NYC Christmas Tree and Menorah Lightings Better Than Rockefeller Center 2013
This post is in the process of being updated for 2014. Please check back in mid-November. 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 building illuminations) that are much less crowded, way cooler, 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 even more seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide.
UNICEF Snowflake – Midtown East
Fifth Avenue at 57th Street
Through New Year's Day
The enormous, 3,000-pound crystal snowflake is already lit for the season, and shines on through early January.
American Museum of Natural History Origami Holiday Tree – Upper West Side
Central Park West at 79th Street in the Grand Gallery near the 77th Street exit on the first floor
On view Monday, November 25-Sunday, January 12, 2014
Free with suggested admission: $22 for adults, $12.50 for children ages 2-12
There aren't any actual lights involved, but I love this tree. It stands 13-feet tall and has 500 or so origami creations dangling from its limbs. This year’s theme, Wicked, Wild and Wonderful, is inspired by the museum's current Power of Poison exhibit. 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 has an illuminated pair of 19-foot 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 26-Monday, January 6, 2014. Lightings occur Sunday-Thursday at 4:30pm; Friday-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.
World's Largest Hanukkah Menorah Lighting – Upper East Side
Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue at 59th Street
Wednesday, November 27-Wednesday, December 4: Friday at 3:30pm, Saturday at 8:30pm and 5:30pm on all other evenings
Christmas trees don't get to have all the fun. After all, Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, and it coincides with Thanksgiving this year for the first time in more than a century. 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
Wednesday, November 27-Wednesday, December 4: Friday at 3:30pm, Saturday at 7:30pm and 6pm on all other evenings
Each night of the holiday, the menorah will be lit and revelers can enjoy hot latkes, gifts for the children and live music.
South Street Seaport Christmas Tree Lighting – Seaport
Fulton and Front Streets
Friday, November 29 at 6pm
Last year, the Seaport's big tree lighting was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. The 30th annual tradition resumes this year. Enjoy live performances by Lesley Gore, Swingadelic and other retro acts, and face time with Santa Claus and Frosty. While there, be sure to check out the brand-new ice rink. All activities are FREE except for the rink, which costs $10 for everyone ages 6 and up.
Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID – Park Slope
S'Nice, 315 Fifth Avenue at 3rd Street
Saturday, November 30 at 6:30pm
Celebrate the holidays and Small Business Saturday by watching the tree light up at local cafe S'Nice. Families can also hang with Santa; catch performances by Puppetry Arts, Brooklyn family band Rolie Polie Guacamole and the Middle School 51 chorus; and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and candy canes.
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, December 2 at 5pm
The tree lighting at Dante Park kicks off this huge neighborhood holiday 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 the Grammy-nominated Pop Ups; the mini show Jack Frost with magic, juggling and singing; meet and greets with Curious George and Daniel Tiger; face painting, tattoos and crafts; 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.
Winter Village at Bryant Park Tree Lighting – Midtown West
40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Tuesday, December 3 at 5pm
NYC's only free ice-skating rink in the city illuminates its 50-foot Norway spruce with 30,000 white and red LED lights for the season. There will also be live holiday music and pro skating performances.
Atlantic Avenue – Boerum Hill
Belarusian Church, 401 Atlantic Avenue at Bond Street
Tuesday, December 3 at 6pm
Watch the Christmas tree light up, enjoy complimentary treats, performances by kid rockers Rolie Polie Guacamole, Dancewave and local public school students, and get face time with Santa Claus.
Shore Road Park Christmas Tree Lighting – Bay Ridge
90th Street and Shore Road
Wednesday, December 4 at 6:30pm
Enjoy live performances by the Xaverian High School Chorus and Pep Band, and singers and guitarists from the Guild for Exceptional Children as they help light up the neighborhood tree. There will also be photo ops with Santa, complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, and small gifts for children.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – Midtown East
Rockefeller Plaza between 48th-51st Streets
Wednesday, December 4 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). Your best bet is to watch the spectacle on TV—you'll certainly have a much better and more comfortable view of the performances by Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and others. If you must see the famous Norway spruce illuminated with 30,000 LED lights and topped with a massive Swarovski crystal star in person, then arrive early (like 4pm) and read up on other fun things to do near Rock Center. The tree will stay on view through Tuesday, January 7, 2014.
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center Lighting – Harlem
Central Park, enter at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues
Thursday, December 5 at 5:30pm
The Central Park Conservancy kicks off the holidays by decorating the Victorian-style center with thousands of LED lights and putting a flotilla of 17 illuminated trees on the adjacent Harlem Meer. 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). Plus there will be Okamoto Studio ice sculptures, caroling, and complimentary cookies and hot cocoa.
Holiday Lights – Battery Park City
South Cove, southern end of South End Avenue
Thursday, December 5 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.
