9 of the Best Holiday Light Displays in NYC

This Fall, New York City offers plenty of fun events, free of charge.

New York City is synonymous with being lit up and electric on a regular basis but around the holidays, this phenomenon is amplified even more. It should come as no surprise that there is a plethora of awe-inspiring seasonal light displays to feast your eyes on during the latter months of the year. So where exactly should you go to experience New York City’s world famous holiday views? Here’s a roundup of our favorite holiday light displays in the Big Apple:

1)     Rockefeller Center: If you want to check out a multi-layered holiday light display, then there is no better place to visit than Rock Center. Its most iconic symbol? The 70+ foot Norway Spruce that stands tall at Rockefeller Plaza between 48th & West 51st Streets and 5th & 6th Avenues is a remarkable sight. If you happen to be in town on Christmas Day, you can visit the tree at any time as its 45,000 LED colored lights remain lit for 24 hours. Aside from the splendor of the spruce, there are illuminated scenes depicting angels, toy soldiers, wreaths and other holiday decor. While you’re there, ascend to the Top of the Rock for a breathtaking view of the city in all of its holiday glory.

2)     Bryant Park: If you want to skate through a true winter wonderland, then visit the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park. Its 17,000 square foot skating rink offers free admission and is open daily throughout the holiday season. In addition to the enchanted rink, the Winter Village boasts twinkling, glass-enclosed kiosks featuring over 125 pop-up shops that add a European flair to this Big Apple atmosphere. Like Rock Center, you can also expect to see a Norway Spruce illuminated here with the help of 30,000 lights and over 3,000 decorative ornaments.

3)     Fifth Avenue: Up for the ultimate NYC holiday window walking tour? From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, you can lace up those boots and make your way to Fifth Avenue for a retail experience unlike any other as you journey between 59th and 39th Streets. Look forward to enchanting and glittery display windows from iconic names like Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s - a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. From the Who-filled windows of Bloomingdale’s to the snowy adventure scenes at Macy’s, make sure you stock up on warm holiday beverages as you embark on your journey and get into the spirit with these beautifully decorated displays.

4)     Luminaries at Brookfield Place’s Winter Garden: A Lower Manhattan staple, Luminaries is a holiday tradition boasting a canopy of colorful lights that emanates from an array of suspended lanterns. It’s an interactive exhibit that offers a touch-activated element resulting in a magical display of color and light. You can visit this festive world between the beginning of December and the beginning of January.

5)     Dyker Heights in Brooklyn: If you’re into over-the-top and outlandish, then put the Kings County neighborhood in Brooklyn on your map and check out the Dyker Heights Christmas light display. With a touch for the razzle dazzle thanks to life-size Santas, snowmen, and sleighs, visit 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th Streets for a holiday treat. For a guided Slice of Brooklyn tour, purchase tickets ahead of time. 

6)     Central Park Holiday Lighting: In the beginning of December, visit the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center inside the park at 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues. Bring your children to meet Santa and friends, engage in holiday revelry, and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies. This rain, snow or shine event culminates with lighting a flotilla of trees at Harlem Meer.

7)     Lincoln Center: At Broadway and 63rd Street, you can experience this multicultural celebration of light in early December on the Josie Robertson Plaza. The annual tree lighting is free, with refreshments being served after the event.

8)     American Museum of Natural History: From an annual lights display to a festive holiday tree, the AMNH is best known for its “only in New York” Origami Holiday Tree, an annual tradition for more than 40 years. The tree is decorated with over 800 hand-folded paper models by local, national, and international origami artists. For children and adults who love dinosaurs, be sure to check out the illuminated dinosaur topiary sculptures!

9)     World’s Largest Menorah: Standing at 35-feet over Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, the 4,000-pound World’s Largest Menorah has been towering over New York since 1985 and should be a must on everyone's calendar, Jews and non-Jews alike. Every night of Hanukkah, thousands celebrate this family celebration with the accompaniment of live music and hot latkes for all; with special gifts distributed to every child.

This Fall, New York City offers plenty of fun events, free of charge.

What do you look forward to most about the holiday season? Which of these must-see light displays tops your NYC holiday bucket list?

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