Christmas Tree Lightings in New York City This Holiday Season

Guide to New York Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremonies: Rockefeller Tree, West Village, South Street

You don't have to brave the Rockefeller Center commotion to witness a fabulous Christmas tree lighting in New York City.

We've rounded up some tree lightings that are much less crowded and every bit as hip, from Brooklyn and Queens to the Bronx and everywhere in between. These community holiday celebrations are festive and (mostly) FREE, and there’s no need to stand on your car to glimpse the goings-on. So grab that cup of hot chocolate and cozy up to one of these holiday illuminations in New York City. Find even more seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide.

Click through to our listings for all the details, including addresses, times, recommended ages, and rain (or snow!) dates. Note: Tree lightings are organized by date.

American Museum of Natural History Origami Holiday Tree — Upper West Side
Monday, November 20 through Monday, January 8
There are no actual lights involved, but this 13-foot tree has over 1000 origami creations dangling from its limbs. This year’s theme is "Unfolding the Senses," inspired by the exhibit "Our Senses: An Immersive Experience." Throughout the holiday season, volunteers from OrigamiUSA—who began crafting the decorations in March—are on hand to teach visitors the art of folding paper. FREE with paid admission.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche Display — Upper East Side
Friday, November 24 through Sunday, January 7
The Met's Christmas tree is a magical, only-in-New-York display. It stands 20 feet tall 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 daily at 4:30pm. Additional lightings are held on Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 and 6:30pm. FREE with suggested admission.

Small Business Saturday Tree Lighting in Park Slope — Park Slope, Brooklyn
Saturday, November 25
Celebrate Small Business Saturday by watching the tree light up on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourth Street. Families can hang with Santa, enjoy free treats, giveaways, live music, and a puppet show. FREE

Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square — Upper West Side
Monday, November 27
A November GoList Pick: The tree lighting at Dante Park kicks off a neighborhood holiday celebration. From Columbus Circle to 68th Street, enjoy free entertainment and reasonably priced ($1–$4) food tastings from the area's many restaurants. This year, kid-centric attractions include live music from Tim Kubart and the Space Cadets, a Grammy-award winning band that performs with tap-dancing sidekicks, comedy and games with Jack Frost, card tricks taught by teaching artists from the New Victory Theater, arts, crafts, and face painting. Okamoto Studio will be on-hand with ice-carving demos, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts multiple screenings of the classic A Christmas Story. Most activities are FREE.

Light Up the Nights — Upper West Side
Tuesday, November 28
City Council member Helen Rosenthal is on-hand to light the lights in Verdi Square and all along Broadway's malls. Enjoy complimentary cookies and apple cider, plus entertainment from the Reaching for the Arts choir and Ballroom Basix. FREE


The Rockefeller Center tree is one of a kind. Photo by Anthony Quintano/Flickr.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree — Midtown East
Wednesday, November 29
We recommend you not attend, especially with kids. A better bet is to watch the spectacle on TV, where you'll have a better and more comfortable view of the performances. But if you must see the famous 94-foot-tall Norway spruce illuminated by 30,000 LED lights and topped with a massive Swarovski crystal star, arrive early—by 4pm. If you can't find a good spot, check out other fun things to do near Rockefeller Center and make another date to visit the tree, which is on view through January 9. FREE

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center Lighting — Harlem
Thursday, November 30
The Central Park Conservancy decorates this Victorian-style visitor's center with thousands of LED lights and puts a flotilla of illuminated trees on the adjacent Harlem Meer. St. Nick says hello to little ones. Expect ice-sculpture demonstrations, caroling, and complimentary cookies and hot cocoa. FREE

Atlantic Avenue Tree Lighting and Party — Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Friday, December 1
Watch the Christmas tree at the Belarusian Church light up while enjoying complimentary treats and performances by local public school students. Santa is on hand to hear kids' wish lists. FREE

Community Holiday Tree Lighting — Astoria, Queens
Saturday, December 2
Head to the Astoria Park Lawn to hear stories of various holiday cultural traditions before the tree is lit. There is entertainment for all ages. FREE

Jefferson Market Park Tree Lighting — West Village
Saturday, December 2
Jefferson Market Park kicks off the holiday season with its annual lighting. Visits with Santa and refreshments available. FREE

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Visit the New York Botanical Garden's grounds for this festive Bronx tree lighting. Photo by Ben Hider/courtesy of NYBG.

New York Botanical Garden Tree Lighting — the Bronx
Sunday, December 3
Head to the reflecting pool at the Leon Levy Visitor Center for the annual lighting of a stunning conifer display by special guests. Visitors can participate in an old-fashioned sing-along and take in the Holiday Train Show. FREE with paid admission.

