New York is known for its lights. Around the holidays, the city that never sleeps uses more than its share of electricity to turn its buildings and streets into twinkling wonderlands. The displays that follow might not be as big as those at Rockefeller Center or Dyker Heights, but they’re bright enough to say “Happy Holidays” to all who pass near their glow. By Jessica Allen.
First and foremost, the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is just that—a train show. Little locomotives zoom around several tracks. But in, above, and among the 140 buildings and structures surrounding the tracks are lights, many many many lights. Each year the botanical architects, artists, landscape designers, and other geniuses at Applied Imagination craft iconic NYC landmarks from natural materials like stems, fruits, seeds, and pine cones. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a mini Yankee Stadium or Brooklyn Bridge done up in bark and twigs.
Beginning on November 27, the Winter Garden, across the street from the World Trade Center, transforms its glass-enclosed atrium into a spectacular palace of sparkle, thanks to 50,000 lights, a holiday tradition since 1989. Santa and his elf-and-reindeer entourage are planning a visit from December 7 to 9 (photos cost $20, with a portion of proceeds to be donated to New York Theatre Ballet). If Santa’s not your thing, check out My Yiddishe Chanukah: A Musical Feast for New York on December 16, performed by members of the National Yiddish Theater – Folksbiene, the longest continuing Yiddish theater company in the United States.
There’s something about watching lights flick and shift in rhythm that turns viewers into kids again. Do some shopping at Coach, Swarovski , or another high-end store, grab a salad at Whole Foods and a macaron at Bouchon Bakery, and then head to the time Warner Center’s Great Room to ogle what its Facebook page calls the “largest specialty-crafted display of illuminated color-mixing in the world.” Twelve 14-foot stars, hung from the 150-foot ceiling, are lit according to holiday songs. And if your neck gets stiff from staring up, you can book yourself a massage at the on-site spa, part of the Mandarin Oriental hotel.
In 1945, a few families on Park Avenue decided to light a tree in memory of those who gave their lives serving their country in World War II. Today, the annual lighting of the fir trees along a 2.5-mile stretch of Park Avenue marks a big event on the holiday social calendar for those who live along this street and elsewhere on the Upper East Side, but non-residents and non-society dames are welcome too. After a short ceremony and some caroling on the steps of Brick Presbyterian Church, the trees are lit on the first Sunday of December (December 2 this year) and stay that way through mid-January.
Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town offers visitors the chance to experience life in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Its 100 acres contain the city’s oldest continuously operating farm, a 50-acre village with more than 30 original structures, including a house dating to the 1690s and a general store from the 1860s, and a museum. Actors help make the history come alive by completing chores, making tools, and answering questions. During the annual Candlelight Tours, the town gets lit up by oil lamps, candles, and, of course, many roaring fires. Refreshments are served; reservations are required.