Oh yeah, folks! Thanksgiving is over and we’re officially moving on to my absolute favorite time of year–the holiday season! And I have to say, the holidays are perhaps the most beautiful time of year in NYC. All the shimmering lights, the beautiful window displays on 5th Avenue, the holiday markets in full swing. Especially through a gentle dusting of snow, it’s all just so lovely. But there always has to be someone who just takes it all to a whole ‘nother level…and that would be the residents of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn!
Every year, Dyker Heights’ houses are decked out in some of the most outrageous Christmas light displays you will ever see. Clark Griswold has nothing on some of these families! I have attended a dozen or so times by now, and my husband and I have made an annual tradition out of visiting with some friends of ours the past few years. Our 2018 outing is coming up this week!
Before we start the festivities, we always meet up in a nearby neighborhood for dinner in advance. A couple of our favorite pre-lights restaurants are Tanoreen in Bay Ridge and Mama Rao’s in Dyker Heights. Tanoreen has fantastic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food and is the perfect place to go if you enjoy sharing lots of small plates with your dining companions. Their brussels sprouts and cauliflower are FANTASTIC, and you have to leave room for dessert (try the knafeh!) Mama Rao’s has excellent Italian food and incredibly warm and friendly service (the complimentary lemon cookie at the end of the meal doesn’t hurt either!). Both places are great options for some pre-lights merriment and to warm you up for your visit.
After you’ve had your fill, you’ll then need to work your way over to Dyker Heights to see what the crazy residents have been up to. The prime viewing location is between 11th and 13th Avenue and between 83rd and 86th Street. And you’ll know you’ve arrived because the displays are bright enough to see from space! Some houses seem to have the same decorations every year, but we’ve noticed others have changed things up from year to year. Regardless, each home has its own style, from the classy and beautiful to the “what on earth is going on there?!?!”
As much as I love Christmas, even I can admit some of the decorations are ridiculous. Personally, I’m a fan of the classic white lights amongst green wreaths and red bows. There are plenty of homes sporting this look, but you’ll also see lots of blues, greens, and even purple, which was the big hit a couple years ago. Last year, we also noticed more homes using projected images, made to appear as though Santa was walking past the windows inside the houses. These were very cool, though I’m sure also very confusing to children who were seeing Santa in more than one house at a time.
Aside from the lights and projections, you’ll also see giant Santas and nutcrackers, automated carousels and snow globes, and plenty of inflatable figures, including reindeer and Disney characters. Basically, it looks like Christmas exploded everywhere AND I LOVE IT. No two houses are the same so you’ll want to wander through it all to make sure you don’t miss anything! (You may even come across Santa or Elmo wandering the streets, too.)
And at some point during your stroll, you may find yourself staring in awe and wondering, “Why?” Why is this one neighborhood so over the top? Well, wonder no more. Rumor has it that one resident, Lucy Spata, started putting up crazy decorations in the ‘80s, much to her neighbors’ chagrin. It’s said that many complained about her over-the-top embrace of Christmas, but she told them too bad, she wasn’t going to stop. Clearly, her neighbors decided that if they couldn’t beat her, they’d join her. And did they ever!
Not only did they join her, but many of the houses even have signs in their yards for the decorating companies who helped assemble their displays. They’re paying someone to decorate their houses for Christmas??? I can’t even imagine. (And let’s not even talk about what their electric bills must be like–eeeep!)
That said, I absolutely adore Christmas, and visiting Dyker Heights every winter puts me fully into the holiday spirit for the remainder of the season. And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Dyker Heights is still a sight to behold. Plus, it’s always refreshing to know that there are people out there who are crazier than you. 😉
So hop on the subway or get into your
sleigh car, and head on down to Dyker Heights! Or if you’d rather not go it alone, you can always join one of the tour groups that visit Dyker Heights each year. New York Adventure Club is offering walking tours on several dates through December 30th, and A Slice of Brooklyn also offers festive bus tours from Manhattan, including a guided tour of the neighborhood, every day from December 1st through January 4th.
If you haven’t been to this Christmas lights extravaganza yet, make this year the time you finally go! It will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and I guarantee you’ll leave the neighborhood with a much bigger smile on your face than when you arrived.
And when you do go, please stop back and let me know what you thought!
Plan Your Own Visit
Where to Go:
- Dyker Heights, Brooklyn: The prime viewing area is between 11th and 13th Ave. and 83rd and 86th St., with the heaviest concentration on 13th Ave. and 83rd/84th street.
When to Go:
- Any evening after Thanksgiving weekend through January 4th.
- Lights typically come on around 5:00 pm and stay lit until around 9:00 pm or so.
Tips for Visiting:
- If you plan to drive, parking can be tricky and, at times, some of the streets are closed off altogether. You may have better luck parking a block or two outside of the prime viewing area and walking from there, especially if you plan to take photos (and don’t want to be the jerk holding up traffic.)
- If you want more background about the history of the lights, visit with a tour group! New York Adventure Club and A Slice of Brooklyn both offer tours throughout the holiday season.
- Remember, these are still people’s homes! Please be respectful and stay off their property unless they invite you to come up for a closer look.
- That said, some of the homeowners will allow you to sit or stand on their steps, porches, etc. to get photos with their decorations for a small donation.
- And in case you need a snack for your holiday stroll, there’s often an ice cream truck and food carts in the neighborhood!