NYC is magical any time of year, especially at the holidays, when there are special FREE holiday light shows to dazzle us and entertain us, including some being live streamed for everybody around the world to enjoy.
Here are best FREE holiday light shows in New York City in 2021.
Maintain social distancing and dress warmly for the outdoor light shows. Try to avoid weekends, when they are most crowded.
Unless otherwise noted, the free holiday light shows are through the first weekend of January, 2022.
Saks Fifth Avenue
In addition to its famous holiday windows, there’s a grand sound and light show covering the entire facade of the landmark store, which also has become an annual tradition.
Thousands of LED lights, in the shape of a magical castle, change shapes and colors to a holiday soundtrack saluting different holiday traditions, including José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” and the theme from holiday film favorite Love Actually, Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas”.
The light show is about five minutes long and plays daily from dusk to just before midnight, every 10 minutes until Jan. 10.
The Saks Fifth Avenue store windows also are decorated with magical scenes, showing how and where we celebrate, including at the beach, at the mou
The theme of this year’s Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows once again is This is How We Celebrate, shining a light on the importance of spending time with loved ones and the different ways people and places celebrate across the USA, including at the beach.
Again in 2021, you can watch the opening celebration of the holiday lights on streaming video.
Click here to watch the ceremony, which featured Former First Lady Michelle Obama, in support of the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance.
Recordings will be available to view through Sunday, January 3, 2021.
And it’s just one block from the word-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
Lincoln Center is lighting its iconic plaza and campus with a display alternating between a warm and cool-colored light display; floating lanterns on the Paul Milstein Reflecting Pool in Hearst Plaza; and lights on trees throughout the campus. The installations become viewable around dusk and through the night, and will be on display through the New Year.
In addition to the lights by ARDA Studio, a new pair of murals from the same studio activates Amsterdam Avenue between 62nd and 63rd Streets.
The vibrant and joyful pieces serve as a reminder of the vitality that defines this city, and fuse urban and natural elements in a design of bold color and movement.
Lincoln Center’s outdoor spaces on campus are open to the public from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
Visitors are required to maintain social distance, wear a face covering when on campus, and adhere to Lincoln Center’s visitor guidelines, available here.
This annual display is back at The Shops at Columbus Circle, in the Time Warner Center, and as mesmerizing as ever
This is the largest specialty crafted exhibit of illuminated color mixing in the world, featuring twelve 14-foot stars that hang from the ceiling of the 150-foot Great Room, or atrium.
The lights “perform” daily, changing color slowly and gracefully, every half hour, from 5pm to 7pm. Stand there for a few minutes until your own favorite color arrives.
The atrium, of course, is at Columbus Circle, and the actual circle with the statue of Christopher Columbus is one of the best spots to watch the show.
Or, you could watch from inside, from the balcony overlooking the atrium. Both locations are Instagram friendly.
- Holiday Under the Stars is daily through December 24th.
There also are FREE Broadway show performances on Thursdays
This annual display is back at the giant Winter Garden atrium in Lower Manhattan, as mesmerizing as ever
Luminaries is an installation of glowing lanterns suspended from the canopy, which change color and intensity at the direction of visitors, making this an interactive light show. There’s also an hourly display to holiday music.
Once again, Brookfield Place will donate $1, up to $25,000, for every wish made during the holiday season. The charity changes each year.
Last year it was ROAR (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants), which supports New York City restaurant employees facing unprecedented economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Luminaries is daily, through Jan. 2, 2022 at the Winter Garden in Brookfield Place
This massive complex opened officially in 2019, with a huge indoor shopping mall and dining complex.
More than two million lights dot the shopping and dining complex, but no show of dancing lights, and there’s a Santa Station for a virtual visit at the North Pole.
The North Pole is on Level 3 of the shopping complex, where kids can “phone” Santa for a virtual conversation, along with seeing Rudolph and his friends or peek inside the workshop to see Santa’s helpers. There also are some special surprises when you or the kids move your phone over the North Pole and Workshop. But you have to download the app first.
Note that The Vessel remains closed to visitors.
There’s also FREE Broadway show performances at Hudson Yards on Mondays.
Every year, this Brooklyn neighborhood shines with a FREE Christmas light spectacular that glows and blinks for blocks.
In past years, nearly every house participated, and traffic was often gridlocked with private vehicles and even organized tour buses.
We’ve heard from a local resident that fewer houses are participating this year. The exhibits are expensive, and some Dyker Heights residents have lost their jobs, and even loved ones, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The center of the bright lights action is Dyker Heights Boulevard, from 83rd St. to 86th St., from sundown to whenever an individual homeowner decides to turn off the lights, which is usually around 9 or 10pm.
- Take the D Train towards Coney Island to the 79th Street stop inn Brooklyn.
- Exit near intersection of 79th Street and New Utrecht Avenue.
- Go northwest on 79th Street towards 16th Avenue, to Dyker Heights Blvd.
This holiday exhibit in Flatiron isn’t exactly a light show, but it is an outdoor sculpture with spotlights that play with users.
Inspired by NYC’s tapestry of cultures, Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson celebrates the joys of reconnecting in public space.
- Flatiron Public Plazas on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street
- Through January 2, 2022
Evelyn also is the author of several NYC guidebooks, including the most recent 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.
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