Fort Greene Park Holiday Tree Lighting — Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Sunday, December 3
Join friends, neighbors, and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership for the 4th Annual Fort Greene Tree Lighting. There will be live music, free hot cocoa and snacks from Myrtle Avenue businesses, and a chance to meet Santa. Bring a toy to donate to a local toy drive. FREE

Carl Schurz Park Tree Lighting and Caroling — Upper East Side
Sunday, December 3
Neighbors come together at this beloved community park to sing Christmas carols with the Cantori choir and Orbital Brass. Enjoy candy canes and hot chocolate and watch the tree light up. FREE

Christmas in Richmond Town & Traditional Tree Lighting — Staten Island
Sunday December 3
Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday in Staten Island's historic village. Listen to Christmas carols and stories, snap photos with Santa, and browse the holiday market. Cap off the day with the tree lighting at 5pm. The lighting is FREE; the festival is FREE for children under 7, $5 for everyone else.

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The Park Avenue tree lighting dates back to World War II. Photo Courtesy of FundforParkAvenue.org

Lighting of the Park Avenue Christmas Trees — Upper East Side
Sunday, December 3
Why watch just one tree light up when you can see a row of firs come alive with white lights? These arbors were first illuminated in 1945 to commemorate those lost in World War II. The tradition continues today in honor of the men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The lighting is preceded by a ceremony outside Brick Presbyterian Church. FREE

St. Nicholas Day Celebration and Tree Lighting — Ridgewood, Queens
Sunday, December 3
Journey to the historic Vander Ende-Onderdonk House to meet St. Nick. Hear his origin story while enjoying holiday treats, traditional music, crafts for children, and a tree lighting. $5 for adults; FREE for children.

Christmas in the Garden and Tree Lighting — Flushing, Queens
Sunday, December 3
Head to the Queens Botanical Garden for nature tours, crafts, live music performances, a holiday marketplace, photo-ops with Kris Kringle, and a tree illumination. FREE admission, but there are fees for photos with Santa.

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The modest Dumbo tree lighting is a neighborhood affair with entertainment for the kids. Photo by Phillip Greenburg/courtesy of DUMBO NYC.

Dumbo Holiday Tree Lighting — Dumbo, Brooklyn
Monday, December 4
Come to the Pearl Street Triangle for an evening of calypso music, excerpts from The Nutcracker, visits with Santa, hot cocoa, and the annual lighting of the holiday tree. Bring an unwrapped toy for a child aged 4–14 for the Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive. FREE


The tree at Washington Square Park is a NYC classic. Photo by Charlie Lhasa via Flickr.

Washington Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting — Greenwich Village
Wednesday, December 6
Join the Rob Susman Brass Quartet for sing-along carols and holiday songs under the 45-foot-tall tree. This delightful community event is in its 95th year, and Santa Claus will be on-hand, as usual, to deliver candy canes to good girls and boys. FREE

Madison Square Park — Flatiron District
Thursday, December 7
This green space hosted America's first community holiday tree lighting more than a century ago. That tradition continues with a 5pm lighting of its 40-foot-tall Balsam fir, preceded by crafts, complimentary treats from neighborhood hot spots, and live music by kiddie rocker AudraRox, The Sweetback Sisters, and the New York Life Singers. FREE

Holiday Lights — Battery Park City
Thursday, December 7
Venture to South Cove for a community-centric tree lighting, complete with warm beverages, cookies, and plenty of cheer. Get into the holiday spirit by donating new, unwrapped gifts to Stockings with Care.

East Harlem Holiday Tree — East Harlem
Friday, December 8
Children and senior citizens create "winter flowers" at workshops to adorn the tree, and the community bands together to get the tree up and lit each year at the intersection of 106th Street and Third Avenue. This year's theme is Somos Uno/We Are One. In April 2017, many of the ornaments for the tree were destroyed, so donations are being accepted. FREE

Holiday on the Hudson — Harlem
Saturday, December 9
Head to West Harlem Piers Park for this annual tree lighting featuring live music, dancing, and arts and crafts. FREE

South Street Seaport Christmas Tree Lighting — Seaport area
Date TBD
We confirmed that the Seaport will be having its annual tree lighting but, at the time of writing, the date had not yet been set. In past years, this celebration included live performances, kids' activities, and a visit from Santa. Check back for updates.

Top image: South Street Seaport's tree lighting offers harbor views. Photo courtesy of South Street Seaport.

This article, first published in November 2009, is updated annually.