NYC Christmas Tree and Menorah Lightings Better Than Rockefeller Center 2012
You don't have to brave Rockefeller Center to witness a fabulous Christmas tree lighting.
We've rounded up tree lightings (and menorah, snowflake and even a few building illuminations) that are much less crowded, way cooler (one even comes with a performance of The Nutcracker) and feel like community celebrations, not events for tourists. Plus, most of these festive events are free and you don't have to stand on top of a car to see all of the great things going on.
Read on for a host of awesome holiday illuminations in New York City. You can find more seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide.
American Museum of Natural History Origami Holiday Tree – Upper West Side
Central Park West at 79th Street in the Grand Gallery
On view Monday, November 19-Sunday, January 6, 2013.
Free with suggested admission: $19 for adults, $10.50 for children ages 2-12, free for kids under 2.
There aren't any actual lights involved, but I love this tree. It stands 13-feet tall and has 500 origami creations dangling from its limbs. This year’s theme is the museum's collections, with ornaments inspired by items on display in the permanent halls and current exhibitions. Throughout the holiday season, volunteers will be on hand to teach the art of origami to visitors. If you just must have lights, the museum usually illuminates a pair of 19-feet tall holiday barosauruses (barosauri?) on its front steps.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche – Upper East Side
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
On view Tuesday, November 20-Sunday, January 6, 2013. Lightings occur Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 4:30pm; Friday and Saturday at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30pm.
Free with suggested admission: $25 for adults, free for children under age 12.
The Met's Christmas tree is a magical, only-in-New-York display. It stands 20-feet high and is placed in front of the 18th-century choir screen from the Spanish Cathedral of Valladolid in the Medieval Sculpture Hall. The arbor is adorned with 18th-century Neapolitan cherubs and angels, and at its base is an exquisite nativity scene. There are spectacular tree lighting ceremonies every day the museum is open.
Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square – Upper West Side
Tree lighting is at Dante Park, Broadway and 63rd Street. Festival is at various locations in the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. Visit the website for a complete list.
Monday, November 26 at 5pm
The tree lighting at Dante Park kicks off this huge holiday neighborhood celebration. From Columbus Circle to 68th Street, enjoy tons of free entertainment, in-store activities, shopping discounts and much more. This year, kid-centric attractions include performances by Laurie Berkner, the Dirty Sock Funtime Band, Suzanne Vega and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, plus face painting and holiday arts and crafts, roaming cast members from the Big Apple Circus, numbers from the upcoming Broadway show Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and incredible ice sculptures by Okamoto Studio. While admission to this awesome event is free, attendees are encouraged to drop off new or gently used coats as part of New York Cares Coat Drive. Visit the website for a list of drop-off locations and a complete list of events and times.
Holiday Lighting Extravaganza at the Winter Garden – Financial District
World Financial Center, 200 Vesey Street near West Street
Tuesday, November 27 at 6pm
The lovely glass atrium is decorated with 50,000 lights, transforming it into a twinkling snow globe. Afterward, the New York Theatre Ballet performs its kid-friendly one-hour rendition of The Nutcracker. (You can also catch that performance at 12:30pm the same day, and on Wednesday, November 28 at 12:30 and 6pm.) The lights continues daily 10am to 7pm through Thursday, January 3, 2013.
Sunnyside Christmas Tree Lighting – Sunnyside
Joe Sabba Park, 50th Street and Queens Boulevard
Tuesday, November 27 at 6pm
The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce sponsors this annual illumination. This year, Queens Borough President Helen Marchall will do the honors, and there will also be a performance by the Sunnyside Drum Corp, community Christmas caroling and candy canes for kids.
Citi Pond at Bryant Park Tree Lighting – Midtown West
40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Tuesday, November 27 at 7pm
The only free ice-skating rink in the city hosts this annual tree lighting. Entertainment is yet to be determined but will certainly include lots of skating performances.
