Post Overview: Roundup of the best New York City Christmas lights
I love Christmas just as much as the next person, and I can confidentially say no place is as epic as the Big Apple (fighting words, I know). The Christmas lights in New York City are plenty, and they create an air of contagious excitement for the holiday season.
But in a city that shines as bright as the New York City it can be difficult to weed out which displays of Christmas lights are worth your time and which can be skipped. This is especially true if you’re only here for a few days.
And that’s where I hope to help! I’m here to lend a helping hand by giving you a local’s perspective on what you really can’t miss when it comes to the best Christmas lights in New York City.
I say enough of the small talk, why don’t we dive right in?
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
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Tips for visiting NYC for the holidays
- Bring warm shoe: It’s no secret that winter in New York City is cold, and the most miserable place to be cold is in your toes. I recommend insulated/waterproof footwear (here’s the pair I live in) and the only wool socks you’ll need.
- Bring lip balm & moisturizer: Winters in New York City are dry and cold. Add the raging industrial heaters to the mix and you’re bound to need quality lip balm and moisturizer. Lip balm is a personal thing, but if helpful, here’s the best one I’ve found to date (and it’s cheap!).
- Be mindful of the ice: If you’re visiting New York City in winter be sure to keep an eye on the weather, if it drops below 32° there’s a possibility of ice on the streets. What this means for you — pack these handy things and keep an eye out for ice (especially when using stairs).
- Portable charger: Cold weather depletes batteries (both cellphones and camera) quicker than you’d expect, so when heading out for the day make sure you’re at full charge and pick up one of these.
The Best Christmas Lights in New York City
Few neighborhoods in NYC go all out for the holidays like Dyker Heights. The Brooklyn neighborhood has been a go-to spot for New York Christmas lights for generations.
Although most folks can’t help but think New York City’s neighborhoods consist of nothing but brownstones, Dyker Heights is largely made of upscale single family homes.
The locals spare no expense when decorating, and you can sense the friendly competition when each house is decked out a little more than the next.
Just when you think you’ve seen the brightest, most colorful house, boom! There’s a more-impressive one down the block.
It’s gotten to the point where not only local New Yorkers visit this neighborhood, but tourists go out of their way to see the lights themselves. It’s not hard to see why though, since it’s a neighborhood chock-full of the best New York Christmas lights!
DHCL Tourism is a tourism company run by the residents of Dyker Heights. The company offers a bus-tour of the neighborhood that conveniently picks up and drops off folks in Manhattan.
Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
Of all the impressive New York Christmas lights you’re bound to see, few will compare to the spectral display of the Saks 5th Avenue holiday light show.
The lights play in tandem with classic Christmas music, dazzling children and adults alike. The experience takes the New York City holiday spirit to a whole new level!
The magical New York Christmas lights show off at regular 10-minute intervals from 5pm to 11pm, nightly.
Stick around and enjoy a few rounds of these epic New York Christmas lights. But prepare for crazy crowds because this is one of the most popular things to see this time of year.
Address: 611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape
Founded in 1910 and hosting nearly a million visitors annually, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is a spot you can’t afford to miss, especially if you’re in search of the best New York Christmas lights.
Now although the lights aren’t necessarily Christmas specific, the show runs from November to January so it’s available when folks visit for the holidays.
These New York Christmas lights follow a path that takes guests through the different gardens showcasing ornate trees and lighted sculptures. It really is quite the spectacle, which is no surprise since the BBG uses over 1 million lights!
Note, tickets sold out last year for the NYC Christmas lights display so book your tickets well in advance. The event lasts from November 16th to January 8th.
Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
The Bronx Zoo is a beloved institution any day of the year, but Christmas is exceptionally special. The zoo is converted into a winter wonderland, with bright NYC Christmas lights that guide guests down a path that meanders through fantastic illuminated animal displays.
There are over 90 species to see, providing the perfect photo-op with some of your favorite animals. Not only are the animals lit-up, but there are bright plant species as well.
What’s more, at 265 acres, the Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the country. Reason alone to visit!
