Christmas lights in the Dyker Heights neighborhood

If you come to New York City in December, you'll find the festive Christmas season throughout the town. Skaters wobble beneath the giant tree in Rockefeller Center. Giant snowflakes adorn the upper floors of the Saks Fifth Avenue store while animated Christmas-themed window displays entertain visitors on the ground floor of Saks, as well as Macy's (where Santa takes a roller coaster ride), Lord and Taylor, and many other stores.

But somewhat overlooked in all this extravagance are the amateur efforts of the residents of Dyker Heights. (Take the R to 86th then make the 20-minute walk or catch the B64 bus to 11th Avenue.) There is no line for tickets; there is no entrance. You just wander through the streets admiring the Christmas lights, inflatable snowmen, Nativity displays, and other decorations, be they tasteful and reverential or (what you're more likely to notice) ostentatious and mind-boggling.

There were a lot of extravagant displays, but the one that took the cake was the large house with a 15-foot-tall Santa flanked by 20-foot tall nutcracker soldiers, accompanied by two merry-go-rounds and life-size figures waving to passers-by from the upper balcony.

Visit in the early evening, say from 5pm to 7pm. This hits the sweet spot between "late enough that night has fallen" and "catch them before the lights are turned off." We visited during a weekday and there were barely any people on the streets, and those we saw were locals just out for an evening stroll. There were a few cars driving slowly through the neighborhood, but not enough to disrupt that friendly neighborhood atmosphere. (I suspect things are much different on the weekends.) Remember, this is a residential neighborhood, not a commercial display, so don't make a lot of noise and please respect the residents' privacy.

Comments (9)
  1. ‘please respect the residents’ privacy’???

    Hmmm, methinks they’ve surrendered that right once they put the display up.

  2. Lauren Smith says:

    5 years ago when I got to Japan, there weren’t very many private home Christmas displays. That year, we set up the in-laws’ house with a bunch of net lights on the bushes and some twinkling icicles on the eaves, and we got a lot of attention from the locals.

    5 years on, I can’t convince the in-laws to upgrade the display anymore, and we’re being shown up by several of the nearby houses.

    Whenever I suggest the 9ft snowman and Santa inflatable decorations, I just get scorn. Where’s their Christmas spirit?

  3. John says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t care for the whole holiday decoration thing, I despise the Thanksgiving Day parade, and hearing the same Christmas music in every store day after day makes me want to stab my ear drums with a hat pin.

    I’m not trying to be a Scrooge, but for God’s sake be reasonable about it.

  4. Jim says:

    Whenever your guys come down in Valencia area outside of LA in this time of the year, you will be amazed how the local folks decorate their homes and STREETs. Every street has different themes for different years and they are in competition for god knows what. Do not know who start it but it’s kind stressful to living in the neighborhood!

  5. Rick Scott says:

    I live on one of these "Christmas Tree Lanes" in the Sacramento, CA area.

    If you plan on visiting your local Christmas Tree Lane, and you see someone trying to turn left into their driveway, PLEASE STOP AND LET US GET IN.

    Sometimes we just sit there with our blinker on and our garage door opened (via remote) while onlookers gawk at our display and drive slowly by without looking around once in a while.

    Very frustrating :(

  6. deirdre says:

    Dyker Heights is an amusing walk during the summer as well. Lot of religous statues on display.

  7. GreaseMonkey says:

    Paganism is a religion?

  8. Rachael says:

    For those in the UK: There’s a similar phenomenon in the village of Southend Bradfield, Berkshire. Every year they seem to get bigger and better decorations to compete with each other. They have quite big gardens visible from the road, so they fill those with decorations, in addition to the ones all over the houses and the big Santas with sleighs and reindeer running across the top of the roof.

  9. HitScan says:

    There’s a similarly extravagant display somewhere in southern Indiana. They even have a little viewing shelter and a guestbook you can sign.

    The difference if I remember correctly, is that it’s a single dwelling. I couldn’t imagine the cost in dollars or time.

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