December 18, 2019
Looking for New York City's most extravagant Yuletide displays? You'll need to leave Manhattan behind...
New York City knows a thing or two about festive holiday lights displays. The season kicks off with the lighting of Rockefeller Center’s tree, then there’s the Winter Village at Bryant Park and the dazzling 14-foot stars at Time Warner Center, not to mention the shimmering, over-the-top window displays at famous department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s.
But for sheer exuberance, none of the above can compete with the houses of well-to-do Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. With its broad tree-lined avenues and large detached homes, this leafy neighbourhood – about an hour’s subway ride from Midtown Manhattan – is the place to visit for kitschy displays on a domestic scale, with lights and decorations strung over rooftops, chimney pots, fences and facades, and front gardens crammed with flashing life-size models of reindeers and elves, snowmen and Santas.
Local homeowners here take their displays very seriously, eschewing any electricity bill concerns to compete with their neighbours for the most over-the-top designs. With more than 100,000 light-peepers visiting the district every year, putting on the most elaborate display possible has become a matter of seasonal, civic pride.
Our cabin crew member Brian Rose recently found himself in NYC with a few hours to spare, and wholeheartedly recommends doing a self-guided tour. He simply took the ‘D’ train from Manhattan towards Coney Island, jumped off at the 79th Street stop, and walked about 15 minutes to the main cluster of decorated houses along 83rd to 86th streets and 11th to 13th avenues. (See Free Tours on Foot for more detailed information on getting the most from a self-guided tour.)
Alternatively, you can take one of several guided tours departing from Manhattan, all of which are wildly popular and book up quickly so act fast to secure your place!
One of the best known is the Slice of Brooklyn Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour, which at the time of writing still has availability for several days in December, including the period between Christmas and New Year. Lasting 3.5 hours, the four daily tours run every night on the hour from 5 p.m––8 p.m, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Other tour providers include DHCL Tours, set up by residents of Dyker Heights, who offer pick-ups from outside Bryant Park, and genuine Brooklynite guides. Another option is Brooklyn Unplugged, who offer a choice between a pick-up from Manhattan, or as a walking or driving tour direct from the subway in Brooklyn to save on cost. A further option is Tour America’s Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour; a 3-hour tour departing Manhattan three times daily at 4 p.m, 5 p.m and 6 p.m.
Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to New York City – book yours today!