15 Unmissable Holiday Lights in New York ... and their History!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

While glamorous window displays exist all year round, the ones around the holiday season are an imagination apart. They flock the cosmopolitans from Harrod's to Bergdorfs every season. Over the holidays in particular, the sheer work and detail that goes into them stretches about a year in advance with a group of collaborators building storyboards. The holiday season, despite its one eve of festivity, absorbs anywhere from weeks to months of our time as shoppers. It attracts one and all with the glitterarti of lights that brighten up the night sky for miles, attracting shutterbugs and stories for lifetimes.

Although nowadays, in the swipe world of online shopping, we look at the displays from the glass of our phone, and less from the eyes. And yet they continue to exist in a digital world, which in itself is a victory. How so? And how did they come about? Tracked back to the 1800s, the idea of window-shopping was born when glass plates began to be used by the likes of Macy's in New York City. Together with Philadelphia’s Gimbel Brothers Department Store, it also hosted the first in store Santa sighting in 1920 post Thanksgiving. By the 1900s, many American cities began luring in shoppers with window displays. As L Frank Baum wrote in the Show Window Magazine in 1899“the recent holiday displays have thoroughly demonstrated the progress of the art of window trimming. Every village and hamlet in the land has had some sort of a window display of unusual merit to attract the public and further the sale of Christmas wares.”
The Lord and Taylor flagship on 5th Ave opened in 1914, followed by Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman near Central Park, all of which continued the tradition. The fact that electricity was prevalent meant that stores could display items at windows far beyond store hours, thus making these site seeing destinations for tourists versus simply retail efforts. This gave birth to a new form of tourism, magnified only recently by the ability to click pics instantly via smartphones.
Several holiday marketing traditions were consequently born. Harry Gordon Selfridge who founded British department store Selfridges, was the first to promote Christmas sales with the phrase "Only __ shopping days until Christmas" in 1909. Affluent retailers followed the holiday window decor trend worldwide, including Harrods in London and De Bjienkorf in the Netherlands. Stores began to employ artists, architects and designers specifically for stores, seeing that the return on the investment was one of retail, tourism and branding.
Now for our Top 10 in New York for this year!
5th Avenue
With uncertainty in shopping and indoor/outdoor dining in the city, the decor has hit the streets! Stroll down your favorite shopping avenue of the world to catch your favorite, often life sized glinting light sculptures.
The New York Botanical Garden is an iconic Bronx family attraction and hosts an annual NYBG Glow. Based around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the thousands of energy-efficient LED lights and holiday themed installations make for a memorably trip.
The iconic Luminaries installation at Brookfield Place consist of 650 LED lanterns hanging from the ceiling, is a modern day geometry and trigonometry spectacle. Paired with sweets from local vendors and skating on the waterfront. 
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
The neighborhood of Dyker Heights is known for its over the top and elaborate holiday decorations. With bedazzling kitsch comprising of oversized reindeers, massive snow globes, inflatable santas and a population of snowmen and snowmen, the sheer light spectacle makes it seem like daylight, all winter long.

1,131 feet above the ground of New York, Edge is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. Decked out with over 50,000 lights, a Christmas tree and giant hot air balloon themed with the Hudson Yards decor, the rooftop bar area also serves a limited edition “Cocoa in the Clouds”: hot chocolate with made-to-order whipped cream and rice crispy treats with crushed peppermint, spiked with liquor!

amenities including virtual fireplaces, electric heating, and seasonal snacks and cocktails like the Alpine Negroni and Smoked Hot Toddy. 

New York's opulent playground has a million lights and some high end and high tech decor, including the hot air balloons, sparkling lights around the Vessel, architecturally constructed lights and more with the "Shine Bright at Hudson Yards" event.
The luxury hotel in New York with its sweeping chandeliers and long staircases is nothing short of a fairy tale. The enchanted looking magnificent Christmas tree with frills and a star, in the courtyard behind gold and iron fencing, teleports one into a wonderland of their own.
LuminoCity is an immersive outdoor holiday playground of light sculptures and art installations which require a 45-minute walking, trough Alice in Wonderland style gardens, fairy palaces, lollipop trees, and more, each a land of its own. Think: Mysterious Forest, Dangerous Dunes, Forgotten Ruins, Hidden Land of Hria and Mystical Moon Land. 
Queens County Farm Museum's history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. With seasonal pop ups in floral themes by The Floral Escape, the winter one is the Winter Escape, a multi-sensory floral experience with a Gingerbread Village, a Candy Cane Rose Garden or snap an ‘elfie with Santa in his Jolly ‘olly, throne chair. Smile, sparkle & shine to make it a December to remember with endless blooming, photo-ops bound to have you feeling merry & bright! 
Always a well lit area with a gigantic tree and oversized ornaments, the Radio City Music Hall is home to the Rockettes too.
More than just the ice rink and massive Christmas tree, there is the shopping arcade, and the four sides that lead up to this tourist hotspot. There is the massive Norway Spruce covered in hundred of lights, with golden angels on either sides flocked with shrubs and even more gold.
While a bar and grill serving large portions of traditional German food and beer, its the kitsch and over the top bright and glinting annual Christmas decorations that are a must-see. Literally blinding, from all angles and with more ornaments and lights than ever! The food includes many meats and sausages, and behind the decor are medieval paintings for an old world charm. 
The iconic 10-story facade of a palace makes 5th Avenue stop still. The periodically running 2-minute show repeats every few minutes and incorporates holiday stories with yetis, snow monsters, princesses, and more, all in theme with the holiday displays. 
Enjoy starry-eyed sights of the iconic 14-foot stars as they light up and dance to the rhythm of festive music. The show starts at 4pm, nightly. 

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