Every year it seems holiday light installations in New York City get more elaborate, making a visit to the top displays a must-do seasonal activity.These days there are even tour buses that will take you to some of the neighborhoods decked out for the season.
We've rounded up some of the best holiday displays in NYC. Some of these attractions are in the more far-flung stretches of the city such as Pelham Gardens in the Bronx, Dyker Heights in Brooklyn and Jamaica Estates in Queens, but they're definitely worth the trip. We can vouch for it!
So start your own holiday tradition this year by checking out these spectacular sights when dusk hits. Find more seasonal fun, including where to find more holiday lights in our NYC Holiday Fun Guide.
The houses below light up around Thanksgiving, and displays come down around the New Year's Day. Lights go on (and are best seen) when the sun goes down. If you want to avoid the crowds and potential traffic jams, go early in the evening on a weekday. These places tend to get busy on weekends.
Disney princesses, Old-Hollywood glam and religious relics all find a home at the Garabedian family's Christmas House. Photo by Sonia Gonzalez.
Garabedian Family's Christmas House – Pelham Gardens
1605 Pelham Parkway North at Westervelt Avenue
The Garabedian family's home on Pelham Parkway North is known to many as the Christmas House. Just one look and you'll see why. Mixed in with a traditional nativity scene and plenty of corpulent angels are nearly 200 animated figures, all glammed up in old-school Hollywood-style gowns. Holiday music blares from multiple speakers and a horse-drawn carriage from which a Cinderella-like mannequin elegantly exits.
The Garabedian family is in the fabric-trimming business and fashions all of the figures' outfits themselves. The family has set up this display since 1974 as a gift to God for an unnamed religious miracle.The family didn't even reveal the secret to The New York Times when it visited in 2008.
As an added bonus, a few other homes in the area are decorated for the season, although none as elaborately. If you visit, bring a little cash with you to donate. The Garabedians reportedly give the money to nearby Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
How to get there: If you don't have a car, find a friend with one and share a ride. The Christmas House is not easily accessible by public transportation.
RELATED: NYC Department Stores Go All Out with 2016 Window Displays (Photos)
Santa's Corner truly is a sight to see for kids and parents. Photo by Shira Kronzon.
Santa's Corner – Whitestone
166th Street and 23rd Avenue
Queens residents love holiday lights. One home that truly shines is at the intersection of 166th Street and 23rd Avenue. Alongside more run-of-the-mill displays, you'll find Kevin Lynch's house, which is traditionally wrapped in thousands of twinkling lights, plus lawn figures and a glass display case filled with moving toys. It takes him a full three months to put it up, he told us! When our photo editor went to see it for herself, her son didn't want to leave; "I wish I could move into his house," he said! Like the Bronx's Christmas House, this tastefully flamboyant home also accepts donations for a local children’s charity.
How to get there: The intersection of 166th Street and 23rd Avenue is also not easy to access via 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.
RELATED: 21 NYC Holiday Activities Every Kid Should Try Once
Christmas in Jamaica Estates contains a full block of decorations!
Christmas in Jamaica Estates – Jamaica Estates
80th Drive and Chevy Chase Street
The first time I saw Anthony Gurino's annual Christmas display, I squealed with joy. His mansion and property take up an entire block and he makes sure to decorate it all. Here, and at Santa's Corner, wires are covered so you can walk through the front yard easily and sit on the benches for incredible photo-ops. Gurino acknowledges Hanukkah with illuminated menorahs. Check out the video below for a preview, though nothing but an in-person visit can do justice to this display.
How to get there: This house is not accessible by subway, but the QM1, QM5, and QM6 buses stop nearby. If going by car, it's only a 20-minute drive from Santa's Corner via Utopia Parkway.
House upon house are decorated to the max in the Dyker Heights neighborhood. Photo by Alex Fitzpatrick via Flickr.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights – Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights is famous for its Christmas lights displays. There's even a PBS documentary called Dyker Lights, a 3½-hour Christmas lights bus tour, and countless videos on YouTube. Check out our Dyker Lights review.
How to get there: Displays can be seen throughout the neighborhood, but the hot spot is 11th to 13th Avenues between 83rd and 86th Streets. Be prepared for serious gridlock or take the subway. The D train to 79th Street is the closest stop, but it's still quite a walk away.
Got a car and looking for fun seasonal outings? Find out about the most decked-out holiday houses on Long Island, in Hudson Valley, and New Jersey. There's even more seasonal fun in our Holiday Activity Guide.
This story, originally published in December 2009, is updated annually.
Top image: Santa's Corner. Photo by Shira Kronzon.