Every year around mid-November, New York City transforms into a magical, winter wonderland where you can find all manner of dazzling New York Christmas lights displays.
But, just where can you find these best NYC Christmas lights of awesome? Well, let me be your guide and show you the way!
After all, I’ve lived in New York for well over 30 years and know exactly where to find next-level magical New York Christmas lights shows that the entire family will love.
So, put that generic guidebook down and come with me as we discover all of the places that locals go to see New York Christmas lights every single year.
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After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
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Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.
Best New York Christmas Lights in Brooklyn
1. Dyker Heights
Without a doubt, the Dyker Heights Christmas lights are the single best New York Christmas lights of the holiday season.
Because residents of this uber-fancy Brooklyn neighborhood come together annually to create an insane, over-the-top holiday light displays that might just be visible from space.
Just kidding. It’s really not but this NYC Christmas lights display is so intense that these decorations can easily cost upwards of $20,000 to set up.
So, feel free to stop by any time after Thanksgiving and see what all the fuss is about as you enjoy a wide array of animatronic angels, soldiers, Santas, reindeer, and more.
You can also hit up the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights between 11th and 13th Avenues and between 83rd and 86th Streets.
Just be aware of the fact that Dyker Heights is NOT super close to Manhattan. Therefore, it will probably take you about an hour to get here using the subway.
That’s why I’d book a 4-hour bus tour of the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights instead. This way, you can avoid the subway altogether and enjoy seeing the lights from the comfort of a climate-controlled bus.
Pro Tip: Book your tour tickets well in advance since they sell out quickly. But, if you choose to visit Dyker Heights independently, bring a hot beverage and dress warmly since you’ll be outside for a while. Also get some food from one of the restaurants on 3rd, 4th, or 5th avenue.
Address: From 83rd St. to 86th St. between Eleventh Ave. and Thirteenth Ave, in Dyker Heights Brooklyn.
Hours: Lights come on after sundown (best seen between 5 pm and 9 pm), daily, from late November through early January (You can avoid the crowds if you visit after Christmas).
Price: Free or $56 per person for the tour.
How to Get There: Take the D train from Rockefeller Center to 71st Street station and walk from there.
2. Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Enjoy all that Brooklyn has to offer this holiday season with a walk through the illuminated pathways of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Bedazzled with upwards of one million lights, families will love taking in the ethereal beauty of nature as they make their way from 990 Washington Avenue to 150 Eastern Parkway.
So, enjoy an expertly curated, holiday-themed soundtrack as you discover the Winter Cathedral tunnel, the Fire Garden at Lily Pool Terrace, the Sea of Light, and a fully-animated light display that adorns the Cherry Esplanade.
Because this is one of the best New York Christmas lights displays that includes a total of 18 innovative works, with several pieces from multi-talented local artists that are displayed in the Plant Family Collection.
Pro Tip: Try and allow between an hour and an hour and a half to see all of this amazing event. Also, be sure to bring a credit card since most of the vendors here are cashless.
Address: 990 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Hours: Open November 19th through January 9th from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm (this is final admission but the facility itself closes at 9:30 pm).
Price: Tickets are $34 for adults, $18 for kids, and free for anyone 2 and under.
How to Get There: Take the 2/3 train to Brooklyn Museum and Eastern Parkway and Brooklyn Museum Station and walk from there.
Best New York Christmas Lights in the Bronx
3. New York Botanical Garden Glow
Looking for some of the best New York Christmas lights displays of them all? If so then say hello to a relatively recent addition to the list, the New York Botanical Glow extravaganza.
Because unlike the popular New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show, this exciting NYC Christmas lights display is only in its second year.
Therefore, you have the unique opportunity to do something brand-spankin’ new this Christmas in NYC.
And trust me, you’ll want to book your ticket NOW since this incredible, outdoor NYC holiday lights display is a 1.5-mile experience that takes over the grounds of the Botanical Gardens, with the awe-inspiring Haupt Conservatory and Mertz Library Building sitting at the center of it all.
So, stop by and marvel at the vibrant, electric hue of these magnificent LED lights. And while you’re here, enjoy other, super snazzy things like ice carving demos, live dance performances, and pop-up holiday snack bars with delectable hot cocoa and various other treats for sale.