UNICEF Snowflake – Midtown East
Fifth Avenue at 57th Street
Tuesday, November 27 at 6:30pm
The enormous, 3,000-pound crystal snowflake is lit for the season tonight, and shines on through early January.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – Midtown East
Rockefeller Plaza between 48th-51st Streets
Wednesday, November 28 at 7pm
We are not recommending that you go, especially with kids (we went once; never again! We thought we were going to be crushed by the crowds. Literally). But if you've just gotta see the famous Norway Spruce illuminated with 30,000 LED lights and topped with a massive Swarovski crystal star, then arrive early (like 4pm) and read up on other fun things to do near Rock Center. The tree will stay on view through Monday, January 7, 2013.
Atlantic Avenue – Boerum Hill
Belarusian Church, 401 Atlantic Avenue at Bond Street
Thursday, November 29 at 6pm
Watch the Christmas tree light up and enjoy treats and tunes courtesy of Rolie Polie Guacamole and local public school students.
Middle Village – Middle Village
Community United Methodist Church, 75-27 Metropolitan Avenue near 78th Street
Saturday, December 1 at 5pm
The Middle Village Chamber of Commerce and Middle Village Kiwanis sponsor this annual Queens tree. Come for the illumination and stay for a holiday raffle and time with Santa.
Little Italy – Little Italy
Patio of Most Precious Blood Church, 11 Mulberry Street near Worth Street
Saturday, December 1 at 6:30pm
Details are scarce (okay, nonexistent) about this annual holiday tree illumination, but we have confirmed the date and time.
Christmas in Richmond Town & Traditional Tree Lighting – Staten Island
441 Clarke Avenue
Sunday, December 2. Festival begins at 10am, tree lighting is at 5pm
Tree lighting is free. Admission to the festival is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-11, free for kids under 4. Additional fees for certain activities.
Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday in the historic village. Watch the tinsmith create glittering tree ornaments, listen to Christmas carols and stories, snap photos with Santa, browse the holiday market and take a horse and wagon ride. The free tree lighting caps off the day of fun.
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center Lighting – Harlem
Central Park, enter at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues
Sunday, December 2 at 4:30pm
The Central Park Conservancy kicks off the holidays by decorating the Victorian-style center with thousands of LED lights. Last year, a lovely floating Christmas tree was also set out on the Harlem Meer and this year the organization promises a flotilla of 13 trees! We can't wait to see that. Old Saint Nick will also drop by to say hello to little ones (it's usually a little nutty to make for a good photo op). Families can also enjoy cookie decorating, watch Okamoto Studio carve an ice sculpture, sing along with the Original Dickens Carolers and warm up with hot cocoa.
Carl Schurz Park Tree Lighting and Caroling – Upper East Side
East End Avenue at 86th Street
Sunday, December 2 at 5pm
Neighbors come together to sing Christmas carols, enjoy cookies, candy canes and hot chocolate, and watch the tree light up. Song books are even provided. Come back the next Sunday, December 9 for the lighting of the park's giant menorah at 6pm.
The Lighting of the Park Avenue Christmas Trees – Upper East Side
Brick Presbyterian Church, 92nd Street and Park Avenue
Sunday, December 2 at 6:30pm
Why watch just one tree light up when you can see a block's-worth of fir trees come alive with white lights? These arbors were first illuminated in 1945 to commemorate those lost in World War II. Today, this tradition continues in honor of the brave men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The lighting begins with a brief ceremony outside the Brick Presbyterian Church.
Madison Square Park – Flatiron District
Northern Plaza of Madison Square Park, 25th Street and Fifth Avenue
Tuesday, December 4 3:30-5:30pm
The green space hosted America's very first community holiday tree 100 years ago. That tradition continues in 2012 with a 5pm lighting of its 35-foot-tall Balsam Fir, preceded by crafts, treats and concerts by the New York Life Singers and kindie rocker AudraRox.
New York Stock Exchange – Financial District
11 Wall Street near Broad Street
Tuesday, December 4 at 4:45pm
Since 1923, the NYSE has lit up downtown Manhattan over the holidays with a giant tree on its doorstep. This year’s arbor is a 45-foot-tall Norway Spruce that will be adorned with 3,500 white LED lights, 1,000 multicolored balls and a six-foot star.
Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID – Park Slope
Old Stone House, 336 Third Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues
Wednesday, December 5 at 6pm
Santa and his entourage will drop by the recently renovated Washington Park to watch the tree light up, and Brooklyn family band Rolie Polie Guacamole will play some tunes with help from the Middle School 51 chorus.
