The Best Holiday Light Displays in NYC

  • 01 of 06

    NYC's 5 Best Holiday Lights Displays

    Rockefeller Center with Christmas decorations
    Getty Images/Allan Baxter

    Manhattan is world-famous for its awe-inspiring holiday lights displays, so grab your shades and check out this guide to the very best of the bunch. Stroll posh Fifth Avenue with its endless parade of twinkling store windows, brave the crowds at Rockefeller Center with its sky-scraping illuminated tree, and find a few more illuminating surprises, too, in this list of the 5 very best holiday lights displays in NYC.

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  • 02 of 06

    Rockefeller Center

    Christmas tree Rockefeller Center
    Rudy Sulgan / Getty Images

    Rockefeller Center, the hands-down holiday headquarters for Manhattan, wows with its multilayered holiday display. Of course, the star of the snowglobe-in-the-city setting here is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (illuminated from early December to early January), a 78-foot tall Norway Spruce trimmed by some 45,000 colored LED lights and topped with a massive Swarovski crystal star. The festive postcard-worthy main plaza spills over with even more holiday lights, in a sparkling scene of illuminated angels, toy soldiers, oversize wreaths, and more. While here, pair the spectacle with a whirl on the legendary ice-skating rink, catch a show at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, dine and dance the night away at the recently reopened Rainbow Room, or bring the wee ones along for an unforgettable Breakfast with Santa experience.

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  • 03 of 06

    Fifth Avenue

    Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue, NYC
    Getty Images/Rudi Von Briel

    The season's most storied shopping strip, a stroll down Fifth Avenue between 59th Street and 39th Street (at Lord & Taylor) is sure to set you aglow with holiday spirit (that is, if the maddening crowds don't bring out the Grinch in you). The beautifully decorated, illuminated store windows here are among the very best in the city, including those at Bergdorf Goodman (at 58th St.), Tiffany & Co. (at 57th St.), Henri Bendel (at 56th St.), Saks Fifth Avenue (at 49th St.), and Lord & Taylor (at 39th St.).

    Hotels along the prestigious promenade also make a show of it. Highlights typically include The Plaza (at 59th St.) and The Peninsula New York (at 55th St.). Plus, you'll pass by Rockefeller Center, en route (between 49th & 50th streets)—another of our top picks for NYC's best holiday light displays. Don't forget to look up, or you'll miss the shimmering UNICEF snowflake dangling overhead on 57th Street—it's crafted out of 16,000 hand-cut Baccarat crystals.

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  • 04 of 06

    Bryant Park

    Bryant Park ice rink
    Getty Images/Jon Hicks

    Bryant Park, tucked behind the imposing New York Public Library, is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland each holiday season, via its Bank of America Winter Village. The twinkling glass-enclosed kiosks of more than 125 pop-up holiday shops lend a European-style Christmas market atmosphere; skaters whirl around Manhattan's only free ice-skating rink (note: skate rentals are extra); and a 55-foot Norway Spruce, decked out with more than 30,000 white-and-red lights and some 3,000 ornaments, cheerily oversees it all (note: the park hosts a free tree lighting ceremony).

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  • 05 of 06

    Time Warner Center

    USA - Holidays - Decorations at the Time Warner Center
    Getty Images/Andrew Holbrooke

    The Time Warner Center—a hub for holiday shopping with its high-end Shops at Columbus Circle mall, and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market set up just across the street—rewards shoppers with a one-of-a-kind holidays display. Unfolding in the main entryway, the "Holiday Under the Stars" installation features a dozen 14-foot LED stars that dangle from the 150-foot-high ceiling overhead; the stars reflect a changing color scheme that's choreographed to festive holiday music.

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  • 06 of 06

    Luminaries at Brookfield Place's Winter Garden

    Arts Brookfield

    From December through January, the glass-enclosed, 120-foot atrium of the atmospheric Winter Garden (part of Brookfield Place, in Battery Park City) plays host to a light installation entitled Luminaries. Commissioned by Arts Brookfield from artist/designer David Rockwell, the show illuminates the Winter Garden with a canopy of 650 glowing, LED-embedded lanterns that change color and intensity. Three additional touch-sensitive "wishing stations" are spread out within the Winter Garden's palm trees, where guests can send "wishes" to the lanterns, which are then "magically" transformed into a display of color in the lanterns overhead (best of all, each wish sent out by the public will translate into a donation on behalf of Arts Brookfield to the GRAMMY in the Schools program, up to $25,000). Viewing hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; choreographed light shows are scheduled at two-hour intervals, starting at 10am.