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.

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, November 20
Head to the Leon Levy Visitor Center reflecting pool to take in nine decorated Fraser fir trees lit in holiday splendor. Visitors can participate in an old-fashioned sing-along and take in the opening weekend of the Holiday Train Show. Free with garden admission: Adults $25; children ages 2-10 $10; children 1 and younger FREE.

American Museum of Natural History Origami Holiday Tree – Upper West Side
Monday, November 21 through Sunday, January 8, 2017
There are no actual lights involved, but this 13-foot tall tree has 500 or so origami creations dangling from its limbs. This year’s theme is "Origami Dinosaurs Among Us," and is inspired by the exhibit of the same name. Throughout the holiday season, volunteers from OrigamiUSA—who began crafting the decorations in July—are on hand to teach visitors the art of folding paper. If you crave lights, the museum has an illuminated pair of 19-foot tall holiday barosauruses on its front step. Free with suggested admission.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche – Upper East Side
Tuesday, November 22 through Sunday, January 8, 2017
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.

Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID – Park Slope, Brooklyn
Saturday, November 26
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 28
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 the Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could, Jack Freeze, crafts, and character appearances. Okamoto Studio will be on hand with ice-carving demos, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts multiple screenings of the classic Elf. Most activities are FREE and attendees are encouraged to drop off new or gently used coats for the New York Cares Coat Drive. FREE

South Street Seaport Christmas Tree Lighting – Seaport area
Tuesday, November 29
In honor of Giving Tuesday, the Seaport lights up its tree with live performances, kids' activities and, of course, a visit from Santa. FREE

Light Up The Nights – Upper West Side
Tuesday, November 29
City Council member Helen Rosenthal is on hand to light the lights in Verdi Square and all along Broadway's malls. The Reaching for the Arts Choir fills the air with beautiful music, and treats are dished out. FREE

Shore Road Park Christmas Tree Lighting – Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Tuesday, November 29
State Sen. Martin Golden kicks off the festive evening at Shore Road Park, which includes hot chocolate, small gifts from Santa and the tree lighting. Revelers are encouraged to bring a donation for Toys for Tots. FREE

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – Midtown East
Wednesday, November 30
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 7, 2017. FREE

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center Lighting – Harlem
Thursday, December 1
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

RELATED: The Nutcracker in NYC: 18 Shows for Families

The modest Dumbo tree lighting is a neighborhood affair. Photo by Phillip Greenburg/courtesy of DUMBO NYC.

Dumbo Holiday Tree Lighting – Dumbo, Brooklyn
Thursday, December 1
Come to the Pearl Street Triangle for an evening of entertainment and the annual lighting of the holiday tree. FREE

Lady Moody Triangle – Brooklyn
Thursday, December 1
St. Nick and Senator Golden are at it again, this time lighting the tree in the Lady Moody Triangle. FREE

Staten Island Borough Hall – St. George, Staten Island
Thursday, December 1
Sing Christmas carols at this annual holiday fete hosted by Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, who hands out books to all kids in attendance. FREE

East Harlem Holiday Tree – East Harlem
Friday, December 2
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. The tree remains on view through January 22, 2017, when the neighborhood observes Octavitas, the Puerto Rican celebration marking the end to the holiday season. FREE

Community Holiday Tree Lighting – Astoria, Queens
Saturday, December 3
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 3
Jefferson Market Park kicks off the holiday season with its annual lighting. Complimentary hot chocolate and cookies are served. FREE

Carl Schurz Park Tree Lighting and Caroling – Upper East Side
Sunday, December 4
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 4
Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday in Staten Island's historic village. Listen to Christmas carols and stories, snap photos with Santa, browse the holiday market, and go on a horse-and-carriage ride. Cap off the day with the tree lighting. FREE for tree lighting; festival is FREE for children younger than age 7, $2 for everyone else, but there are additional fees for activities.

Fort Greene Park Holiday Tree Lighting – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Sunday, December 4
Join friends, neighbors, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, and Santa Claus for an evening of caroling with free hot chocolate, holiday cheer, and (of course!) the tree lighting. FREE

Glendale Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting – Glendale, Queens
Sunday, December 4
Head to the intersection of Myrtle and Cooper Avenues to see the annual tree lighting in Glendale Memorial Triangle. Santa is on hand, and there are music and refreshments. FREE

Lighting of the Park Avenue Christmas Trees – Upper East Side
Sunday, December 4
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 4
Journey to the historic Vander Ende-Onderdonk House to meet St. Nick. Hear his origin story while enjoying cider, hot chocolate, traditional treats and a tree lighting. FREE for children

Winter Solstice Celebration and Tree Lighting – Flushing, Queens
Sunday, December 4
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.

Madison Square Park – Flatiron District
Tuesday, December 6
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 kindie rocker AudraRox, The Sweetback Sisters, and the New York Life Singers. A display of life-size gingerbread houses will also help set the holiday mood. FREE

RELATED: Best Holiday Events for Preschool-Age NYC Kids

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 7
Join the Rob Susman Brass Quartet for sing-along carols and holiday songs (complimentary songbooks are provided.) Santa Claus has promised to help illuminate the 45-foot-tall tree under the Washington Square Arch and deliver candy canes to good girls and boys. FREE

Atlantic Avenue – Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Thursday, December 8
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

Holiday Lights – Battery Park City
Thursday, December 8
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.

McKinley Park Christmas Tree Lighting – Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Thursday, December 8
This lighting is also hosted by Golden, who's joined by jolly old St. Nick. Enjoy hot chocolate as Santa distributes a small gift to each child. FREE

Check out the amazing holiday lights that adorn the houses in this section of Brooklyn while you're there!

Holiday on the Hudson – Harlem
Saturday, December 10
Head to West Harlem Piers Park for this annual tree lighting featuring live music, dancing, and arts and crafts. FREE

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.