Yessiree, it’ll be festive fun for the entire family as you check out some of the best Christmas lights in NYC and make memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
Pro Tip: You can save big by purchasing a combination ticket to both the Holiday Train Show AND the NYBG Glow event.
Address: 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10458-5126
Hours: Open from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm daily between November 24th and January 22nd.
Price: Tickets are $35 for adults, $20 for children, and free for anyone 2 and under.
How to Get There: Take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd. Station. From here take the B26 bus east to the Botanical Garden’s Mosholu Entrance.
4. The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights Show
Channel your inner child and celebrate your adoration for the world’s animal kingdom by attending the Bronx Zoo’s annual holiday lights show.
See, this is one of the best New York Christmas lights displays that starts on November 19th and runs all the way through to January 9th.
It also features a series of immersive light displays, 260+ vibrant animal lanterns, and dazzling light shows that take over the entire zoo grounds every evening.
Other spectacular event highlights include live performances, delicious holiday-inspired treats, stilt walkers, a festive train, ice carving demos, a wildlife-themed theater, characters in costume, etc.
So, take a leisurely stroll through vibrant tunnels as you listen to holiday music and admire moving sculptures that represent more than 70 different species of plants and animals.
Pro Tip: Dress really warmly since this event is outside and can get really cold.
Address: 2300 Southern Boulevard Bronx, New York,10460
Hours: Holiday lights come on at 4:30 pm but tickets can be purchased for 3:00 pm (ideal if you want to see real animals), 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, and 8:00 pm time slots.
Price: $39.95 for adults, $24.95 for kids (3-12), and $34.95 for seniors (65+).
How to Get There: Take the 2 train to the Pelham Parkway station and then catch an uber from there.
Best New York Christmas Lights in Manhattan
5. Rockefeller Center
Without a doubt, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and Rockefeller Center as a whole are home to some of the best New York Christmas lights of them all.
I mean, what’s more iconic than the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree? Nothing, that’s what. Especially since there’s a quaint little ice skating rink sitting just beneath the base of the tree.
Plus, the ceremonial lighting of this ginormous Christmas Tree is kind of a big deal since it’s accompanied by celebrity performances and is a nationally televised event. So, feel free to attend in person or watch it live on TV.
Other than that, just marvel at the angels playing trumpets all around you, as you take photos, avoid the heinous crowds, and take in the area’s many holiday window displays (FYI, to avoid the crowds, visit Christmas Day, after Christmas, or early on a weekday morning).
City Winery has also set up four heated igloos here for you to relax in. So, if you have a bunch of friends and can spend a minimum of $150 on drinks and food, then be sure to make a reservation STAT.
Pro Tip: Avoid skating in Rockefeller Center. The rink is small, tickets are expensive, and lines are long. Instead, skate at the rink on the North end of Central Park since it’s cheap and a whole lot less crowded.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, New York
Hours: Open all day daily.
How to Get There: Take the M50 bus to E 50th street and walk from there. It’s also a 10-minute walk from Times Square.
6. Central Park Holiday Lighting
When you dream of NYC Christmas Lights, I bet the FIRST thing that comes to mind is the Christmas Tree Lighting in Rockefeller Center.
And while this is probably the most famous New York Christmas lights display of them all, you may want to escape (at least some of) the hordes of selfie stick-wielding tourists and go to the Central Park Holiday Lighting instead.
I mean, not only is it infinitely less crowded than the Rockefeller Center event but it’s been around for well over twenty years and is truly an NYC holiday tradition.
It also features a spectacular selection of NYC Christmas lights that take over the Charles A. Dana Center, a Santa doling out fresh hot chocolate, pro Okamoto Studio ice carvers whipping up a nutcracker or two, carol singers, and concludes with the lighting of the trees on the Harlem Meer.
And while the event itself is scheduled for December 2nd at 5:00 pm, you can stop by any time throughout the holiday season to marvel at the colorful glow of the best Christmas lights in NYC.
Address: Charles A. Dana Center, Central Park
Hours: Starts on December 2nd at 5:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the 2/3 train to Central Park North station or the A/C train to Cathedral Parkway station and walk from there.