Washington Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting – Greenwich Village
The Arch, Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North
Wednesday, December 5 at 6pm
The Washington Square Association welcomes the Rob Susman Brass Quartet for sing-along carols and holiday songs (complimentary songbooks are provided). Santa Claus has promised to drop by to help illuminate the beautiful 45-foot-tall Christmas tree under the Washington Square Arch.
Brooklyn Borough Hall Annual Christmas Tree Lighting – Brooklyn Heights
Borough Hall Plaza, 209 Joralemon Street at Court Street
Thursday, December 6 at 5:30pm
Santa will drop by to help light up Brooklyn's Borough Hall for the holidays.
Holiday Lights – Battery Park City
South Cove, southern end of South End Avenue
Thursday, December 6 at 5:45pm
A cappella group The Accidentals croons during this annual illumination, and Santa even puts in an appearance. Please bring an unwrapped gift for donation.
Staten Island Borough Hall – St. George
Staten Island Borough Hall Plaza on the Richmond Terrace side
Friday, December 7 at 6pm
After all the devastation caused to the borough by Hurricane Sandy, Staten Islanders really deserve a big holiday celebration. Borough president James P. Molinaro plans to give just that to his constituents at this annual illumination, which includes live entertainment, complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, and a visit from Santa himself.
Astoria Holiday Tree – Astoria
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, 29-19 24th Avenue near 29th Street
Friday, December 7 at 7pm
Free but visitors are encouraged to purchase food.
The 20-foot tree is illuminated for the season inside the family-friendly restaurant.
World's Largest Hanukkah Menorah Lighting – Upper East Side
Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue at 59th Street
Saturday, December 8-Saturday, December 15: Friday at 3:30pm, Saturday at 8:30pm and 5:30pm on all other days
Christmas trees don't get to have all the fun. After all, Hanukkah is the festival of lights. This massive 32-foot tall, two-ton menorah will be lit every night of the holiday.
Grand Army Plaza Menorah Lighting – Park Slope
Intersection of Vanderbilt and Flatbush Avenues
Saturday, December 8-Saturday, December 15
Each night of the holiday, the menorah will be lit and revelers can enjoy hot latkes, gifts for the children and live music.
West Harlem Piers Park – Harlem
125th and Marginal Street by the Hudson River
Wednesday, December 12 5:30-6:30pm
Head to the waterfront park for its annual tree lighting, with live music by The Tee Tones, arts and crafts, and complimentary goodies.
Washington Heights Gateway Plaza – Washington Heights
161st Street and Amsterdam Avenue
Friday, December 14 6-7pm
Join locals and the Community League of the Heights for the spot's annual tree illumination. You can even help decorate the tree, sing holiday songs and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate.
Holiday Celebration at Bruce's Garden – Inwood
Isham Park, Broadway and Isham Street
Friday, December 14 6:30-8pm
The Isham Park Restoration Program hosts this annual fete featuring refreshments, caroling and a tree lighting. Coat donations will also be accepted for New York City Cares seasonal coat drive.
Morningside Park – Morningside Heights
Enter at 121st Street and Morningside Avenue
Saturday, December 15 4-5:30pm
Head to this neighborhood illumination for songs and complimentary refreshments.
Caroling on Montague Street – Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights Promenade at Montague Street
Wednesday, December 19 at 5:30pm
Brooklyn Heights Garden Club's 63rd annual
Hit the Promenade to watch the Brooklyn Heights Garden Club's 63rd annual tree illumination. The
Grace & Spiritus Chorale of Brooklyn will be on hand to raise their voices, and will lead revelers in caroling down Montague Street post-lighting.
Peace Tree at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine – Morningside Heights
Amsterdam Avenue at 111th Street
Friday, December 21 at 11am
Free although donations are encouraged
For the 31st year in a row, the cathedral will put up its lovely arbor decorated with 1,000 paper cranes, an Asian symbol of harmony, longevity and peace. Choristers from the Cathedral School will also be on hand to make a joyful noise.
And if you're wondering about the annual Chorus Tree down at the South Street Seaport, unfortunately, due to extensive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, the spot is closed for the foreseeable future. We're not sure if the tree (or Santa!) will be there this year. Stay tuned for further details as we get them.