Best New York City Christmas Light Tours

New York is a magical city at Christmas time. Its decorations, lights and trees will make you enjoy an unforgettable vacation. Don't let the cold weather block you and go out to walk its streets and avenues with the help of an expert.

María Cano

María Cano

12 min read

Best New York City Christmas Light Tours

The streets of New York at Christmas | ©Clay Leconey

The beauty of New York is indisputable, but if you have the opportunity to visit it at Christmas time you will fall in love for life. New York Christmas is internationally known for the spectacular lighting of neighborhoods like Dyker Heights or Manhattan or its famous Christmas trees that fill the city with magic.

Faced with such a big city, a good option is to join a guided tour that shows you the best lighting of its streets, squares, buildings, etc.. Here are some options. If you do not know what to see and what to do in New York at Christmas, start by taking note of the following tours:

1. Guided tours to discover the lights of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Dyker Heights is a Brooklyn neighborhood full of single-family homes with gardens. And, on this very special date on the calendar, the neighborhood takes the opportunity to decorate their homes with a multitude of lights, Christmas ornaments, giant Santa Claus, reindeer, toy soldiers, candy and much more - a real competition between neighboring families!

One of the decorated houses in Dyker Heights neighborhood| ©Richie S
One of the decorated houses in Dyker Heights neighborhood| ©Richie S

To visit Dyker Heights I recommend a guided tour to know in depth all the history and curiosities of this neighborhood. In this article on how to visit the lights of Dyker Heights you will find all the details of this neighborhood that leaves no visitor indifferent.

What famous houses of Dyker Heights you will see on your tour

The most famous houses are located on 83rd and 86th Streets with 10th and 12th Avenues, and although from year to year the itinerary may vary a little, it is normal that the tours will take you to see:

  • Lucy Spata: The most famous house is Lucy Spata's, located at 1152 84th St This Dyker Heights neighbor is the one who started the tradition of decorating her house with numerous Christmas figures and lights. She was joined by the rest of the neighborhood.
  • Polizzotto: Another home known for its Christmas decorations is that of the Polizzotto family, located at 1145 84th Street. This house is easily recognizable because it has a merry-go-round and a large Santa Claus in the yard.
  • Sam the Greek: Next to Lucy Spata and the Polizzotto family, another of the most characteristic houses in the neighborhood is Sam the Greek, located between 71st and 72nd Streets on 14th Avenue. This house is decorated with lights all over the facade and in the garden.

Details of interest

  • The price of guided tours: There are different categories of guided tours of Dyker Heights. This tour can be done either on foot or by bus and the approximate price from which you can do this tour is from 40€ by bus or from 20€ on foot.

  • The duration of the tours: The duration of the walking tour of Dyker Heights is usually one and a half hours, while by bus is three and a half to four hours and can be complemented with other places in the city.

  • How to get to Dyker Heights on your own: the neighborhood is located between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, southwest of Brooklyn ( 45 minutes-1 hour from Manhattan). To get there you can take the D or R subway line or you can also go by bus from Wall Street.

  • Best time to see Dyker Heights: from mid-December (in principle they start to light up from Thanksgiving, but there are always some stragglers) and just before sunset, so you have the opportunity to see how all the lights are turned on. It is also advisable not to go after 9:00 p.m., since many houses start to turn off the lights after that time.

Book a Brooklyn Christmas tour

2. Christmas lights from the tour bus

One of the most famous houses in Dyker Heights| ©Hellotickets
One of the most famous houses in Dyker Heights| ©Hellotickets

One of the favorite options to enjoy New York's Christmas lights is with a tour bus tour. It's more comfortable and you'll escape the dreaded New York City cold this time of year to some extent.

What you will see on your Christmas sightseeing bus tour

The bus will take you through the Dyker Heights neighborhood and will also include other emblematic areas of the city such as Rockefeller Center, where you can admire the most spectacular tree in New York City with more than 50,000 lights, Fifth Avenue or the Brooklyn Bridge.

Details of interest

  • The duration of a guided bus tour can range from three and a half to four hours and includes walking tours of the Dyker Heights neighborhood.
  • The price of the bus tour varies depending on the length of the tour, but you can find it from approximately 40€ per person.

Book the sightseeing bus

3. Christmas Cruise to see the city lights from the Hudson River

View from the Empire State Building Cruise| ©Joisey Showaa
View from the Empire State Building Cruise| ©Joisey Showaa

If you are looking for an original alternative to see the Christmas lights I recommend you to take a cruise on the Hudson. From a yacht or sailboat you will have the chance to enjoy, in a different way, the beauty of the illumination of neighborhoods like Manhattan or Brooklyn. These cruises depart at different times of the day, but the best time to enjoy the lights is at dusk.

