4 NYC Christmas Light Experiences

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden lit up for Lightscape. (Photo by Arun Kristian Das/FOX 5 NY)

If you could only pick one “thing” to represent the holiday season, what would it be? I suspect many of you would vote bright.

We mark and celebrate so many holidays with some form of lighting. LEDs on trees, candles on menorahs and other candle holders, and strings of lights in our gardens, on our homes, and in our communities.

Here are some light-centered vacation experiences that take the concept to whole other creative, artistic, and joyful levels. All of these are outdoors, which the CDC says could help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

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LIGHT VOLTAGE | Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden hosts the stunning Lightscape installation for the second year in a row.

The after-dark experience features more than a million lights on sculptures, structures, trees, architecture and water features, complemented by site-specific sounds and music along a winding 1.6km path. New York based and international artists created installations for Lightscape.

“The largest and most extravagant artistic Winter Lights exhibition in [New York City] This celebration with a distinct Brooklyn flavor encourages everyone to find happiness and beauty in the darkest time of the year and to organize festive, fun gatherings with friends and family,” said Adrian Benepe, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in a statement. “We hope residents and visitors from across the region will make Lightscape at BBG an annual tradition.”

Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on opening night. (Photo by Arun Kristian Das/FOX 5 NY)

Many functions are new this time. The Winter Cathedral and Fire Garden, which were visitor favorites last year, are back.

Concession stands along the way offer hot chocolate (including a spiked version), mulled wine, and seasonal treats.

You must reserve tickets for a specific date and time. BBG members get a discount.

  • Where: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 990 Washington Ave., Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY
  • When: Now through Sunday, January 8, 2023; closed on selected days.
  • Tickets: Adult/Teen (13-) $40, Child (3-12) $20, Children under 3: Free; fees may apply; discounts for BBG members; timed entry.
  • bbg.org/lightscape

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Promotional image for the Amaze Light Festival. (Photo courtesy of Amaze Light Festival)

LET LIGHT FESTIVAL | QUEENS

The Amaze Light Festival returns to Citi Field in Flushing for the holiday season.

This experience features holiday-themed worlds and an animated display with more than a million lights. You can explore North Pole, Candy Land, Tree Farm, Storybook Village and Wonder Forest.

If you upgrade your ticket you can ride the Arctic Express Train and/or take the subway down Zing’s Thrill Hill.

The celebrations include live performances every two hours and a light show every half hour.

The Amaze Light Festival also features a Christmas market, toy shop and food trucks. (Don’t worry, parents: adult beverages are available.)

The vision of the festival’s creators is to take guests to a “fully immersive world,” according to Sarah Basch, Creative Director of Artistic Holiday Designs.

“As soon as the visitors enter the house, you can feel the indescribable magic of the holiday,” says Basch. “Every corner of the Amaze Light Festival is intentionally designed to keep our guests in that mood throughout their exploration.”

You must purchase tickets in advance for a specific date and time. Prices vary and group discounts are available.

  • Where: Citi Field, 41 Seaver Way, Flushing, Queens, NY
  • When: Now through Sunday, January 8, 2023; closed on selected days.
  • Tickets: Adult/Teen (13-13): $44-94, Child (2-12): $36-86, Child 2 and under: Free; fees may apply; timed entry.
  • www.amazelightfestival.com/newyork

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Promotional image for the NYC Winter Lantern Festival. (Photo courtesy of Kaleido Arts & Entertainment Group)

WINTER LANTERN FESTIVAL | STATEN ISLAND AND QUEENS

The NYC Winter Lantern Festival, which originally began in October, will be celebrated at four locations — two in New York City and two on Long Island — through early to mid-January, depending on location. (This post focuses on the two in NYC.)

The festival features more than 10,000 China-inspired LED-lit lanterns, handcrafted by more than a hundred artists. Each page has a different theme.

“Lantern Festivals have been a part of Chinese culture and history for thousands of years, honoring our ancestors and celebrating peace, prosperity and happiness,” said Haokun Liu of Kaleido Arts & Entertainment Group, the event’s creator, in a statement. “We are thrilled to … introduce all visitors to the beauty of these artisanal installations and make the show a part of New York’s cultural holiday tradition.”

Staten Island

The Staten Island event is announced journey to the east and is located in the minor league ballpark adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

You’ll explore a world inspired by Chinese myths and legends, including a huge lantern display of Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) and lanterns depicting an animal kingdom and an underwater kingdom.

Grocery vendors and other concessions are available. Tickets can either be reserved or bought on site.

Queens

The Queens event is called Light up the farm because it’s in the Queens County Farm Museum.

The creators describe it as a “radiant oasis” and “immersive world of light” with illuminated tunnels and swings and much more.

long Island

The festival also hosts an event at the Smithtown Historical Society in Smithtown, as well as a drive through the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn.

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Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights on opening night. (Photo by Julie Larsen Maher/Courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society)

BRONX ZOO CHRISTMAS ILLUMINATIONS | THE BRONX

The Bronx Zoo’s annual Holiday Lights exhibit features more than 360 lighted lanterns featuring wildlife representing 90 species across much of the zoo’s grounds, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The installation’s six lantern paths feature more than 70 new lanterns representing 30 new species. Each trail features scenes from a different region or ecosystem: North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Oceans, and the Forest of Color, which features what the WCS calls “larger-than-life representations of some… lesser-known but stunningly colorful.” animals and plants vital to life on earth.”

“Each year we add more animal lanterns and new experiences,” Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said in a statement. “Now bigger than ever, Holiday Lights offers everyone an exciting new way to learn about wildlife while experiencing the spirit of the season.”

The event includes light shows, ice carving demonstrations, animal themed stilt walkers, train rides, shows at the Wildlife Theater and concessions featuring hot chocolate and holiday treats.

You must purchase tickets in advance for a specific date.

  • Where: Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY
  • When: By Sunday, January 8, 2023; closed on certain days.
  • Tickets: Adult/Youth (13-64): $39.95, Senior (65-) $34.95, Child (3-12): $24.95, Child under 3: Free; WCS members receive a discount.
  • bronxzoo.com/holiday-lights

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Arun Kristian Das is a senior digital content creator for FOX5NY.com. He is also a licensed New York City guide.

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