LAST UPDATED: February 26, 2024There is nothing like the Christmas season in New York City. While I appreciate Christmas in any city, NYC is my number one recommendation and personal favorite. From iconic events to the famous Dyker Heights Christmas lights tour, The Big Apple wins for the most magical Christmas destination. Don’t believe me? Challenge accepted. For Exhibit A, I shall present Brooklyn’s most famous neighborhood, its history, and why its residents can’t wait for you to visit during this holiday season!
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
One of the top experiences of all New York attractions, it is THE top Christmas lights excursion in the city. Honestly, I would argue one of the best displays of Christmas light decorations in the entire United States.
What makes this tour so special? The rich history of the houses and the residents who call Dyker Heights home. Yep, the Brooklyn Dyker Heights Christmas lights are all about its people and the annual traditions they keep!
History of the Dyker Heights Lights
This affluent residential neighborhood dates back to the 1800s when founder Walter L. Johnson set out to create luxury housing on his family’s land. He named the division Dyker Heights since the land overlooked what is now known as The Dyker Beach Park and Golf Course.
While there is speculation and many versions of how the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights started, they all seem to involve the Spata family. Believed to have started in the 1980s when she moved to Dyker Heights, Lucy Spata decorated her entire property with NO inch to spare. The Spata family has continued the tradition ever since adding more each year!
As you can imagine, not everyone was on board at first. However, the tradition did catch on and now many (not all) homes participate creating a spectacle that draws people from all over the world!
I love it! I love the festive nature, I love the energy and the patience (neither of which I possess). But, I do have one question for Ms. Spata. Where DOES she park her car during December? 😱
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour
So, with the creation of the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights (I so love that it rhymes 😁) came the need for….tours, right? Well, of course!
There are many ways to go about the ultimate Dyker Heights Christmas Lights tour. Whether you create your own or go the organized route, a Brooklyn Christmas lights tour of Dyker Heights will be a lasting memory of your trip to New York City during the holiday season!
While there are different types of tours available (self-guided, guided walking, virtual, private, etc), the one I took and will discuss in this post is the bus tour from Manhattan.
Bus & Guided Walking Tours from Manhattan
Most tourists visiting NYC during the holiday season will stay in Manhattan since that is where “all the things” happen. Good news! Some tours pick up and drop off in midtown Manhattan.
Personally, I feel this is the best option because who wants to rent a car in NYC or pay for an Uber? If you opt for your own, self-guided tour (free apart from train fare), then the train (metro if you aren’t from New York) is your best option. More on that later.
On our tour, we were picked up and dropped off a block from Bryant Park (across from the New York Public Library). The tour included round-trip transportation in a heated bus with a very informative tour guide.
Once we arrived in Dyker Heights, the buses parked in their designated area and we walked to the houses. The tour guide again gave us information as well as a little bit of free time.
We had fun marveling at the sheer amount of work and creativity (not to mention the power bill 😳) that goes into displays of this nature!
TIP: Many houses have a way to “tip” posted in their decorations and some are in the form of charity donations. Consider tipping to help out with the enormous power bills (it isn’t cheap in NYC) if you would like to help!
When it was time to go, we followed our guide back to the bus and returned to midtown Manhattan. Depending on the time and your drop-off location, this is a great time to explore Bryant Park’s Winter Village, Times Square, or Rockefeller Center!
You might also like: CHRISTMAS IN NYC: THE PERFECT HOLIDAY GUIDE
Location of the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Screenshot from Google Maps
Located in the borough of Brooklyn, Dyker Heights is not far from the famous Verazzano-Narrows Bridge. This southwestern Brooklyn neighborhood is (basically) bordered by 62nd Street (north), 14th Avenue (east), Poly Place (south), and 7th Avenue (west).
When to Visit the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Note: Dates are subject to change.
Typically, the lights are up right after Thanksgiving with tours starting the very next week. Offered daily throughout December, these tours fill up quickly in advance. I missed out on seeing them in 2021 because I waited too late. I learned my lesson and saw these Christmas lights in 2022!
As far as how long the tours run, the residents usually keep their decorations up through the first weekend in January. The booking calendar does a good job of showing the dates along with what is available and what is booked!
TIP: As soon as you know your trip dates, book your tour and then plan around it!
How to Get to the Lights of Dyker Heights
There are MANY different tours to choose from. We did this bus tour and it was fantastic. However, there are less expensive ones (looks like the difference is no snack/water) for a more budget-friendly approach. NYC isn’t cheap especially during the holidays!
Screenshot from Google Maps
If braving it on your own, the R train gets you closest to Dyker Heights. Access to the R train renders many possibilities depending on where you are in the city. Ultimately, you want to get off at 86th Street and it will take around 1 hr 15 min (during slow hours 😳) to get there one-way. Afterward, there is still nearly a one-mile walk upon arrival at 86th Street.