7. Hudson Yards
***Please note, the Vessel at Hudson Yards is currently closed as the result of a tragic suicide here in 2021***
Another recent addition to this list of the best New York Christmas lights displays, the shops and restaurants at Hudson Yards first opened in 2019 and are now a veritable NYC hot spot since the area is home to both the Vessel and the Edge Observation Deck.
So, be sure to stop by this holiday season and experience some of the best and most awe-inspiring NYC Christmas lights of them all.
Because in total, this epicenter of holiday cheer will feature 115-miles of lights, 725 evergreen trees (used to create an immersive forest that visitors can walk through), a 32-foot tall hot air balloon centerpiece in The Great Room, and more.
Also of interest to any NYC Christmas lights enthusiasts is the Shrine Bright at Hudson Yards event. It’s set to launch on November 15th and will include a performance from The Sararfina’s dance troupe, songs by the Young People’s Chorus, and one-of-a-kind holiday cards from local Brooklyn artists.
Whatever you do though, don’t leave without visiting Santa’s Secret speakeasy on the fifth floor of the mall.
After all, guests spending the winter in NYC can visit six immersive holiday installations before taking a seat in an old-school bar that features a live band, a selection of Christmas-inspired cocktails, and even a live, holiday variety show.
Pro Tip: Santa’s Secret opens December 3rd and operates Thursday through Sunday until January 2nd.
Address: 20 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the 7 train to Hudson Yards (the final station) and walk from there.
8. Washington Square Park
Washington Square park may not be one of the larger parks in the city but it certainly does know how to get into the Christmas spirit. In fact, why not do it twice over? Two evenings every December are earmarked for the yuletide celebrations with everyone gathering under the famous arch to sing carols.
The Christmas lights are spectacular. There is even a 45 foot large Christmas tree just under the arch that is very pretty. If you head there in the evening you will see it lit up and in all its glory.
In fact, the lights on the tree are usually turned on to mark the start of the Christmas season in NYC! Once you see the display you will have to agree that it is one of the stunning New York Christmas lights worth visiting!
Pro Tip: Download the Caroling book from their website so that you can join in the festivities when you reach there.
Address: Washington Square, New York, NY 10012
Hours: The lights are on everyday from 4pm to 1 am. Christmas eve caroling starts at 5 pm.
How To Get There: The closest subway stations are 8 Street Station and Astor PI. It is a short walk from there.
9. Saks Fifth Avenue
Home to perhaps the single most famous holiday window display of all time, Saks Fifth Avenue also features stunning, LED light projections of the aptly named “Snowflake Spectacular” along the facade of the building.
This whimsical show is about 3.5 minutes long and typically occurs daily, every 10-minutes, between 4:30 pm and 11:35 pm, making it a great display to watch while waiting in line to see the store’s holiday windows.
Whatever you do though, do not cut the line while waiting to see the series of twelve amazing holiday windows that Saks puts up annually.
I mean, they’re insanely detailed, use animatronics to tell a singularly beautiful story, and always center around a unique theme.
Therefore, you can easily understand why there’s always a crowd and why people seem to queue up here.
Pro Tip: The Saks Holiday Light Show will start on November 22nd and continue through the holiday season.
Address: 611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Hours: The light display occurs between 4:30 pm and 11:35 pm throughout the holiday season but you can see the holiday windows any time.
How to Get There: Take the subway to Times Square and its about a 10-minute walk from there.
10. The Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Armory Plaza and The Plaza Hotel
Named for the famous Newspaper publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer (Newsies anyone?), the Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Armory Plaza sits just outside the Plaza Hotel and is adorned with all sorts of giant Christmas ornaments during the holiday season.
So, deffo stop by for a photo op (or ten) after enjoying the best New York Christmas lights at nearby Saks Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center.
Address: 764 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019
Hours: Open 24/7, 365 days per year.
How to Get There: Take the N/R train to 59th street station and walk from there.
11. Lotte New York Palace
What can I say? The Christmas Tree at Lotte New York Palace is awesome with a capital “A”.
And that makes sense since Lotte New York Palace is a famous, super luxurious, well-reviewed, 4.5-star hotel in New York City. It’s also located a cool two blocks away from Radio City Music Hall.
