After last year’s modified displays, Christmas light shows have returned to the city in full force, and they can be found in all five boroughs.
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As temperatures drop and a new year looms, a beloved winter tradition has returned: New Yorkers are making their annual treks to seek out holiday lights once again.
This year, many displays have returned to normal after being pared back or shut down completely last December because of the pandemic. Expect large crowds on foot and dazzling spectacles, along with some new Covid safety precautions.
“A light show in a beautiful landscape is, in some ways, the perfect antidote to the terrible time we’ve had over the last two years,” said Adrian Benepe, executive director of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
“It’s a place to escape from your troubles for an hour,” he said. “I think there’s a very important sort of psychological and physical boost we can give people with things like this.”
Here’s a rundown of some of the most spectacular displays the city has to offer.
On Fifth Avenue, the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store’s sparkling light show will run until Jan. 4, 2022, with more than 700,000 LED lights arranged in a castle formation.
And in Grand Army Plaza at the southeast entrance to Central Park, the Pulitzer Fountain has been decorated with 32 handcrafted penguin and polar bear sculptures, leaping and playing on icebergs and an ice-skating rink, all covered in 5,000 feet of lights. The icy exhibit will be up until Jan. 7.
At Dante Park in front of Lincoln Center, the Lincoln Square Holiday Tree has returned, along with a collection of light sculptures. Pop-up musical performances are being held every Wednesday afternoon and evening until the end of December.
The New York Botanical Garden has rolled out 1.5 miles of outdoor displays, which will last through Jan. 22. LED lights blanket the Haupt Conservatory and the Mertz Library building, as well as the garden’s walkways and trees. Timed-entry tickets are required, and if you purchase a special pass, you can also visit the Bronx Night Market, which has popped up in the garden with live music, food and ice sculpting.
At the Bronx Zoo, the Holiday Lights are back on display until Jan. 9. The outdoor exhibit features lantern sculptures of more than 70 animal species from around the globe, as well as a light show with holiday music. There are even stilt-walkers, who roam the grounds dressed as animals and covered in lights.
“Over the past two years, those holiday festivities and celebrations with friends and family have been sorely missed,” Max Pulsinelli, a spokesman for the Bronx Zoo, said in a statement, adding that the shows can help bring “a sense of normalcy back to the holiday season.”
One of the city’s largest and most well-known displays are the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, a jungle of lights and decorations put up by private homeowners that stretches over several blocks, mostly from 83rd to 86th Street between 11th and 13th Avenues. Though most people choose to walk through the streets, you’re welcome to drive through as well. But be warned: Traffic moves slowly, and parking is tricky to find.
Through Jan. 9, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is offering Lightscape, a mile-long walk filled with displays like glowing trees, light sculptures, laser shows reflected over a pond and a meadow laid with a sea of lights. One of the showstoppers, a towering archway of tiny lights, has already proven to be a hit. On the first night the show opened, Mr. Benepe said, one visitor proposed to his partner under the archway.
“You literally look at the trees and landscape in a new light,” Mr. Benepe said. “It’s kind of like going through an enchanted forest.”
Two major holiday displays are being held in Queens and Staten Island, run by the New York City Winter Lantern Festival. You’ll be able to visit them until Jan. 9.
The Queens County Farm display, called “Illuminate the Farm,” features rows of lights and handmade paper lanterns in the shape of flowers, farm animals and sea creatures. One lantern, shaped like a giant alligator, is big enough for visitors to walk into its gaping jaws.
At the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, the “Escape” festival offers live music, food and more than eight acres of paper lanterns, shaped like everyday objects and animals. Some are even animated.