Google Maps of Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Houses of Interest
Where to Stay in Manhattan for Dyker Heights Bus Tour
While NYC is very easy to get around if walking or taking the train, if you want to center yourself near the Manhattan pickup/drop-off destination at Bryant Park, consider staying at the first option. However, if you want Christmas decorations and all the luxurious holiday bliss, consider the second and third options.
Hilton Garden Inn Times Square Central
The Hilton Garden Inn Times Square Central is my best recommendation as it is located right in the heart of Times Square and only half a block from Bryant Park. I’ve stayed here MANY times and my favorite is during the holidays, especially New Year’s Eve (prime accommodations to watch the ball drop without the crowd)!
It’s always a plus when staying near major train stations (like all the major 42nd Street locations) AND in walking distance of SO much!
TIP: Don’t get it confused with the Hilton New York Times Square that’s a block down the street. While still a good location, it’s much noisier/busier outside, and it’s NOT the location for the ball drop or half-block from Bryant Park.
The Peninsula New York
Located on the famous Fifth Avenue, The Peninsula New York is gorgeous at Christmastime. They have everything inside and out decorated to be sure your stay is pure holiday joy!
The Plaza Hotel
Famous itself, The Plaza Hotel needs no introduction. Here, guests receive five-star treatment on Fifth Avenue at Central Park. The stunning Christmas tree in the foyer draws in thousands of visitors each season. Also close by are the famous Bergdorf Goodman window decorations!
What to Wear for Christmas Dyker Heights Lights
One of the photo opportunities they had set up!
Something WARM! Though the bus is well-heated and very warm, the guided walking part of the tour is not. NYC gets quite cold so I highly recommend something like fleece-lined leggings for the ladies, Ugg boots, a packable down coat, a scarf, and a warm beanie. For the guys, I mostly saw jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, warm coats, and beanies.
TIP: This is a SUPER casual event. If comfort and style don’t translate into the same outfit for you, I highly recommend prioritizing comfort for this tour!
Tips for Visiting Dyker Heights Lights
• Remember to be respectful. These houses are people’s private residences.
• Tours are approximately 4 hours round-trip. This time can change depending on NYC traffic.
• No food or drinks are allowed on the bus.
•There is usually (check to be sure) a restroom on the bus and that is the ONLY access to restrooms you will have on the tour.
• Not recommended for physical disabilities due to the amount of walking involved.
• Some (not all) tours offer a treat and water on the way back. Otherwise, there are typically food trucks in Dyker Heights selling (expensive) holiday treats and hot cocoa.
• Dress warmly and comfortably. It can get quite cold in NYC in December.
• Tours happen rain or shine so come prepared. It drizzled on our tour!
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights FAQs
Q: Can you visit Dyker Heights without a tour?
A: Absolutely! The neighborhood is free to access and walk around if you go on your own.
Q: Where are Dyker Heights Christmas Lights?
A: In NYC’s Brooklyn borough in the neighborhood of Dyker Heights.
Q: Are Dyker Heights Christmas Lights free?
A: If taking an organized tour, obviously they aren’t. However, if you are going on your own there is no entry fee to walk the neighborhood. Some residents have ways you can tip or donate posted among their decorations.
Q: Are Dyker Heights Christmas Lights worth it?
A: YES! Or else I wouldn’t be writing this article. 😜
Q: How long does it take to walk through Dyker Heights Christmas Lights?
A: Outside of a guided tour, I would allow no less than an hour. If you want to truly take your time getting ALL the good photos (including standing in line for some opps), give yourself around 1.5 hours. If you have a bigger party, add 30 minutes to each allotment. *These times all depend on variable numbers of visitors on any given night. Note that weekends and weeknights after school lets out will likely have higher volumes.
Q: Can you drive through Dyker Heights Christmas Lights?
A: Not advised. The buses park a little ways out and everyone gets out to walk. Due to so many people in the streets, it’s hard enough for the residents to get in and out.
Q: Are there food and drink options available?
A: Yes. A few food trucks offer holiday treats and beverages (hot chocolate anyone?) scattered along the most popular sections of the light displays. Full disclosure: prices are a little high.
Q: Can you do a private tour?
A: Sure can! See how to take a private tour.
See? Isn’t it magical? It’s the perfect way to get out of Manhattan for a bit and see the calmer side of residential New York City. I truly enjoyed this Dyker Heights Christmas lights tour and hope you do too!
Have you taken a tour to see Dyker Heights’ Christmas lights? If so, was it organized or did you go on your own? Have any secrets or tips to add to help others? Share down below, please, and thank you!
‘Til next time…