REAL ESTATE

Where to see holiday lights in NYC in 2023

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One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season in New York City is to bear witness to the extravagant twinkling light installations and displays that illuminate the five boroughs. Ahead, discover the city’s most iconic holiday light displays, from more than two million twinkling lights scattered throughout Hudson Yards to festively illuminated trails at the New York Botanical Garden.

Image courtesy of Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Every holiday season, the residents of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn go all out for the decoration of their neighborhood and its historic homes. So much so that the annual tradition has become a favorite holiday event for New Yorkers who flock to the area to see the over-the-top holiday lights. The lights typically go up the week after Thanksgiving and stay up through the first week of January. There are also bus tours, walking tours, and virtual tours of the holiday lights available for purchase here.

Photo © Bronx Zoo

Select dates through January 7
Nighttime at the Bronx Zoo comes alive with an array of immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns, and animated light shows. This year’s entertainment includes:

  • Lantern trails: Nearly 400 lanterns depicting nearly 100 animal and plant species that connect visitors to wildlife. 64 new lanterns representing nine new animal species are debuting at this year’s event.
  • Enchanted sea: A new interactive entertainment option featuring LED swings, interactive floor projections, acrylic bubbles, and a jellyfish celebration in lights.
  • Holiday Train: A family-favorite activity, the beloved holiday train returns to this year’s Holiday Lights. Tickets cost $4 and $3 for Bronx Zoo members.
  • Ice carvings: Each night, expert ice carvers will demonstrate how they create wildlife art from giant ice blocks at the Zoo’s Grizzly Corner.
  • Illuminated performers: Take photos with performers dressed up in illuminated animal-themed costumes.
  • Wildlife Theater: Watch family-friendly puppet shows and engage in wildlife trivia at the Dancing Crane Pavilion.

The event also includes festive treats, holiday music, interactive experiences, and more. Tickets can be purchased here.

Twinkling Topiaries. Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden
Aerial view of the Glittering Gazebo. Photo courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

December 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 26-30, and January 6 and 13, 2024 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Glow, NYBG’s outdoor holiday light and sound experience, is back for its fourth year. As part of the event, thousands of sparkling, energy-efficient lights are choreographed with sound and carefully crafted installations to create everlasting holiday memories. Tickets cost $54 for adults, $39 for children ages two to 12, and are free for children under two.

On select nights, garden visitors can see the famous Holiday Train Show after experiencing Glow. The renowned exhibit recreates more than 190 miniature figurines of NYC landmarks using plant materials like bark, leaves, and seeds. As part of the attraction, twenty-five model trains zip and wind over bridges, into tunnels, and through the dazzling display.

Sea of Light by ITHACA Studio. Photo by Liz Ligon
Supernova by Studio Vertigo. Photo by Liz Ligon.

Select dates through January 1, 2024
Experience the beauty of the BBG in the moonlight as it is transformed into an immersive illuminated trail for the holidays. This year’s Lightscape has been reimagined with a longer illuminated trail, additional works of art, and brand-new immersive experiences along the way.

New installations for this year’s celebration include:

  • Submergence: An immersive, interactive experience created with thousands of individual points of suspended light, created by renowned UK collaborative Squidsoup.
  • Sea of Light: Created by Ithaca, which illuminates BBG’s famous nearly 100,000-square foot Cherry Esplanade end to end with a moving sequence of light.
  • Trinity: Created by Novak, features dozens of botanical illustrations from the Garden’s own archives come to life as 22-foot-high projections on three 100-year-old horse chestnut trees.
  • Supernova: A 24-foot-high illuminated Moravian star, created by Studio Vertigo.

Accompanying the vast array of lights is a curated playlist featuring Taylor Swift, Elton John, Philip Glass, and the Viter Ukrainian Folk Choir, as well as a hip-hop zone celebrating the genre’s 50th-anniversary featuring music by Mos Def, MC Lyte, Digable Planets, and more.

Designed for guests of all ages, visitors and their families are invited to take in the breathtaking scenes, indulge in festive treats, and listen to holiday-themed music.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Image courtesy of Hudson Yards

Through January 7, 2024
Hudson Yards is lit up with the glow of more than two million twinkling lights to greet New Yorkers as they venture to the neighborhood to partake in festive activities this holiday season.

Presented by Wells Fargo, the light installation includes millions of lights stretching across 115 miles of string lights, 725 evergreen trees, and 16-foot-tall, illuminated set pieces in the shape of hot air balloons on display throughout the Public Square and Gardens, and a 32-foot hot air balloon centerpiece that is hanging in The Great Room of The Shops & Restaurants.

