The holiday spirit shines brightly throughout New York State. This year, you can find drive-through light displays, Santa sightings, a Nutcracker exhibit, and many in-person and virtual activities. For those who prefer to stay at home, many New York attractions offer virtual holiday experiences, including online Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa events. Get ready to celebrate the season with these winter holiday happenings across New York or from your own home. Remember to social distance and wear a mask as required by state guidelines. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions are open and available.
Credit: Marlon Co/The New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden's favorite holiday train show is back! This beloved tradition returns for its 30th year with a miniature wonderland in the warmth of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, showcasing the iconic Haupt Conservatory and new for this year--the majestic Lu Esther T. Mertz Library buildings, both designated NYC landmarks. Walk the grounds at night and take in the sights of NYBG GLOW. The magnificent Enid A. Haupt Conservatory serves as the centerpiece of this dazzling display of lights and holiday spirit. Open November 20, 2021, through January 23, 2022. Train and GLOW, $32 adults, $18 children (2-12), and free for children under 2.
Winter Wonderland (Hudson Valley)
Credit: Nick Rouke / @nick_rouke_photo
This 1.2-mile drive-thru experience features thousands of lights spread out across Kensico Dam Plaza, as well as characters, Christmas tree displays, and more. Maneuver through festive surroundings in your vehicle, pass glittering peace angels and Nutcrackers, drive down Candy Cane Lane and through a 100-foot light tunnel, and wave at friendly elves at the new Elf Disco. Open select days through January 22, 2022. $25 per car (weekdays); $35 per car (weekends); Valhalla
Peace, Love & Lights (Catskills)
Credit: Courtesy of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Say “Hippie Holidays” at this colorful drive-thru light show on the site of the original Woodstock music festival. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has created a 1.7-mile drive through a “Twinkle Tunnel” and themed areas including “Groovy Way”, "Snowflake Alley", and an Enchanted Forest meant to highlight the Catskills. Keep an eye out for Santa and other holiday favorites, and take advantage of discounted admission to the Museum at Bethel Woods (just $5 per guest with a valid light show ticket). Open select days through January 2. Prices: Sun-Thursday from 5-9 pm, $23.75 per car. Friday and Saturday from 5-10 pm, $28.75 per car; Bethel
Magic of Lights (Long Island)
Drive through illuminated holiday scenes and favorite holiday characters at Magic of Lights in Jones Beach. The displays employ the latest LED technology and feature imaginative and inspiring digital animations, creating a wonderful, winding path for you to enjoy from inside your vehicle. Open select days from November 19, 2021 through January 2, 2022, prices vary, Wantagh
Festival of Lights at Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Fatima (Greater Niagara)
Just five minutes from Lewiston and 20 minutes from Niagara Falls, the glass-domed Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Fatima sits on 35 acres featuring statues and monuments. During the holidays, the grounds are home to a spectacular festival of lights and an international nativity display, both open for self-guided tours. Open select days through January 2, free, Youngstown
Winter Wonderlights (Thousand Islands-Seaway)
Zoo New York hosts its second Winter Wonderlights, themed weekend holiday celebrations at this 32-acre zoo at Thompson Park. Families can expect to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, take part in winter and holiday activities, and of course, see the zoo’s animals amid festive decorations and lights. Thursdays-Sundays; prices vary; Watertown
Holiday Lights in the Park (Capital-Saratoga)
The 25th annual Lights in the Park takes place in Albany’s beautiful Washington Park. This year's show depicts holiday scenes of yesteryear and many new and exciting lighting displays. Visitors driving through the displays can see Christmas trees, menorahs, and other iconic holiday symbols decked out in lights. Remember to bring the little ones’ letters to Santa to deposit in Santa’s Mailbox at the entrance booth. Nightly through January 2, 2022; Price per vehicle starts at $25; Albany
Holiday Lantern Tours (Central New York)
Ever wonder how early New Yorkers celebrated the holidays? The Farmers’ Museum Holiday Lantern Tours will take you back to a different era via lantern-lit, hour-long walking tours limited to groups of eight visitors at a time. Learn about the history of Christmas and other religious holidays as they were celebrated in Upstate New York in centuries past. Christmas carols, lighting displays, and other seasonal touches will set the mood for this festive look back. Open select days in December; $18 adults, $10 juniors (7-12), $5 children (3-6), free for 2 and under, Cooperstown
Christmas at Santa's Workshop (Chautauqua-Allegheny)
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Santa's Workshop
Learn about the history of Santa Claus and the traditions that helped make the Santa we know and love at the Fenton History Center. Take a peek inside a Victorian Christmas Workshop in this year's Holiday exhibit. Open select days from November 26, 2021, through January 6, 2022; $10 adults, free for children; Jamestown
Wild Lights (Adirondacks)
For the first time, Wild Walk will open at night as part of the inaugural Wild Lights. The new holiday event at the Wild Center will feature twinkling lights and festive music, inviting a limited amount of visitors to explore the special outdoor exhibit. Be sure to check out Forest Music, an original immersive music and light experience, and of course, take a wintertime Wild Walk on the 1,000-foot elevated walkway with bridges and platforms overlooking the forest canopy.
Village of Lights (Adirondacks)
Santa's Workshop features a holiday light show amid the Yuletide setting at North Pole, NY, a family favorite for generations. Come see Santa Claus, candy canes, and reindeer as this beloved village transforms into a true Christmas Winter Wonderland, complete with caroling and roasted marshmallows. Select evenings through December 30; tickets start at $24.95, North Pole
The New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (New York City)
From November 26, 2021, to January 2, 2022, see New York City Ballet’s iconic Nutcracker performance, where 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 40 stagehands, and 125 children join forces in presenting the Nutcracker, with elaborate stage elements and intricate lighting unleashing the viewer's imagination by bringing a Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 feet to 41 feet. Ticket prices start at $89.
Window Wonderland—Virtual Tour of Shopping Windows (New York City)
Credit: Anna Pakman
One of the many, many reasons that New York City is such a classic holiday destination is its extravagant Midtown Manhattan holiday shopping window displays. Every year, Saks Fifth Avenue (pictured at top), Macy's, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and others deck out their street-facing windows with seasonal cheer, often with famed holiday characters and fun pop culture references. Google presents displays from past years in the "Window Wonderland" collection, which allows you to virtually walk past the windows from 18 different Manhattan stores.
Handel’s Messiah (Hudson Valley)
This year, the Messiah has returned to stage for the 6th year at the Bardavon on Saturday, December 18, 2021. Celebrate Handel's master work with guest conductor Christine Howlett and soloists Amy Justman (Soprano), Emily Lipshutz (Mezzo), Morgan Mastrangelo (Tenor), and Kenneth Overton (Baritone and Cappella Festiva). Ticket prices start at $25 adults, $20 members and seniors, $12 children (12 and under),
For more holiday lights options, including information on the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, visit The Best Places to See Holiday Lights in New York.