Where to See the Best Christmas Lights Displays in the Northeast USA

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Visit Dyker Heights in Brooklyn for one of the best Christmas light displays in the Northeast. Photo credit: Shutterstock/Diego Mariottini

As the days grown shorter, the winter holidays come around, and with them, the delightful Christmas lights displays. The Northeast usually promises some cold  (or too cold – brrr!) nights but what better place to bundle up and enjoy festive light displays? You can find them in small towns and big cities.

If you don’t enjoy the cold at night, even with a thermos full of hot chocolate, go to one of the many drive through light extravaganzas.

Connecticut Christmas Light Show

Mystic Seaport’s traditional interactive holiday show, Lantern Light Village is an outdoor, free-roaming experience that showcases the range of holiday experiences between the 19th century and present day. Families travel through time and Christmas lights to enjoy the history of Christmases past and present, with festive lighting, displays, music, horse and carriage rides, a visit from St. Nicholas, stories, crafts, games, and more.

You can even interact with the actors portraying members of the 19th century village as they prepare for Christmas Eve and year-end celebrations. Lantern Light Village will be open from 5-8 p.m. on December 8, 9, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23, 2023.  Tickets are $29 for ages 13 and up and $24 for ages 4-12.

Additionally, you can catch Santa arriving by tugboat along with a lighted boat parade on November 25, 2023. Check the website for updates.

Christmas Traditions in Massachusetts

Boston

The usual guided Freedom Trail Historic Holiday Stroll, featuring guides in 19th-century costumes leading a 90-minute tour, will be available select Fridays and Saturdays beginning November 17-December 30. Tours will begin at 3:30 p.m. in small six-person groups. Tickets are $20 per adult and $10 per child.

Falmouth

Highfield Hall & Gardens kicks off the season with Holidays at Highfield, November 24-December 10, 2023. This fun event includes both the indoor Winter Wonderland Village as well as an outdoor exhibit. Tickets are $10.

Falmouth Village Green is hosting its 60th annual Christmas Parade, one of the largest holiday parades in Southern New England, on December 3, 2023, beginning at noon.

Sandwich

Heritage Museums & Gardens closes for winter, but opens for its annual Gardens Aglow. Running on November 24-26; November 30 – -December 3; December 7-10, December 14-17, and December 20-23, this special event has three timed entries daily: 4:30-5:45 pm, 5:45-6:45 pm, 6:45-8:30 pm. Christmas lights brighten the garden. The experience includes a reindeer scavenger hunt, model train display, a carousel, and Santa Claus at the Outdoor Stage, as well as fire pits where you can roast marshmallows to keep warm.

Buy tickets in advance; they are limited and tend to sell out quickly. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth ages 3-17.

Vintage Christmas in New Hampshire

Portsmouth

Celebrate a Vintage Christmas throughout December in this seaport town. The small town celebrates the holiday in a big way, with lights, caroling, Santa in a horse-drawn carriage and a free vintage Christmas trolley through the streets to see the lights. A gingerbread house contest and showcase runs November 25 through December 22. There is family ice skating, and various musical performances throughout the month of December.

There is also an annual Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke Museum on weekends December 2-17, 2023. This event takes place from 5-9 p.m. on Saturdays and 4-8 p.m. on Sundays. There is a Hanukkah celebration as well. Ticket sales open November 6, and they sell out every year.

Lights, Lights, and More Christmas Lights in New York

Poppies at Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Poppies at Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Brooklyn

Lightscape, a magical illuminated trail through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, has artist-designed installations that incorporate the trees and garden landscape. What makes Lightscape extra special is how inclusive it is. While this is certainly a holiday display, rock and classical musical playing along with the lights make the experience not just about Christmas.

Tickets range from $17 to $39 a person; kids under 3 are free. Lightscape runs most nights from November 17, 2023–January 1, 2024. There are special three-course (indoor) Lightscape Lodge Dinners in December so you can make a whole night of it. You can also get snack and drinks while you walk around. I love that a vegan hot chocolate (spiked or not) is offered.

In Dyker Heights, light displays go up after Thanksgiving and last until the New Year. These Christmas lights in New York are on private homes and the best way to see them is to dress warmly and stroll the streets. And you can bring your dog! Go to 83rd thru 86th Street between 11th and 13th Avenues. You can book a 3.5 hour bus tour, which is available every day in December (except for December 24, 25 and 31) beginning at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.  Tickets are $55 for adults and $45 for children ages 12 and under. Advance booking is required and seats are limited.

Long Island

The drive through Magic of Lights display runs November 17- December 30 this year. Families drive their own car through the course, held at Jones Beach State Park. The Toyota Holiday Village includes ice skating, s’mores and music. . Hours are Sunday – Thursday from 5-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 5-11 p.m. Tickets are $20 per car on weekdays if purchased in advance, and $25 for weekends. At the entrance, they are $35 for weekdays, $40 for weekends. 

