A visit to the top holiday and Christmas light displays in New York City is a popular seasonal activity. It seems every year installations get more elaborate. There are even tour buses that will take you to some of the neighborhoods that get 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 like Pelham Gardens in the Bronx, Dyker Heights in Brooklyn and Jamaica Estates in Queens, but they're definitely worth the trip. So start your own holiday tradition this year by checking out these spectacular sights when dusk hits. Find more seasonal fun, including a slideshow of our more awe-inspiring Christmas decorations and holiday lights in our Holiday Guide.
The houses listed below light up once the sun goes down, and lights traditionally go up around Thanksgiving and come down around the New Year. 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.
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. There's also holiday music blaring from multiple speakers and a horse-drawn carriage from which a Cinderella-like mannequin elegantly exits.
Old-Hollywood glam, Disney princesses and religious relics all find a home at the Garabedian family's Christmas House.
The Garabedian family is in the fabric-trimming business and fashion all of the figures' outfits themselves. The family has set up this holiday display since 1974 as a gift to God for an unnamed religious miracle. In 2008, the family would not even reveal the secret to The New York Times.
As an added bonus, a few other homes in the area are decorated for the season, too, although none as elaborately. If you visit, bring a little cash with you for donations. The Garabedians are said to 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.
Santa's Corner – Whitestone
166th Street and 23rd Avenue
Queens residents love holiday lights. One place 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. Like the Bronx's Christmas House, this tastefully flamboyant home also accepts donations for a local children’s charity.
Santa's Corner is a glowing sight in Queens.
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.
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, the 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, too. Check out the video below for a preview, but 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 all stop nearby. If going by car, it's only a 20-minute drive from Santa's Corner via Utopia Parkway.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights – Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights is famous for its Christmas light displays. There's even a PBS documentary called Dyker Lights, a 3½-hour Christmas lights and cannoli tour, and countless videos on YouTube. Conan O'Brien once visited but that hilarious clip is not for now available online). Check out our Dyker Lights slide show.
Dyker Heights boasts blocks and blocks of spectacular displays.
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. You can take the subway, which is great for the driving-challenged. 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 Westchester and New Jersey.
The Holiday Lights Spectacular in South Slope is not happening in 2015. Instead, its creative team is busy building a new mini-golf destination in Red Hook.
Find more seasonal fun in our Holiday Activity Guide.
This story, originally published in December 2009, is updated annually. All photos by Mommy Poppins.