The Most Spectacular Holiday Light Displays in and Around NYC
[UPDATED: NOVEMBER 29, 2012]
Going to visit over-the-top holiday and Christmas light displays in New York City is a popular seasonal activity. It seems like every year the installations get more and more elaborate. There are even tour buses that will take you to some of the neighborhoods that really get decked out for the season.
We've rounded up some of the best holiday displays in (or near) NYC. Yes, some of these attractions are far-flung but they're definitely worth the trip. So start a new holiday tradition this year by checking out these spectacular sights.
Note: All of the houses we've listed light up once the sun goes down. If you want to avoid the crowds and traffic jams, go early in the evening on a weekday. These places get really busy on weekends.
Garabedian Family's Christmas House – Baychester
The Garabedian family's home on Pelham Parkway North is known to many as the Christmas House. Just take one look and you'll see why. Mixed in with a traditional Nativity scene and lots of corpulent angels are nearly 200 animated figures, all glammed up in old-school Hollywood-style gowns. Did I mention there's also holiday music blaring from multiple speakers? And massive chandeliers? There's even a horse-drawn carriage from which a Cinderella-like mannequin is elegantly exiting.
The Garabedian family is in the dress-making biz, so they fashion all of the mannequins' outfits themselves. They've been setting up this huge display since 1974 as a gift for their neighbors who did some sort of unnamed good deed for them back in the day. They wouldn't even reveal the secret to The New York Times!
As an added bonus, many other homes in the area are decorated for the season too, although none as elaborately. And a tip: If you decide to visit the Christmas House, bring a little cash with you. Most visitors end up tossing donations over the fence, which the Garabedians reportedly give to nearby Immaculate Conception Church.
How to get there: If you don't have a car, find a friend with one and bum a ride. Located at 1605 Pelham Parkway North and Westervelt Avenue, the Christmas House isn't easily accessible by public transportation.
Santa's Corner – Whitestone
Queens residents love them some holiday lights. But if there's one place that truly shines in the borough, it's the intersection of 166th Street and 23rd Avenue. Here, alongside more run-of-the-mill displays, you'll find Kevin Lynch's house, which is completely wrapped in thousands of twinkling lights, plus lawn figures and a glass display case filled with moving toys. In the realm of Christmas light displays, I call this corner tastefully flamboyant. Like the Bronx's Christmas House, this home also accepts donations for a local children’s charity.
How to get there: The corner of 166th St and 23rd Avenue is also not easy to get to via the MTA. Find a ride if possible. In fact, it's best to hit Santa's Corner and the Christmas House on the same evening. You can travel quickly between the two spots via the Whitestone Bridge.
Holiday Light Spectacular – South Slope
The very ambitious and creative homeowners make everything by hand in their backyard—no pre-fab strings of lights at all! This house has a different theme and storyline every season. The details on this year's installation are being kept under wraps until the night it debuts (typically the second weekend in December). Rumor is there will be interactive elements and that the show will loop every 20 minutes from 5-11pm nightly. Previous themes include 1950s style and the "Grinch House." We can't wait to see what they have in store for 2012! You can visit the organizers' Facebook page to see photos of previous displays and receive clues regarding this year's construction.
How to get there: The house is located at 310A 22nd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The closest subway station is the 25th Street R stop. If you drive, you'll probably need to park a few blocks away. The display understandably causes a traffic jam.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights – Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights is super-famous for its Christmas light displays. There's a PBS documentary called Dyker Lights, a three-and-a-half-hour Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour, countless videos on YouTube and once, even Conan O'Brien visited (sadly that hilarious clip is not currently available online).
How to get there: The displays run from 11th to 13th Avenues between 83rd and 86th Streets. Be prepared for serious gridlock. We're not joking! You can take the subway, too. The D to 79th Street is the closest stop but it's still quite a walk away. If you're driving, visit Dyker Heights and South Slope’s Holiday Light Spectacular on the same night by hopping on the Gowanus Expressway.
Our Long Island site posted its own holiday lights roundup, but we still wanted to highlight one of our LI favorites.
The Lindy Christmas House – Lindenhurst
Since the late '90s, these Long Island homeowners have been seriously decking their halls with over-the-top holiday lights. Visitors can marvel at more than 32,000 strings of lights adorning their house and property, including a 21-foot-tall Christmas tree made of lights and giant inflatable decorations. As if that weren't enough, the lights blink in time to the music broadcast from their very own one-block radius radio station. Even if you've seen it before it's worth revisiting, as the family adds to the extravaganza every season. They accept donations on behalf of a local childhood cancer foundation, and this year they're also accepting toy donations for children affected by Hurricane Sandy.
How to get there: The house is located at 405 North Broadway in Lindenhurst, Long Island, about an hour drive from midtown Manhattan.
No Longer Shining
Thanks to our readers, we've confirmed that the Elvis House in Mahwah, NJ has left the building. Farewell Elvis, we miss you.
Also, thanks to reader comments from last year, we know that the house on Hollywood and Phillip Avenues in the Bronx no longer trips the lights fantastic.