Dyker Heights Christmas lights tour
The holiday lights are an international attraction in Southwest Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights is internationally famed for its Christmas lights: dazzling, over-the-top arrays and even animated figures that represent the holiday season. In 2015, Redfin called Dyker Heights the country's best neighborhood to see holiday lights. In 2016, Oyster.com did the same.
The lights are very much a home-grown phenomenon rather than the very impressive municipal efforts around the world. Proud neighbors, in friendly competition, have escalated the shows, sometimes spending significant sums for the displays. (All photos copyright Jonathan Barkey.)
On our tour, I'll take you on the best blocks and explain how it started. Sometimes--often--we run into the proud homeowners. I can also show you other neighborhood highlights (pastry shops, mmm...) and explain how this part of Brooklyn evolved.
The holiday lights generally go up after Thanksgiving and remain until the first days of January, though the best times are after December 8. (That's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Mary, and some people wait until then to put up decorations.)
That said, it's much quieter in the early part of the season, so the trade-off can be worth it. Weekends can be very busy.
Lights are generally lit up dusk through midnight. Depending on the size of the group, the scope of the tour, and the choice of transportation (foot or vehicle), we generally need 60-90 minutes in Dyker.
Dyker Heights is in the southwest part of Brooklyn. From Midtown Manhattan, Dyker Heights is about one hour by public transit and 35-50 minutes by vehicle. It's still a fairly long trip by vehicle or subway from Downtown Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan. I recommend combining the visit with some other stops in Brooklyn. See examples at right.
A smaller group can be more nimble and see more of the neighborhood, including the main shopping street, Dyker Heights Boulevard, which has several bakeries. I also can recommend restaurants for dinner before or after the tour, nearby or a short ride away in Bensonhurst or Bay Ridge.
We also can extend the tour of lights to locations in Bay Ridge, best accessible with a vehicle.
Click the minus sign (−) on the map to see the distance from Dyker Heights to other parts of Brooklyn and New York City.
I am available for bus tours (generally organized by third party travel companies) that start in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Such tours often include a stop at another Brooklyn location--otherwise it's a long ride to southwest Brooklyn.
Please note: you can only see a fraction of the lights from a bus; it must park in a designated lot, and then the group must walk. It is possible to have a great time walking just a few blocks. Note: the sidewalks can be narrow and crowded.
A smaller vehicle can take us through most of the streets.
I also lead smaller group tours on foot, arriving in vehicles or public transit, starting in Manhattan or Brooklyn. If we leave during daylight, we can easily stop in DUMBO, where there are great views of Lower Manahttan. It's also possible to visit, the rowhouse neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene, or Orthodox Jewish Borough Park, and/or Chinese/Latino Sunset Park along the way, providing a broad sense of Brooklyn's diversity.
A vehicle costs $50-$70/hour beyond my fee, but is faster and protects against weather. Using public transit is inexpensive but quite doable, as long as you can walk, as the main attractions are not near the subway. But walking will give you more of a feel for the overall neighborhood, and it's easy to stop for food or snacks. There's a public bus near the end of our typical tour route that can take you to a subway. A car service is also nearby. (Lyft/Uber, not so much.)
We also can mix and match public transit and taxis. My fees are based on size of group and time spent, but figure 2 to 3.5 hours (or longer), depending on where I meet you and what else we add to the tour. Note: I typically am available on Christmas Eve and Christmas Night.
In 2015, on Christmas Eve, I led a 5-hour tour that started in Manhattan, then made two stops in Brooklyn (including dinner in Brooklyn's Chinatown) before Dyker Heights.