Dyker Heights Christmas lights tour
The holiday lights are an international attraction in Southwest Brooklyn.
Please click here for public, ticketed tours I will be leading. They require about 2.5 miles of walking.
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.
(Yes, other companies that offer daily large-group bus tours. I offer more personalized service.)
The season: when to go
The holiday lights generally go up beginning after Thanksgiving--I make no guarantees about progress. It's certainly possible to start visiting by December 1, though some lights aren't up until 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, especially as Christmas approaches.
Lights start coming down after Christmas, but mostly remain up through New Year's Day. So late December can work, as well.
Lights generally lit up dusk through at least 9 pm. Depending on the size of the group, the scope of the tour, and the choice of transportation (foot or vehicle), we generally need 1 to 2 hours in Dyker. The shorter time period is if you have a vehicle and/or don't want to walk much.
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, often starting in daylight, then getting to Dyker Heights after dark. 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. There are a good number of options, including fast food (pizza, burgers), steakhouses, and restaurants featuring Italian, Middle Eastern, Greek, and other cuisines.
If we have a vehicle, we also can extend the tour of lights to locations in Bay Ridge, which has some great blocks with lights, no crowds (usually), and some lovely architecture.
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.
Given enormous crowding starting by mid-December, I strongly recommend bus tours aim for the earliest part of the month.
Please note: you can only see a tiny 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 many but not all of the streets.
Private smaller-group tours
I also lead smaller group tours on foot, arriving in vehicles or public transit, starting in Manhattan or Brooklyn.
A vehicle costs $50-$70/hour beyond my fee, but is faster and protects against weather. I cannot book a vehicle for you but can suggest some companies to try. This can be more unwieldy than simply going to a company with a package deal, but it should cost less.
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. After the tour, a public bus or car service will be available. We also can mix and match public transit and taxis.
Option 1: Start the tour elsewhere
If we leave during daylight, we can easily stop in DUMBO, where there are great views of Lower Manhattan. It's also possible to visit row-house neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene, or Orthodox Jewish Borough Park, and/or Chinese/Latino Sunset Park along the way.
Option 2: Meet in Dyker Heights
If you are coming by subway, or by taxi--or if you're hiring a vehicle for the night--I can also meet you in Dyker Heights. Figure up to 2 hours in Dyker.
My fees (click here for details) 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 whether we add anything to the route. If you're just meeting me in Dyker, that's a short tour. Let me know your preference, including transit options.
Your options include (in order of increasing overall cost):
Note: I typically am available on Christmas Eve and Christmas Night.