With a lot of imagination and creativity, the neighbors of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn have turned visiting their neighborhood into a must-do New York City Christmas activity. You've probably never seen anything like it —get ready for a display of color and holiday lights!
1. What is Dyker Heights like?
Dyker Heights is a residential Brooklyn neighborhood that would be nothing special if it weren't for the fact that every December its residents get into the Christmas spirit to transform their homes into a place that looks like something out of a movie thanks to a huge decorative and illuminative display so typical of this time of the year.
Some choose sophisticated lights to decorate their homes, while others crank up the pedal and fill them to the brim with all kinds of garlands, balls, inflatables, and Christmas figurines singing Christmas carols.
2. Why go to Dyker Heights for Christmas?
If you like Christmas decorations and lights, I highly recommend it because it's quite a sight to see a whole neighborhood dressed up for Christmas. The locals go out of their way to impress visitors every year and they have a blast taking pictures of Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, elves, and more. At sunset, you'll be hard-pressed to find a house that isn't lit up!
3. How to get to Dyker Heights?
Dyker Heights is located in southwest Brooklyn, between the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. You can go on your own by public transportation or by taking the Christmas Lights Night Tour, in a comfortable vehicle that will take you on a round trip from midtown Manhattan.
By public transportation
Dyker Heights is about a one-hour subway ride from Manhattan. It does not have a subway station, but the surrounding neighborhoods do. There are several options to get there by public transportation:
Hop on the R line subway and get off in the Bay Ridge neighborhood at the 86 St stop. Around this subway stop, there are cafes and stores, so if you need a restroom stop or want to buy something to warm up you'll have to do it here. Remember that Dyker Heights is a residential neighborhood and there are hardly any stores. To get there you only have to walk about 15-20 minutes from the subway.
Take the D line subway and get off at the Bensonhurst neighborhood at the 79th St. stop. Although this area has a bunch of shops, the atmosphere is not like Bay Ridge. A 20-minute walk from the subway station will get you to Dyker Heights.
You can also take the bus from Wall Street on the X28 line, an alternative that takes you to 86th St. and 12th Ave, a five-minute walk from the decorated houses. To return by bus to Manhattan you can take the B1 bus.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour
Christmas is a magical time of year in New York and there are many ways to enjoy it. If you love the holiday atmosphere, I recommend you take the Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights Tour so you don't miss any of this tradition as there are details that you might miss doing it on your own.
Not only will you see the Christmas lights of this quaint neighborhood, but you'll explore it by listening to the guide's anecdotes about this fun event and you may even meet some of the proud owners of the most spectacularly decorated houses. Plus, you'll save time along the way and won't be so cold in the middle of winter in New York as you'll travel comfortably in a vehicle with the rest of the group instead of getting around on public transportation.
To top it all off, on the way back to Midtown you will stop at the Brooklyn Bridge to admire the spectacular skyline of Manhattan. In short, it is a very complete tour to enjoy the Christmas spirit of New York and I assure you that you will leave Dyker Heights with a smile.
4. What are the most famous houses in Dyker Heights?
Dyker Heights' most spectacular decorations are located between 83rd and 86th Streets and between Avenues 10 and 12. Since this is a neighborhood initiative, the same houses are not decorated every year but you are sure to always find something surprising. These are the most popular houses:
Lucy Spata's house
The house of the precursor of this tradition attracts many tourists. It's like the crown jewel of Dyker Heights. You'll recognize it by the army of dazzling figurines in her garden shaped up as snowmen, toy soldiers, and dozens of angels that she placed in honor of her mother who passed away in 1986. It is located at 1152 84th Street.
Polizzoto Family Home
On the same street but at number 1145 is the home of the Polizzoto family, which stands out for its giant Santa Claus at the entrance of the house, the spectacular merry-go-round in the garden, and toy soldiers of almost 29 feet high.
James Bonavito's house
The Christmas decorations of his home are considered the most elegant in Dyker Heights and James Bonavito knows a lot about it since he is the owner of the B&R Christmas decorations company.
Gold, white, green, and red lights decorate the facade and garden along with life-size figures.
Sam the Greek's House
This is a three-story home located at 71st St. & 14th Avenue that is decorated from top to bottom with 260,000 lights not lacking in a single detail. Sam himself turns them on when Christmas arrives.
Blue Christmas House
The outdoor decorations are all blue. Inside, half of the house is decorated for Christmas and the other half for Hanukkah as the family that lives there is half Christian half Jewish.
5. When are the lights turned on in Dyker Heights?
There is no exact date for the Dyker Heights Christmas lights switch-on although some neighbors do it on Thanksgiving weekend. Therefore, the best way to make sure you'll see all the decorations is to visit from mid-December through Christmas Day. Several neighbors even leave them up past New Year's Eve.
6. What is the best time to visit the neighborhood?
In December the sun goes down around 4:30 PM in New York. I advise you to go to Dyker Heights a little before it gets dark so you can attend the lights switch on but if you can't, don't go too late because at 9 PM many houses turn off the lights.
Christmas decorations are most often on during the weekend but this is also when most visitors are in the neighborhood and some houses get crowded.
7. Dyker Heights Christmas lights interesting facts
When did the tradition of Christmas lights in Dyker Heights begin?
It all started in the 1980s, when neighbor Lucy Sparta decided to decorate her home with Christmas decorations in honor of her deceased mother. Gradually, other neighbors joined her initiative until today it has become an annual event and an undeclared neighborhood competition for the best-decorated house at Christmas. In fact, some families even pay professional decorators to make a personalized and different design for them each year.
This tradition draws thousands of people to the Dyker Heights neighborhood each year and is so popular that guided tours have sprung up to learn about every little detail of the neighborhood.
Where do neighbors store the ornaments the rest of the year?
Many neighbors store the ornaments in their own homes, either in backyards or garages. The size of these homes is quite large so with a little organization it is not surprising that they have a specific space to store them.
Other decorations are kept by decorating companies who provide the lights and decorations to families hiring their services.
How much do decorations cost?
It depends on the decorations and the size of the house, but there is talk of figures ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 between lighting bills and services from companies specializing in decorating. A lot of money!
How do neighbors get into their homes?
If residents clutter their homes with decorations and lights until there's not a single space left in the yard, how do they get inside without tripping over them? As you probably can imagine, neighbors go in and out of their houses through the backyard door during this time of the year.
8. What else to do in New York at Christmas?
Christmas is one of the most magical times to live in New York. The city is filled with Christmas trees, lights, carolers, decorated avenues, and stores... Without a doubt, it is the perfect time to travel to the city because it is beautiful and there is so much to see. Quoting Andy Williams' popular song: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"
If you want to know everything the Big Apple has to offer at this time of the year, don't miss our post about What to see and do in New York at Christmas.
And while you're at it, something you can't miss during your trip to New York is visiting Brooklyn (if possible, visit it in the daylight, before arriving at Dyker Heights to enjoy its markets, its architecture, its parks...). If you are up for it, here's a guide I have written on what to see and what to do in Brooklyn or what to see and what to do in Williamsburg, New York's Jewish neighborhood.