Make sure to pick up a hot chocolate or s’mores before embarking on this epic adventure! Say hello to all your favorite animals as you enjoy some of the best New York Christmas lights the city has to offer.
Lights are on from November 18th to January 8th (on select days). Make sure to purchase a Holiday Lights ticket, since a regular entry won’t allow access.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival
The Winter Lantern Festival is a captivating world of lights and one of the more mesmerizing displays of Christmas lights in NYC. The event is a walk-thru light festival where folks are immersed in the colorful and creative world of LED lights and lanterns.
The Winter Lantern Festival consists of four different locations, each showcasing unique themes of illuminated figures and an overwhelming amount of lights (in the best way possible). I don’t doubt you could see these Christmas lights from space!
Although the locations are a little ways away from Manhattan, I would be remiss not to mention them because I truly feel the experience is worth the trek, especially if you have kids.
Three of the locations are walk-thru’s and the fourth being Nassau County Museum of light is a drive-through experience. This way you can enjoy the New York Christmas lights from the comfort (and warmth) of your car.
Each location has different dates, but the first to open does so on October 21st and the last to close does so January 15th. Tickets are available on their Winter Lantern Festival’s website now.
Hudson Yards is a massive mall adjacent to the monolithic art display known as the Vessel. The mall features tons of high-end shops and restaurants.
Granted it’s fun to explore anytime of year, but during the holiday season it is especially worth a visit. This is thanks to the fact that Hudson Yards uses over two million Christmas lights when decorating for the occasion.
The holiday celebration at Hudson Yards Mall is called Shine On. It’s a unique light and music installation that spans the holiday season. I think kids would really like this experience, so if you have tots definitely swing by!
Not to mention, the photo taking opportunities are nothing short of epic. The New York Christmas lights are breathtaking and the perfect backdrop for selfies.
Now although I (personally) don’t consider having a holiday meal at Rolf’s a must-do during a trip to the Big Apple, I have to include them on this list because it’s hard to argue there’s a restaurant with better Christmas lights in NYC.
I visited for the first time last year and felt ripped off more than anything. Don’t get me wrong, this restaurant has some of the best New York Christmas lights, but the food is way too expensive and way too average. Plus the wait to get in is long because they don’t take reservations.
With that in mind, at the end of the day if it’s the best Christmas lights in NYC that you’re after, Rolf’s might be worth a visit.
Cartier on Fifth Avenue draws locals and tourists alike thanks to their elegant display of holiday cheer. It’s not surprising that one of the most high-end jewelry brands hangs up some of the best New York Christmas lights.
The lights frame the windows tied into wreaths and the store itself is made to look like a gift — ribbon and bow included.
Fifth Avenue has some of the best holiday window displays in the city. Cartier is just one of the shops that makes for the best New York Christmas lights.
Radio City Music Hall
There are few displays of New York Christmas lights as instantly recognizable as those at Radio City Music Hall. Not only is it thanks to the fact that its name is illuminated, but thanks to the Christmas tree that towers above the marquee.
So many movies have used the locale for scenes in holiday films. From Home Alone 2 to the Godfather, the lights serve as perfect reference to time and place. This is also why it’s not uncommon to see visitors taking photos in front of the world-famous venue.
The whole of Radio City Music Hall isn’t decked out in NYC Christmas lights, but the corner of 6th Avenue and 50th Street is bright enough to warrant a visit.
The Chelsea Market is a popular food hall mixed with unique shops, restaurants, and cafes. The market has 35 vendors waiting to impress you with tasty treats and fare. And if you’re lucky enough to visit during the holiday season, you’ll get to see one of the most beautiful displays of Christmas lights in NYC.
During the holiday season, Chelsea Market sets up large festive displays and over-the-top decorations. My favorite part is the (year-round) curtains of Christmas lights that add a whimsical touch to the otherwise industrial feel.
Whether you plan on shopping or just strolling through for the epic decorations, you won’t be disappointed checking out these New York Christmas lights.
