The Ultimate Guide to NYC's Holiday Lights

In this bustling city, Christmas isn't just a day; it's a spectacle that unfolds across its boroughs. Each neighborhood exudes its own charm, offering a unique tapestry of traditions, events, and delights that capture the essence of this magical time of year.

December 1, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to NYC's Holiday Lights

There's something truly enchanting about the way New York City embraces the spirit of Christmas. From the iconic Rockefeller Center Tree lighting up the skyline to the whimsical displays adorning storefronts along Fifth Avenue, the city becomes a canvas painted with the vibrant colors of the holiday season.

In this bustling city, Christmas isn't just a day; it's a spectacle that unfolds across its boroughs. Each neighborhood exudes its own charm, offering a unique tapestry of traditions, events, and delights that capture the essence of this magical time of year. From the spirited hustle and bustle of holiday markets, where artisans showcase their crafts and culinary wizards whip up seasonal treats, to the serene beauty of ice-skating rinks nestled within urban landscapes, there's a sense of wonderment around every corner.

The holiday windows are ready to capture our eyes as the streets come alive and the skyline sparkles with holiday lights. The timing for each of the holiday lights is different for every area of the city and if you want to enjoy a lighting ceremony here’s a list of holiday lights you can use to plan your holiday trip to NYC.

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Ok … On to the list

Where to See the Light Displays in NYC

Rockefeller Center

When: Now - January 13

Where:  Midtown Manhattan

Following the special tree-lighting ceremony on November 29, which featured a spectacular performance by Kelly Clarkson, the renowned tree will now be illuminated daily from 5 a.m. to midnight. On Christmas Day, the tree will be lit for 24 hours, and on New Year’s Eve, it will be lit from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. The tree will be turned off for the season at 10 p.m. on January 13.

Bryant Park

When: Now - January 2nd

Where: Midtown Manhattan

The tree at the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park was illuminated on November 28th at 6 p.m. The holiday market will close on January 2nd, but the winter fun will continue until March 3rd, with activities such as ice skating and bumper cars.

Central Park 

When: Now - End of the Holiday Season

Where: Midtown / Central Park

The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park has been adorned with holiday lights by the Central Park Conservancy for over two and a half decades. To see it, go to the northeastern part of Central Park. You can also see the glowing tree flotilla in the Harlem Meer across from the boathouse.

Washington Square Park

When: December 6 - End of the Holiday Season

Where: Greenwich Village 

The tree in Washington Square Park is a sight to behold, perfectly framed by the park's famous arch. Even if you miss the tree lighting, you can still see the beautifully lit 45-foot tree throughout the holiday season. The tree is lit from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily throughout December.

Madison Square Park

When: December 6 - End of the Holiday Season

Where: Midtown

This time-honored tree lighting, which celebrates its 111th anniversary this year, will feature festive jazz music. The festivities will take place on Wednesday, December 6 from 4-6pm at the park's Northern Reflecting Pool.

Shine Bright at Hudson Yards

When: Now - January 7

Where: Hell’s Kitchen / Midtown West

Hudson Yards' Shine Bright event features two million twinkling white lights, 115 miles of string lights, 725 evergreen trees, 16-foot tall illuminated hot air balloon decorations, and a 32-foot hot air balloon centerpiece. The event also includes ice skating, photo opportunities with Santa, a speakeasy, shopping, dining, and more.

Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

When: Now - January 1

Where: Brooklyn / Prospect Park

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a 52-acre botanical garden in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, has illuminated its grounds for the holidays. The gorgeous, after-dark illuminated spectacular runs through January 1.

New York Botanical Garden GLOW

When: December 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 26 - 30, January 6 & 13

Where: Brooklyn / Prospect Park

The Bronx's outdoor light experience will illuminate the grounds with thousands of energy-efficient LED lights and festive installations. GLOW is open on select dates through January 13.

Menorah Lightings

When: December 7 - 15

Where: Midtown Manhattan Grand Army / Plaza Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza 

It is well known that New York City is home to many impressive public menorahs. However, did you know that it is also home to two of the world's largest menorahs? Technically, no menorah should be larger than 32 feet, so they are the "largest" with some caveats. You can decide for yourself how to interpret that, but the ceremonies are definitely worth attending, the Brooklyn lightings always include live music and hot latkes. The menorah lightings take place from December 7-15 during Hanukkah.

Bronx Zoo Holiday Light Show

When: Now - January 7 (Select Dates)

Where: The Bronx

The Bronx Zoo is alight with 400 wildlife lanterns, representing 100 species, through January 7. The illuminated displays, custom-designed animal lanterns, and animated light shows will transform the park into a winter wonderland. This year, there will be new lantern displays showcasing the wildlife of New York's ocean waters and wetlands, as well as a new interactive experience celebrating bioluminescent creatures.

Frost Fest at Luna Park in Coney Island

When: Now - January 7th (Select Dates)

Where: Brooklyn / Coney Island

Luna Park in Coney Island celebrated its inaugural Frost Fest with its first ever tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, November 18. The park will continue to be open on select dates from now until January 7, featuring 20 of its iconic rides, including the Cyclone, a mid-amusement park skating rink, holiday lights, a holiday market, and photos with Santa.

Dyker Heights

When: Mid-December - December 31

Where: Brooklyn

During the holiday season, Dyker Heights is a popular destination due to its reputation for extravagant decorations. This historically Italian-American neighborhood is known for its elaborate Christmas lights and decorations, which are put up by homeowners and professional decorating companies starting the weekend after Thanksgiving. The best time to view the lights, however, is from mid-December through New Year’s Eve, when most homeowners have finished decorating. If you plan to walk around, go anytime between dusk and 9 p.m. The decorations also typically stay up until the end of the first week of January. The entire neighborhood participates in the event, so expect the chance to enjoy streetside hot cocoa.

Industry City

When: Now - End of the Holiday Season

Where: Brooklyn

Thanks to extensive revitalization efforts, Industry City has transformed from a decaying industrial complex into a thriving waterfront hub for businesses, artists, and residents. Since then, it has become one of NYC's best holiday hot spots, having held its first-ever tree lighting ceremony on November 25th. The entire area is decked out, the ice skating is fantastic, and local businesses get involved as well, including hot cocoa and cider served up in The Wheelhouse by local grill Frying Pan.

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