While at Hudson Yards, visitors will have no shortage of fun activities to take part in. After experiencing the breathtaking display of lights, guests can skate on NYC’s highest ice skating rink Edge, take free photos with Santa Claus, have fun in a 21+-only secret speakeasy, go holiday shopping, and more.

December 7-14, Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park
Brooklyn’s largest menorah has been towering above Prospect Park since 1985. Built by Rabbi Shimon Hecht, Prospect Park’s menorah has competed with Rabbi Shmuel Butman’s Central Park menorah for decades, both claiming to be the “world’s largest,” until Guinness World Records settled the matter. The menorah is lit every night of Hannukah, along with live music, hot latkes, and gifts for children.

Manhattan’s Menorah was lit by Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, in 2016. Credit: Credit: Chaim Perl / Chabad.org/ Chabad Lubavitch/Flickr.

December 7-14, Grand Army Plaza in Central Park
The lighting of the official largest menorah in the world takes place at the entrance to Central Park across from the Plaza Hotel. As 6sqft previously noted, both menorahs are actually the same height, 32 feet, the maximum allowed by Jewish law. But the central candle in the Manhattan menorah — called the shamash — is six inches taller than the one found in Brooklyn. The menorah lighting will kick off on the first day of Hanukkah, December 7, at 5:30 p.m.

November 30 at 5:30 p.m.
Central Park’s holiday lights tradition is returning for its 27th year. Hosted by the Greensward Circle, attendees are invited to come meet and snap photos with Santa and friends, sing carols, and get cozy and warm with a cup of hot cocoa while enjoying a selection of festive activities. The event concludes with the lighting of a flotilla of trees on the Harlem Meer.

Image courtesy of The Shops at Columbus Circle

Through January 1
The Shops at Columbus Circle has kicked off its annual holiday program “Holiday Under the Stars.” As part of the festive celebration, a stunning display of 14-foot illuminated, color-mixing stars is suspended from the ceiling of the Great Room. The stars feature daily light and music shows every half hour from 5 p.m. through 11 p.m. with extended showings through 12 a.m. on Saturdays.

Broadway Under the Stars is also returning this year, featuring free and exclusive performances of some of Broadway’s most famous shows. The live performances, which take place from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on select days, are located on the second-floor balcony of The Shops overlooking the Great Room.

Image courtesy of Watermark

Through December 30
Hosted at Watermark on Pier 15, Santa’s Winter Wonderland offers visitors a relaxing, festive dining experience right by the water’s edge. Visitors can sit for a meal in Watermark’s festive-themed heated glasshouses filled with sparkling holiday lights, take a photo with Santa, and take in breathtaking views of the city skyline. Tickets can be purchased here.

Photo © James and Karla Murray

When the holidays roll around, Rolf’s German Restaurant at 281 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill transforms into a dense collage of holiday decor. From the moment patrons step inside, they are met with thousands of Christmas lights, ornaments, and icicles hanging around the restaurant. There are also hundreds of porcelain dolls, wreaths, artificial fir trees, garlands, ribbons, and other festive items. Patrons are invited to indulge in traditional German cuisine in the festively decked-out space.

Photo courtesy of The Seaport

November 28 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Seaport is inviting New Yorkers to take part in a night of festive fun and ring in the holidays. Join the Seaport as they light their Christmas tree, located at the corner of Water and Fulton Streets, and indulge in festive treats. The event will feature live performances by Chelsea Cutler. the headliner for the night, the Brooklyn United Drum Line, and local teen band Mod Rock.

Kids are invited to participate in a special Seaport Kids x Gingerbread cookie-decorating session at Gingerbread City, and they will also have the chance to give their holiday wish lists and take photos with Santa. RSVP here.

Image courtesy of Brian Medina

On view from November 30 through January 1, 2024
The Flatiron NoMad Partnership is presenting “Control No Control,” a large-scale interactive installation created by digital art studio Iregular. The installation is a large LED cube that reacts to touch and every movement on its surface. Patterns and generative sounds appear on the LED surface as interactions occur, allowing 48 people to participate at the same time.

“Control No Control” will connect with “Winter Glow,” the Partnership’s three-week series of interactive, pop-up programming that invites New Yorkers to celebrate the holiday season through light, art, games, music, dance, and more. Winter Glow kicks off with a parade on November 30 at 4:30 p.m. led by the Bond Street Theatre. The parade will end at Flatiron North Public Plaza where Control No Control will be officially unveiled. The full schedule can be found here.

Photos courtesy of Macy’s, Inc.

Holiday window displays

Many renowned NYC stores transform their window displays into captivating, festive scenes of fun in anticipation of the holidays, a tradition in the city that began in 1874. Stop by Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, and Macy’s to witness elaborate holiday window displays featuring thousands of twinkling lights, signage, ornaments, and much more.

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