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Only in New York City, home to the world-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and Fifth Avenue holiday window displays, can one South Brooklyn hamlet become the city’s biggest Christmastime attraction. Covering multiple city blocks and avenues, comprising tens of thousands of lights, and welcoming more than 100,000 spectators each year, the Dyker Heights Christmas lights display is ostentatious, overpopulated, and absolutely unmissable.
From January through November, the predominately Italian population of the 120-year-old Dyker Heights neighborhood enjoys a peaceful, private existence. This existence, however, was first shaken up in 1986 when a resident located on 84th Street outfitted her home with eye-catching lights and displays, prompting her neighbors to join in on the festive fun. In true Brooklyn fashion, a friendly competition formed, and in a neighborhood-wide effort to outdo one another, the first Dyker Heights Christmas lights display was born.
That same competitive spirit drives the tradition today, meaning each year’s displays are bigger and better than the year before. In the past, neighborhood homes (some designed by professional decorating companies) have featured life-size nativity scenes, enormous inflatable Rudolphs and Santas, and loudspeakers blasting Christmas carols. With so much to see—lights are displayed between 11th and 13th Avenues and 83rd and 86th Streets—you’ll be glad this attraction remains up from Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s Eve.
Whenever you visit, make the most of your Christmas excursion with the help of a few practical tips. Accessing the display is easy, with options such as taking the D Train to 71st Street or the B4 bus to Bay Ridge Parkway and 12th Avenue both beating a car commute (nothing kills the Christmas spirit like spending 45 minutes searching for parking). We recommend timing your visit between dusk and 9 pm as many houses shut off their displays after 9 pm. While bus and walking tours of the area are provided by Free Tours by Foot and A Slice of Brooklyn, exploring the attraction at your own pace—preferably with a steaming cup of hot chocolate—is the local’s preferred method of experiencing this unexpected, unforgettable holiday tradition.