Pythagorize the Flatiron – Flatiron
23rd Street and Fifth Avenue
Thursday, December 5 6:45-7:35pm
For one night only, the Museum of Mathematics will turn the nearby Flatiron Building into an illuminated demo of the Pythagorean Theorem in honor of the holidays. Come out and marvel at the math show or volunteer to hold one of the hundreds of glow sticks. Visit the website for more info.
Little Italy – Little Italy
Patio of Most Precious Blood Church, 1109 Mulberry Street between Canal and Hester Streets
Saturday, December 7 at 6:30pm
Local performers like the Red Mike Festival Band, Jenna Esposito, Karen King and others entertain gatherers before the annual illumination of a 40-foot tree.
Christmas in Richmond Town & Traditional Tree Lighting – Staten Island
441 Clarke Avenue
Sunday, December 8: festival begins at 10am, tree lighting is at 5pm
Tree lighting is free; festival is free with admission: $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-11 but there are additional fees for certain activities
Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday in Staten Island's historic village. Watch the tinsmith create glittering tree ornaments, listen to Christmas carols and stories, snap photos with Santa, browse the holiday market, and go on a horse and wagon ride. The no-cost tree lighting caps off the day of fun.
Winter Solstice Celebration & Tree Lighting – Flushing
Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main Street between Elder and Cherry Avenues
Sunday, December 8 12:30-5pm
Free admission but there are fees for crafts and Santa pics
Head to the the beautiful garden for nature tours, botanical crafts, live music performances, a holiday marketplace, photo ops with Kris Kringle and a tree illumination at 4:30pm.
Carl Schurz Park Tree Lighting and Caroling – Upper East Side
East End Avenue at 86th Street
Sunday, December 8 at 5pm
Neighbors of the beloved park come together to sing Christmas carols; enjoy candy canes and hot chocolate; and watch the tree light up. Song books are even provided.
The Lighting of the Park Avenue Christmas Trees – Upper East Side
Brick Presbyterian Church, 91st Street and Park Avenue
Sunday, December 8 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 is preceded by 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 10 3:30-5pm
The green space hosted America's very first community holiday tree more than a century ago. That tradition continues in 2013 with a 5pm lighting of its 35-foot-tall Balsam fir, preceded by crafts, complimentary treats from Hill Country Pie Kitchen, and live music by the New York Life Singers and kindie rocker AudraRox.
Brooklyn Borough Hall Annual Christmas Tree Lighting – Brooklyn Heights
Borough Hall Plaza, 209 Joralemon Street at Court Street
Tuesday, December 10 time TBD
Santa will drop by to help light up Brooklyn's Borough Hall for the holidays.
Washington Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting – Greenwich Village
The Arch, Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North
Wednesday, December 11 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.
Holiday Tree Lighting – Prospect Heights
Brower Park at PS 289, Prospect Place and Kingston Avenue
Wednesday, December 11 at 6pm
Watch the 35-foot-tall Norway spruce light up as locals sing carols and enjoy free treats.
Holiday on the Hudson – Harlem
West Harlem Piers Park, 125th and Marginal Street by the Hudson River
Wednesday, December 11 6-7pm
Head to the waterfront park for its annual tree lighting, with live music, arts and crafts, and complimentary goodies.
Staten Island Borough Hall – St. George
Staten Island Borough Hall Plaza on the Richmond Terrace side
Thursday, December 12 at 6pm
Local students will perform and Santa will hand out small gifts and treats to kids at this annual holiday fete hosted by borough president James P. Molinaro.
Morningside Park – Morningside Heights
Enter at 123rd Street and Morningside Avenue
Friday, December 13 4:30-5:30pm
Head to this neighborhood illumination for songs and complimentary refreshments.
Carroll Park – Carroll Gardens
President and Smith Streets
Friday, December 13 at 6pm
Local community organizations Court Street Merchants Association and Friends of Carroll Park host this holiday event as Santa helps flip the switch on the holiday tree. There will be carols and cheer in the park and then food and fun in the adjacent Robert Acito Park House.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade – Brooklyn Heights
Promenade at Montague Street
Wednesday, December 18 at 5:30pm
Hit the Promenade to watch the Montague Street BID's annual tree illumination. The Grace & Spiritus Chorale of Brooklyn will be on hand to raise their voices, and lead revelers in caroling down Montague Street post-lighting. There will also be complimentary treats and cookies at Lassen & Hennigs at 114 Montague Street.
Peace Tree at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine – Morningside Heights
Amsterdam Avenue at 111th Street
Friday, December 20 at 11am
Free although donations are encouraged
For the 32nd 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.
You can find even more community tree lightings in the NYC Parks Department's calendar.
Originally posted on November 24, 2009