So, if you’re looking for some of the best Christmas lights in NYC, you can easily visit both spots at the same time.
Truth be told though, the insanely opulent, red ribbon and gold ornament emblazoned tree inside the hotel courtyard on Madison Avenue is easily one of my favorite spots to visit for the best Christmas decorations in NYC.
Therefore, don’t miss out and give this place a visit ASAP.
Pro Tip: Try and snag a photo with either the intricate entranceway in the foreground or with St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the background.
Address: 455 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022
Hours: Open throughout the holiday season 24/7.
How to Get There: Take the E train to 53rd Street station and walk from there.
12. Lincoln Center Plaza, Manhattan
If you head to Lincoln Center Plaza during Christmas time, you will see people thronging to catch a glimpse of one of the best New York Christmas lights that the city has to offer. This is one of those places where people whip out their phones almost immediately because it just makes such a pretty backdrop for photographs.
While the Christmas lights are gorgeous, the Lincoln Center Plaza is known for its nativity scene. Let’s not forget about the towering Christmas tree that is decked from tip to root with gorgeous decorations and sparkling lights.
A big bonus is that it is just a short distance away from Central park so if you are out looking for New York Christmas lights you can club them both together.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for the popular yearly performance called ‘The Spirit of Christmas’.
Address: Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY 10023, USA
How To Get There: Lincoln Plaza is just a short walk away from Broadway or Central Park. 59 St-Columbus circle is the closest subway station.
13. Radio City Music Hall
Known for being the home of the high-kicking Rockettes – who you can watch during the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular – Radio City also has some pretty dazzling NYC Christmas lights that you’ll definitely want to see.
I mean, not only is a giant white-light encrusted Christmas tree placed atop the Radio City Music Hall sign itself but there’s a water fountain across the street that is filled with giant, red Christmas ornaments.
So, for the best photo ops possible, walk diagonally across the street from Radio City to this magical fountain.
Once here, stand in front of the red bulbs here so that the Radio City Music Hall sign is visible in the background.
Address: 1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
Hours: Decorations can be seen 24/7 throughout the holiday season.
How to Get There: Just take the subway to Times Square and walk from there.
14. Macy’s Herald Square
What can I say? Macy’s and New York Christmas lights kind of go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Therefore, be sure to hit up one of the best Christmas stores in NYC and enjoy an all-together festive store facade while you’re here.
Because the folks at Macy’s like to jazz their flagship store up a bit with an enormous “Believe” sign that encourages pedestrians walking by to “believe in the magic” of the holiday season.
Add in some supremely awesome holiday windows that feature a totally unique theme every year and you have the perfect place to go to see some of the best Christmas lights in NYC.
Pro Tip: For the best photo ops, stand across the street and use a wide-angle lens.
Address: 151 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
Hours: 24/7 through the holiday season.
How to Get There: Take the 1/2/3 train to Penn Station and walk from there.
15. Brookfield Place Winter Garden
Run, don’t walk to one of my favorite NYC Christmas lights shows of them all.
Because not only is there a full-on ice rink outside this iconic mall, but step inside Brookfield Place and you’ll uncover a New York Christmas lights display unlike any other.
See, the luminaries at Brookfield Place is brought to you but the LAD at Rockwell group and features a dazzling, canopy filled with 650 LED lanterns that magically changes color right before your eyes.
Add in some super cool palm trees and stunning Christmas trees scattered throughout the ground floor and you have an amazing display that is not to be missed this Christmas in NYC.
Also, don’t forget to mosey on over to one of two touchless wishing stations that allow you to send motion-activated wishes to the luminaries in front of you.
Pro Tip: Visit the Statue of Liberty of Liberty while you’re here since it’s really close by.
Address: 230 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10281
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm between November 27th and January 10th.
How to Get There: Take the 1/2/3 train to Chambers Street and walk from there.
16. Time Warner Center Holiday Light Display
Who rocks the house? The best New York Christmas lights inside the Timer Warner Center rock the house, that’s who!
I mean, not only are these some of the best Christmas lights in NYC that are indoors, but they even include mesmerizing, three-dimensional stars that appear to almost dance through the air as they seamlessly transition from one color to the next.
