8 NYC Spots That Get Decked Out for the Holidays

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ew York is a magical city all year round, but during the holidays, that magic shines just a little bit brighter. Or, rather, a lot brighter. From the Empire State Building and Central Park to Columbia University and the shops of Fifth Avenue, many of New York’s most legendary landmarks and institutions celebrate the holiday season with gorgeous light displays and holiday-themed attractions. Whether you’re looking to shop, have fun with the family or simply walk around and gaze in amazement, these New York spots are must-sees for anyone who’s in the holiday spirit:

Lotte New York Palace

Photo Credit: Lotte New York Palace

Add a bit of luxury to your New York holiday experience with a visit to Lotte New York Palace. Every year the midtown hotel decks its halls with stunning Christmas trees (the 30-foot tree in the center courtyard has over 3,000 lights!), an incredible Gingerbread house, lights and garlands. And its proximity to a host of other holiday sites, including Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall, makes it an ideal yuletide attraction.

Central Park

Photo Credit: Getty Images

New York City’s iconic green space offers numerous opportunities for visitors to celebrate the holidays. Take a spin on the ice at Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink, or go sledding on one of the park’s many slopes. (The Central Park Conservancy recommends Pilgrim Hill, which is the steepest, or Cedar Hill, which is a less populated.) If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to enjoy the park in winter, consider a walking tour or horse-drawn carriage ride. Is there a more old-fashioned way to celebrate the season?!

Dyker Heights

Photo Credit: Bobby Bank | Getty Images

Dyker Heights, a neighborhood in the southwest corner of Brooklyn, may not be a well-known New York destination. But its annual holiday-light bonanza makes it a must-see for any wintertime New York visitors. Each year, residents of the neighborhood deck their homes and yards with outlandish holiday displays, featuring colorful lights, figurines and even giant inflatables. Venture around the area on your own, or sign up for a walking tour.

Fifth Avenue

Photo Credit: BFA for Saks Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue in midtown is known worldwide as a premier shopping destination, and during the holiday season, arguably the busiest shopping time of the year, the area certainly earns its reputation. Each year, stores along the thoroughfare erect stunning holiday-themed window displays, which draw droves of curious onlookers. Some of our favorites?! Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue (the picture above is of their Snow White and Seven Dwarfs-themed windows!), Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales … the list goes on! Also, be sure to check out the 3,300 pound, 28-foot UNICEF snowflake ornament that hangs over 57th Street on Fifth Ave.

Time Warner Center

Photo Credit: Ben Hider | Getty Images

Everything is bigger in New York, and that goes for holiday lights, too. If you find yourself near Columbus Circle during your time in New York, stop by the Time Warner Center to see the building’s annual Holiday Under the Stars show. The attraction features a dozen 14-foot-tall LED-light stars that change colors in an electrifying “dance.” After you’ve enjoyed this stellar display, you can walk over to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, where a bounty of unique, charming holiday gifts awaits.

Bryant Park

Photo Credit: Taylor Crothers | Getty Images

If you’re in New York and in holiday shopping mode, don’t skip out on the Bank of America Winter Village at Byrant Park. Every year, the midtown park becomes a veritable winter wonderland, complete with shops selling a range of artisanal goods, a skating rink, a holiday tree and an array of themed dining options. Between opportunities for shopping, sightseeing and play, it’s a not-to-be-missed all-family attraction.

Empire State Building

Photo Credit: Alex Trautwig | Getty Images

The Empire State Building, New York City’s most recognizable edifice, is known for celebrating a host of annual occasions by illuminating its tower with colorful lights. (ICYMI: In November, they lit up the New York City skyline with the colors of the Christmas to celebrate the opening night of the Christmas Spectacular!) The holiday season is no different: From December 14 to December 20, the building will be lit up blue and white with a flickering candle in the mast in honor of Chanukah; and from December 24 through December 25, the building will be lit up with red, green and white candy cane in celebration of Christmas.

Columbia University

Photo Credit: Eileen Barroso | Columbia University

If during your time in New York you find yourself uptown, don’t miss the lights at Columbia University. Every year since 1998, the university has decorated the trees along College Walk, the main campus thoroughfare, with string lights. But these aren’t your average lighted trees: almost every part of each tree is wrapped in white bulbs, creating a truly astounding display. The lights remain lit until the end of February!