Not to mention it’s a good place to rest your legs, have something warm and use the restroom.
Fun Fact: The Chelsea Market is housed in the old Nabisco factory building – this building is the birthplace of the Oreo cookie!
The Pulitzer fountain is located on Fifth Avenue on the southeast corner of Central Park. Right next to the Plaza Hotel and among a string of high-end designer stores, the fountain itself is elegant too.
What many folks do not know though is that the fountain gets decorated with some of the best Christmas lights in NYC to the theme of a winter wonderland.
Arctic animals, icebergs and over 5,000 feet of lights illimunate the fountain and make for a beautiful backdrop. I can think of few more magical displays of New York Christmas lights better than the Pulitzer Fountain.
Covering an entire city block and spanning 1.1 million square feet, the largest Macy’s in the world doesn’t do anything halfway. Visiting for the best Christmas lights in NYC is a must, and a little retail-therapy while you’re at it never hurt.
Macy’s Christmas window displays are legendary and the Santaland event is what dreams are made of. For Santaland Macy’s transforms the 8th floor of their massive department store into a Christmas palooza, so you can imagine the scale of these New York Christmas lights.
Visitors will meander through charming villages, Santa’s workshop and tons of other fun displays before getting to meet Santa face-to-face. The best part? The entire experience is completely free to enjoy, but advanced reservations are required.
And for those who can’t make it to Santaland, Macy’s also strings up some of the most beautiful Christmas lights in New York City outside the store as well.
Further reading: Interested in Santaland and want to know more? Check out our Complete Guide to Macy’s Santaland NYC.
New York Botanical Garden GLOW
Home to more than one million living plants, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is a sight to be behold. The garden is located within the Bronx Park on 250 acres of land, giving ample space for the garden to spread its roots (pun-intended).
What’s more, the NYBG also hosts an annual event called GLOW, where they illuminate the garden with some of the best Christmas lights in NYC. It unlike anything I’ve ever seen and you can bed I run out of the apartment every year this event is up!
The iconic buildings of the New York Botanical Garden get lit with colorful beams of lights that dance to a music number. The experience is truly an immersive one since you get to walk right through the thick of it.
The best New York Christmas lights can be found at the NYBG, plus they make for a great date night or a fun spot for meeting up with pals.
Bundle up and check out the incredible foliage that’s illuminated by beautiful Christmas lights in NYC.
Amaze Light Festival at Citifield
The Amaze Light Festival puts on some of the largest and most spectacular displays of light all over the country, and this year New York City is lucky enough to experience it.
The beautiful display of New York Christmas lights will be held at Citified, which is the home stadium for the New York Mets.
The festival follows the two characters, Zing and Sparky, (from a popular children’s book) and has over 5 distinct themes like Zing’s Toyporium and Sparky’s Sweet Spot.
With an open design, guests are encouraged to take in the beautiful NYC Christmas lights at their own pace. There is also a market with drinks and snacks, as well as live musical performances happening at regular intervals.
Walking through Zuccotti Park feels like walking through a winter wonderland thanks to the abundant and well illuminated New York Christmas lights wrapped around the trees.
The lights encircle not only the trees, but also the 54 Honey Locusts that are year-round residents of the park. Finding a crowd-less tree to snap a selfie in front of is a breeze!
In the Financial District, full of concrete and skyscrapers, Zucotti Park offers ample seating and serves as reprieve to those looking to rest their feet. Therefore it’s not uncommon to see folks in business suits eating their lunch under the cheery New York Christmas lights (properly bundled up, course).
The Best New York Christmas Lights (Post Summary)
- Dyker Heights
- Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape
- Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
- NYC Winter Lantern Festival
- Hudson Yards
- Radio City Music Hall
- Chelsea Market
- Pulitzer Fountain
- Macy’s Herald Square
- New York Botanical Garden GLOW
- Amaze Light Festival at Citifield
- Zuccotti Park
Map to the best Christmas lights in New York City
And there you have it folks, my list of the best Christmas lights in New York City. Hope you found it useful.
Cheers & happy holidays!