Yup, it’s a truly awesome, state-of-the-art light display that is made up of 14 foot tall, LED stars that come in 16.7 million different color combinations.
And as they change color every day, starting at 4:00 pm, you’ll get to listen to primo holiday tunes blaring in the background.
Yup, this is easily one of the best ways to channel your inner Sanat Clause and really get into the holiday spirit.
Pro Tip: Stop by Momofuku Noodle Bar afterward for a hearty and delicious bowl of mushroom ramen with a poached egg. So dang good. Also, you can enjoy live Broadway performances here every Thursday at 5:00 pm, between November 4th and December 16th.
Address: 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm on Sundays. The holiday lights start at 4:00 pm inside the mall here.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to Columbus Circle and walk from here.
17. Rolf’s Restaurant
Hate the cold and want to warm up with some truly awesome, indoor New York Christmas lights displays?
If so then say hello to your new best friend, Rolf’s. It’s basically this super awesome, old-school German restaurant that sits near Gramercy Park.
And while they may not be known for their cuisine, they are renowned for their over-the-top Christmas decor.
So, while you’re here, be sure to take in the kaleidoscope of vibrant Christmas baubles, ornaments, twinkling lights, and strands of garland that surround you.
You’ll also want to arrive sometime between the end of November and May since that’s basically when the decor comes out every single year.
Pro Tip: Avoid the crowds and visit early on a weekday. Like, right at noon so you can have the place all to yourself. Also, skip the food and order a vanilla bourbon egg nog. I promise you will NOT regret it.
Address: 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010
Hours: Open daily from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
Price: Entrees start at $25.00 each.
How to Get There: Take the 6/R/W train to 23rd Street Station and walk from there.
18. Winter Village at Bryant Park
If you’re visiting some of the best Christmas lights in New York City this holiday season, then you probably won’t have time to experience all of the amazing Christmas markets in NYC.
Yes, my friend, there is so much to do this winter in NYC and so little time. This is also why tough decisions need to be made.
Therefore, if you can only visit one market this holiday season, then let it be the Winter Village at Bryant Park.
After all, this amazing oasis of holiday splendor includes 60+ food kiosks and shopping stalls for you to enjoy. Heck, there’s even a full-on Curling Cafe where you can sit inside a cozy igloo and try your hand at ice-free curling.
So, this is a perfect spot to relax, grab a drink, and get all those NYC-inspired gifts that you’ve been hardcore dreaming about.
Also, be sure to take advantage of the massive, 17,000 square-foot ice rink here since you can skate here FREE of charge, minus the cost of a pair of rental skates of course.
And after you’ve skated until you can skate no more, unwind in The Lodge Deck pop-up restaurant with a holiday cocktail in hand, you jolly AF soul you.
Address: Bryant Park, New York City
Hours: Open daily (once the winter village is set up) from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Price: Around $22 per hour to rent a pair of skates.
How to Get There: It’s a short walk from Times Square.
Best Christmas Lights in Queens and Beyond
19. NYC Winter Lantern Festival
If you love looking at some of the best New York Christmas lights of them all, then you’re in luck because the NYC Winter Lantern Festival is back and has three magical events for you to enjoy.
So, start with a 20-acre drive through the vibrant lanterns and magical holidays lights displays that make up the Nassau County Museum of Art’s “A Bug’s Night Display”.
Next, head over to Staten Island and visit the Snug Harbor Cultural Center for their next-level awesome ESCAPE event.
During your visit, explore an 8-acre botanical garden that is enchanted with holiday lights before partying the night away while listening to live music from a local DJ, sampling tasty treats from local food vendors, and marveling at on-site projection mapping.
Finally, conclude all this holiday awesomeness with a trip to the Queens County Farm for their special, Illuminate the Farm extravaganza.
It’s a fantastic experience where you’ll marvel at a dizzying array of handmade lanterns that come in the shape of farm animals, flowers, and even tractors.
Price: Varies. See their website for more information.
How to Get There: Varies.
Map of the Best New York Christmas Lights
Other New York Resources You’ll Love
- What to Wear in New York in Winter
- 10 Tips for Visiting New York City in Winter
- Best Things to do on the Upper West Side
- Best Things to do on the Upper East Side
- Best Things to do in Greenwich Village