Every year, local residents in Dyker Heights outdo one another with over-the-top Christmas light decorations. It is estimated that more than 100,000 visitors from across the city and the country come to see this neighborhood's outpouring of creativity and fun, as light displays spill over their homes, roofs, and gardens. Kids will be awed by the sheer amount of holiday decorations that typically include brightly lit rooftop Rudolphs, Santas on the lawn, and entire homes ablaze with lights.
Dyker Heights is one of the few neighborhoods in New York City with single-family homes instead of the typical apartment buildings, and the Christmas light display is notable for not being just one street or a couple of blocks, but the entire neighborhood. You can walk around on your own or join a guided tour, but definitely don't miss this holiday tradition.
Organized vs. Self-Guided Tour?
If you're visiting Dyker Heights on your own for a self-guided tour, then the excursion is practically free apart from your subway trip or bus ride. It can be hard finding inexpensive outings in New York, especially in December when it's often too cold to be outside. But as long as your equipped with a metro card, seeing the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights is truly one of New York City's best seasonal activities.
But if you don't mind the extra cost, joining an organized tour is a more comfortable way to enjoy the display. The journey from Manhattan or other parts of Brooklyn to Dyker Heights is a trek on public transit, but bus tours provide roundtrip transportation. And even though there's an undeniable charm to walking around all bundled up with hot chocolate in hand, it's also nice to have a heated bus nearby for defrosting on particularly cold nights.
Where to Go
The most dazzling lights displays are concentrated in the heart of Dyker Heights, between Seventh and 13th avenues from west to east and 76th Street and Bay Ridge Parkway from south to north. As long as you're within this area, walk around and you're guaranteed to see lights.
If you're taking a self-guided tour, however, there are a few homes you don't want to miss.
- Lucy Spata's Home: The house of Lucy Spata is purportedly the home that started the holiday tradition in Dyker Heights, and every year she adds more so it continues to be one of the best. Her house is located at 1152, 84th Street.
- Polizzotto Home: The Pollizzoto's home, also known as Toyland, is another house that claims to be the first. Regardless of who started the tradition, Toyland is another worthwhile stop that specializes in animatronic characters. The house is at 1145, 84th Street.
- Forest of Lights: This home has many trees in the front yard, and each one is covered from roots to every branch tip in colorful lights. The Forest of Lights is at 1134, 83rd Street.
- Community Mayor's Home: While most homes go over the top with lights, this home goes over the top with giant inflatable characters. The yard has an army of festive balloons and is always a favorite. It's located at 8312, 12th Avenue.
If you need to get energized, the most options for places to grab a snack or hot drink are around the 86th Street subway station. You'll find plenty of familiar chains as well as local Brooklyn eateries, such as Cocoa Grinder coffeeshop or Annabelle's Pastaria for homemade Italian fare (Dyker Heights is one of Brooklyn's most Italian neighborhoods).
When to Go
The neighborhood's light displays typically go up after Thanksgiving, but there's no official date and it's up to each individual home to decide when to start decorating. The best time to go is in mid-December when all the lights are up, although this is also the busiest time of year. Most neighbors keep their decorations up until New Year's Day, which is the unofficial end of the light season in Dyker Heights.
The lights go on at dusk and stay on until about 9 p.m., although some families may choose to leave theirs on later.
To avoid the biggest crowds, go in early December or during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Weekends in December are the busiest days, so visit on a weekday if you want fewer people around.
How To Get There
If you're coming from Manhattan, it's a long ride on the bus or subway to get to Dyker Heights, but the trip is direct and doesn't require many changes, if any. If you're coming from the northern neighborhoods of Brooklyn, such as Williamsburg or Greenpoint, or Queens, it's usually faster to travel into Manhattan first and then take transit from there.
Coming from Manhattan, the bus is one of the most direct ways to get to Dyker Heights. The X28 bus runs all the way through Midtown and stops near major attractions like Grand Central Station and Union Square. The bus stop to get off at is 86th Street/Seventh Avenue, right in front of the Dyker Heights Golf Course. The total bus ride is about an hour from Manhattan, depending on where you get on.
Regardless of which train you take, you'll need to walk at least a few blocks to reach the holiday lights. The D train to 79th Street Station is one of the fastest options since it's an express train and skips a lot of the intermediary stations, taking about 40 minutes from Washington Square Park. You can also take the R train to 86th Street Station. It's a shorter walk from the station to the lights, but the local R train takes longer to reach Dyker Heights, taking about 45 minutes from Union Square.
If you're going by car or taxi, be aware that the drive time fluctuates dramatically based on traffic. In ideal conditions, the drive takes roughly 30 minutes from Manhattan. However, between weekday rush hour and frequent traffic jams of holiday visitors, the time in a car can easily jump to over an hour. If you're driving, you will need to be patient and allow for extra time to see the sights—and be aware of delays in case you're taking a taxi and running up the meter.
Christmas Lights Tours
Depending on the weather, one of the best ways to see this stunning display of festivities is by taking a walking tour or bus tour of the holiday lights. There are several options to choose from.
A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours
The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour is available every night in December (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas), with buses that conveniently pick up and drop off tourists at Union Square in Manhattan. Tours are three and a half hours long and start every hour on the hour from 5–8 p.m.
Royal City Tours
This Dyker Heights Christmas Tour is offered in both English and Spanish. Passengers are picked up from and dropped off at Times Square, which is a convenient meet-up point for visitors staying in Midtown. The tour lasts three and a half hours and includes a stop under the Brooklyn Bridge on your way back.
Brooklyn Unplugged Tours
This Brooklyn Christmas Lights tour is shorter than the others at an hour and a half long because it doesn't include transportation, but it is also more cost-friendly. Tours are held almost every day throughout the holiday season, and you can choose between a public walking tour or a private tour with a vehicle.