In fact, there is also the option to take a dinner cruise on the Hudson while you are protected from the cold of New York City in December. Sounds good, doesn't it?

What you'll see on your Christmas Hudson River tour

With a cruise you'll get to see the New York City skyline, as well as the spectacular Christmas decorations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In addition, you will have the opportunity to see, among other places, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the One World Trade Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge.

If you have doubts about whether to do this cruise, here is this post on How much does a Hudson River cruise in New York cost and you will see different alternatives.

Details of interest

  • The price: the price of the Hudson River cruise starts at 35€.
  • Duration: between one and a half and two hours. The duration of the Hudson River cruise is between one and a half and two hours.

4. Enjoy the magic of Christmas on a very special transport

If flying over New York is already a spectacle in itself, imagine what it can be like to see the Christmas lights from the sky with a helicopter flight from New Jersey. With a ride of about 30 minutes, you can see the main monuments of the city illuminated.

Also do not rule out a tribute and, since traveling to New York at Christmas is a unique moment, how about taking a limousine ride to see the Christmas lights? A luxury that lasts about three and a half hours and that you will surely not forget.

And if you want to feel like the protagonist of a vintage Christmas movie, this is your option: Tour to see the Christmas lights in a horse-drawn carriage.

Tour to see theChristmas lights in a horse-drawn carriage.

5. Walking tour to see Manhattan's Christmas lights

Rockefeller Center at Christmas| ©Michael Vadon
Rockefeller Center at Christmas| ©Michael Vadon

Most of the guided walking tours to see Manhattan's Christmas lights start at Rockefeller Center at Christmas, where you can see New York's most famous tree, which is no less than 20 meters tall, has almost 50,000 LED lights and is crowned by a Swarovski star weighing almost 400 kilos.

After seeing the most famous tree in the U.S., and the skating rink at its feet, the tour will continue along Fifth Avenue, whose shop windows are carefully designed at this time of year. From there, the guide will head to the Meatpacking and Greenwich Village neighborhoods and stop at the High Line to enjoy the wonderful views.

Details of interest

  • Duration: The duration of this walking tour to see the Manhattan Christmas lights can vary, but is usually approximately four hours.

  • Price: the price of the Manhattan Christmas lights tour starts at $38.

6. Tour the Christmas lights on a self-guided walking tour

Madison Square Park at Christmas| ©Jeffrey Zeldman
Madison Square Park at Christmas| ©Jeffrey Zeldman

And if you decide to take a tour on your own, I recommend that you get a map and choose the time of day when night falls to start your tour.

Rockefeller Center

Start at Rockefeller Center, one of the most emblematic places and that will make you aware of the magic and meaning of Christmas. The most famous Christmas tree in New York has been installed in this square since 1931, with 20 meters high, almost 50,000 LED lights and crowned by a Swarovski star of almost 400 kilos.

Fifth Avenue

After Rockefeller Center, I recommend you go to Fifth Avenue, the heart of Manhattan, where the Christmas decorations are also movie-like. The lights of the city are joined by the store windows, conscientiously decorated at this time of the year. In fact, some of them have the collaboration of renowned artists. And speaking of movies, this is the best tour for movie and Christmas lovers: tour of Christmas lights and movie locations in Manhattan.

Bryant Park

Another place you can't miss is Bryant Park where there is also a spectacular Christmas tree and the park has a wonderful lighting. In addition, right in this enclave you can enjoy one of the most visited skating rinks in New York.

Madison Square Park

In addition, you should not forget to stop by Madison Square Park where the Tree of Light is celebrated, an event that consists of decorating the different trees in the area with gold and silver lights. And after that, you can not miss the Christmas tree located under the Arc de Triomphe where every year the popular carol concert is held.

Dyker Heights

But without a doubt, the most outstanding place to see the Christmas lights is the neighborhood of Dyker Heights, a residential neighborhood where neighbors decorate their homes and gardens with millions of lights and Christmas decorations.

Traveler's tip

I recommend you travel to New York between mid-December and before the end of the year, to soak up all the Christmas culture of the city

Recommendations for a tour to discover the Christmas lights

Wall Street Christmas decorations| ©Andrew Dallos
Wall Street Christmas decorations| ©Andrew Dallos
  • Bundle up: It is essential that when you go on a tour to see the Christmas lights you are very warm and wear boots with fat soles and slip-resistant.
  • Bring water and a snack: The tour to enjoy the Christmas lights takes place in some residential neighborhoods like Dyker Heights where it is difficult to find a coffee shop or place to have a drink. So I recommend you bring water and some snacks.
  • Hot drinks: As the tour is completely outdoors, we recommend that you occasionally buy a tea, coffee or chocolate to take with you in order to escape the cold for a bit.

