 34th St.
Blooomingdale's celebrates the anniversary of the moon landing with a series of "Out of This World Holiday Windows" and in-store activations. Along the flagship store's Lexington Avenue windows you'll find interactive space-inspired scenes that are both high-tech and high-fashion. Examples: robotic arms that trim a tree in 30 minutes, a winter soiree that you can control with Google Home commands ("Hey Google, turn on the tree", and robotic arms playing instruments in real time (with visitors able to "join the band" and take a selfie.) Other fun inside includes visits with Santa, a VR space experience, and ice bar, and a GE “C-ing is Believing Experience” which features over 800 C by GE full Color Smart bulbs.
1000 Third Ave. at 59th St.
Upper East Side
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. Using LED lights and 3D projectors, a two-minute show plays out across the building's 10-story facade featuring some very familiar faces. The holiday windows this year are celebrating the cinematic release of Frozen 2, and are guaranteed to bring visitors to Arendelle like never before.
Sak's Fifth Ave.
611 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street
The Tree at Rockefeller Center
If you can brave the tourists and crowds, Rockefeller Center is a beautiful place to see some spectacular lights draped over the gigantic Christmas tree centerpiece while the iconic ice skating rink adds to the charm of the season. (You can also catch the Saks Fifth Avenue light while you're there.) Visit the spot to get into the holiday spirit!
30 Rockefeller Plaza
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 glitzy shopping malls to locals who go all out and foot the electric bill, these are other spots where Christmas lights and the holiday spirit really shine!
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 past 5 p.m. for a dazzling light show which begins every half hour on the hour.
Through Jan. 5, 2020
Show: 5 p.m.-midnight every half house, daily
The Shops at Columbus Circle
10 Columbus Circle
Ziggy in the Flatiron District
If you like your holiday lights a bit more abstract (but still lovely!) head to the Flatiron District to check out the winner of the sixth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. "Ziggy", by New York-based team Hou de Sousa, is a "polyvalent creature that strings together gateways, apertures, and seating." Composed of painted rebar and 27,000 feet of iridescent cord, the interactive installation is part of the Partnership’s “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” programming.
Nov. 18 - Jan. 1, 2020
Flatiron Public Plaza
Fun and funky Sunset Park shopping/eating/entertainment complex Industry City is a festive spot to spend some time during the holidays. Beginning December 5, lights will include an homage to the mega displays of Dyker Heights (see below), "a complete winter white out with an over-the-top decoration of white light" (whoa), and a giant snowflake. Industry City will also be hosting a cappella concerts, a holiday market featuring Brooklyn artisans in partnership with WantedDesign, and "Buddy the Elf" (a guy who is a double for Will Farrell in an elf suit) running around spreading holiday cheer.
220 36th St.
Lights Tour at Dyker Heights
Visit the neighborhood so festive that it has its very own holiday lights tour! For the 12th year, A Slice of Brooklyn will be running tours of the Dyker Heights lights displays, which are remarkable and strive to outdo thesmselves each year. The nabe draws hundreds of thousands of visitors during the holiday season, as this is one light display you don't want to miss. Please be aware that these are actual homes and people do live here: remind your family to be respectful.
83rd through 86th Sts.
and 11th through 13th Aves.
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.
—Yuliya Geikhman & Jesseca Stenson
Feature photo: Philip Alexander via Flickr