Note to high rollers: limos cost more. But if you’re taking a limo, cost probably isn’t a major consideration.

New York City

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lights up on Wednesday, November 29, and will remain lit through January 13, 2024 from 5 p.m. to midnight. It will be lit all 24 hours of Christmas Day and from 5 a.m. – 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. 

North Pole

Where could be better to see Christmas lights than in a town in upstate New York, CALLED North Pole! The annual Village of Lights display at Santa’s Workshop features Christmas lights, caroling, a Nativity Pageant presentation, marshmallows roasting over an open fire and reindeer feeding.  You can see them on December 3, 10, and 17 – 23, 2023, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The entrance closes at 7 p.m.

Syracuse

It gets super cold in upstate New York, but you can stay warm in your car at the drive-thru Lights on the Lake. The 30th annual event is open November 13, 2023 – January 12, 2024, from 5-10 p.m. The two-mile winter extravaganza includes a radio accompaniment. There is a Land of Oz and Fantasy Forest. Admission is by the carload; $10 on Monday – Thursday, and $20 Friday – Sunday. They must be purchased in advance.

Westchester

The 7th annual Winter Wonderland will transform the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla with more than 2.5 million LED lights set to holiday music. The 1.2-mile drive-through extravaganza includes light displays, characters, music and Santa. New this year: Snowball the Elf, the Transporter Tunnel, and Rudolph’s Runway. Winter Wonderland opens November 24, 2023 and runs through December 31. The light display opens at 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 4 p.m. on weekends. It costs $35 per car.

Sweet Holiday Spirit in Pennsylvania

Hershey

Hersheypark brings you the holiday spirit from the warmth of your car. You drive through Hershey Sweet Lights, two miles of wooded trails to see almost 600 illuminated, animated displays. There are 4 million lights. The spectacle runs from November 10, 2023 – December 31. Admission ranges from $24.95 – $37.95 per vehicle when purchased online, depending on the date.

Hersheypark Christmas Candylane includes Santa with his reindeer and six roller coasters, open for the holidays, plus a Christmas light show, NOEL. Admission is $52.99 when purchased online.

light display in Franklin Square in Philadelphia
Franklin Square in Philadelphia lit up for the holidays- one of the best displays of Christmas lights in the Northeast. Photo credit: Jeff Fusco for Historic Philadelphia, Inc.

Philadelphia

The Franklin Square Holiday Festival with Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show includes music, a beer garden and holiday shopping marketplace, as well as mini golf and a carousel. This year there will also be curling. The free light show takes place every 30 minutes from 5 pm until closing from November 16, 2023 – February 24, 2024.

Just outside Philly, the Longwood Gardens Christmas Display runs November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024 and features daily concerts and elaborate light displays in the water fountains. Fire pits keep you warm as you stroll outside. Timed tickets are required.

A decorated train car at East Broad Top Railroad's Christmas in Coal Country celebration.
“Christmas in Coal Country.” Photo credit: Matthew Malkiewicz for East Broad Top Railroad

Rockhill Furnace

Live out your Polar Express fantasies at the East Broad Top Railroad this holiday season with “Christmas in Coal Country!” Take your family on a Christmas-themed one-hour train ride, complete with heated cars, letters to Santa, and a gift for each kid from Santa personally. Of course, the experience wouldn’t be complete without complimentary hot chocolate and cookies. Admission also includes tickets for a 45-minute festive trolley ride at the neighboring Rockhill Trolley Museum.


The event runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 24 – December 23, 2023, with trains departing at 4:30, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 2-12, with the option to choose seats in the caboose for an extra $5 per ticket.

York

York Christmas Magic during the day. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Stroll Christmas Magic, a half mile walking trail with nearly 600,000 LED lights, animation and holiday scenes from November 25 – December 30 (excluding December 24 & 25) at Rocky Ridge County Park in York. Five enclosed, heated buildings on the route feature food stands, a large G-gauge train display, entertainment, and Santa Claus. Admission to Christmas Magic is by timed tickets only. Reservations are required: no walk-ins.

Best Christmas Lights in the Northeast: Rhode Island

Bristol

Step back in history with Christmas at Blithewold. The 45-room English-style manor is filled with hand-crafted ornaments, and the illuminated gardens and greenhouse add Christmas cheer. Sing carols and warm up with hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows around a roaring bonfire in Blithewold’s Enclosed Garden. Exact dates have not been posted, but Christmas at Blithewold usually runs from the last week of November through the first week of January.

More Ways to Celebrate Christmas

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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6 responses


  1. We just moved from the DC area and I was sorely disappointed with the lack of Christmas lights in neighborhoods there! Maybe we should’ve driven more north haha!

  2. In Northeast, should include Taunton, MA. They have been known throughout this area as the Christmas City, with families making annual pilgrimages around Taunton Green from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. They have a Lights On Festival and parade that begins the season. A $5 button gets you into any of 40 or more venues throughout the city with wonderful events for children and adults.

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