Best time to go out to discover the city lights

Christmas in Bryant Park| ©Mike Carey
Christmas in Bryant Park| ©Mike Carey

The best time to discover New York City's Christmas lights is just before nightfall to get a chance to see the lights come on and avoid the cooler temperatures of the evening or early morning.

Considering the time of nightfall in New York City in December and January, the ideal time to go out is around 4:30 pm.

If after this tour you still want to know all the possible plans that New York offers at Christmas, do not hesitate to visit the post what to do and what to see at Christmas in New York.

By the way, if you feel inspired and you feel like leaving Manhattan, you can always go to see the Christmas lights at the Bronx Zoo. A real spectacle!

Other recommended tours: visit the Manhattan Christmas markets

Grand Central Holiday Fair entrance| ©Patrick Cashin
Grand Central Holiday Fair entrance| ©Patrick Cashin

Strolling through the Christmas markets is another of the great attractions of the city since the winter season arrives. Here are the ones you can't miss:

  • Grand Central Holiday Fair atGrand Central Terminal: This market is located in the Vanderbilt Hall terminal and has numerous craft stalls where you will find jewelry, home furnishings, jewelry, art....
  • Winter Village in Bryant Park: This is arguably the most famous flea market in New York City, as well as the largest. It has more than 120 stalls with products and you can find everything you can imagine. In addition, if your walk coincides with lunchtime you have numerous options.
  • Union Square Holiday Market. This open-air market is located in Union Square Park and has almost everything: handmade jewelry, accessories of all kinds and also has numerous booths to eat and drink.
  • Columbus Circle Holyday Market It is located in the southwest corner of Central Park. It has nothing to envy to a European flea market. You can even find mulled wine.
  • The Market in Westfield: This market is very curious because of the place where it is located. It is located in the central square inside The Oculus in the World Trade Center. It is worth the visit.

Skating rinks in Manhattan that you can not miss

Central Park Ice Skating Rink| ©Georgio
Central Park Ice Skating Rink| ©Georgio

And of course, when Christmas comes, one of the main practices is to meet with your friends or partner and go ice skating. Some of the ice rinks are located in the best parks of New York and the most popular are:

Manhattan Christmas windows that you will see on guided tours or on your own

Bloomingdale's window display in a New York Christmas.| ©Sabeen Shahid
Bloomingdale's window display in a New York Christmas.| ©Sabeen Shahid

Take the opportunity to ask your guide which are the other emblematic places where you can enjoy the Christmas lights and shop windows. The legendary Macy's mall, for example, always mounts animated windows to the rhythm of music in its huge windows (you will see hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers peering out curiously).

New York's department stores also get into the holiday spirit and carefully decorate their windows. You can see them all on a tour of New York's Christmas windows. Here are my favorites:

  • Bloomingdale's: between 59th and 60th Street all the way to Lexington Avenue.
  • Bergdorf Goodman: between 58th Street and Fifth Avenue.
  • Tiffany & Co: on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
  • Cartier: on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street.
  • Macy's: between 34th and 35th Streets and Broadway.

Manhattan Christmas trees that you will visit on the tour or on your own

Photo of a Christmas Tree| ©Johnell Pannell
Photo of a Christmas Tree| ©Johnell Pannell

As I mentioned, the best Christmas trees in New York are true works of art, and another attraction for New Yorkers and tourists. This Limousine Christmas lights tour will take you to see them all, but the trees you can't miss on your New York Christmas tour are:

  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree: this Christmas tree is 20 meters tall, has more than 50,000 LED bulbs and is crowned by a Swarovski star of nothing more and nothing less than more than 400 kilos.
  • Madison Square Park Christmas tree: This is the oldest Christmas tree in New York City. It was first put up in 1912.
  • The Christmas tree of the American Museum of Natural History: The Christmas tree of this museum is characterized by its decoration based on origami creations.
  • The Bryant Park Christmas tree: This tree next to the one in Rockefeller Center stands out for its illumination, with more than 30,000 lights.
  • The Wall Street Christmas tree: This Christmas tree has a history. Specifically, it was the first in New York City to have electric lights.
  • The Christmas tree of the MET Museum: The Christmas tree of this museum is the most traditional. At its base is placed a nativity scene with more than 200 figures and is decorated with angels and cherubs dating from the eighteenth century.