This post is part of the “Mommy Shorts Guide to Manhattan,” a series where I share all our favorite family-friendly spots in NYC.
I love NYC during the holidays, but this year, for some reason, it feels particularly crowded. We went to the Bryant Park Holiday Market last weekend and there were so many people trying to shop from kiosk to kiosk, we were about to move about an inch a minute. This is not an exaggeration. Mazzy and Harlow, who couldn’t see anything beyond other people’s puffy coats and winter jackets, were both miserable and wanted out immediately.
So, this past Tuesday, on the last night of Hanukkah and the one night the kids didn’t have anything after school and the grown-ups (that would be me) didn’t have any holiday parties to attend, I decided that instead of taking the kids to Rockefeller Center like I normally do at Christmas time, I was going to take them to Dyker Heights, a neighborhood in Brooklyn where all the houses go a wee bit crazy with their Christmas light decorations.
I asked my friend Seri (aka Little Miss Party) if her and the kids wanted to come along. To my surprise, she was game. Please note, that going to Brooklyn to see Christmas lights is not something Mike would ever be interested in (for many reasons) so I did not even bother asking him if he wanted to come. I’m pretty sure Seri felt the same about her husband.
There are bus tours that go from Union Square to Dyker Heights and drive people from house to house, but when we looked into it, it said the tour lasted three hours. Neither of us could imagine that would go over well with the kids. Plus, it was sold out so that took it out of consideration really quick.
We checked into going there via subway and Seri almost had a heart attack when it said it was over an hour away. I rechecked and it looked like it was only 33 minutes on the D train from the East Village to the recommended 71st Street stop in Brooklyn. We were both relieved. Upon further investigation, I realized that it was 33 minutes via subway but then over a 20 minute walk to the area with the lights, which is why Seri’s search originally said one hour.
I texted Seri.
“It’s definitely a trek and it could be a shit show but I still want to do it. We just need to frame it as a little bit of an adventure for the kids. If you want to bag, I totally understand.”
“Could we just take an Uber?”
I looked it up and since it was prime time, the car would be over $80. They seemed way too steep to both us.
“I think the best option is the subway.”
Thankfully, Seri was still on board. She suggested going early and getting some dinner first. Then, no matter what happened, at least everyone would be fed.
We agreed to both bring strollers for Harlow and Luke and meet at the Broadway and Lafayette subway station at 4pm. On the walk over, I realized it was unseasonably warm and started unlayering. Hats and gloves went in the bin beneath the stroller. (The warmer than normal weather would turn out to be a key factor to our enjoyment of the evening.)
We took the train to 71st (33 minutes as advertised) and then walked to 12th Ave, where we had scoped out a recommended pizza place called Krispy Pizza at 13th Ave between 71st and 72nd Streets. On the way, we saw our first totally over-the-top decorated house, which was a nice prelude for what was to come.
It was colorful, it was flashing and it was singing Christmas songs from the sidewalk straight up to the chimney. There was not a spot on the house that didn’t have something elaborately lit up.
“Is this someone’s house????” the kids asked incredulously.
“I think so,” I replied, as we walked across the street to see it all up close.
“So someone lives here?” the kids asked again.
“I live here,” a man on the sidewalk responded.
The kids jaws practically dropped to the floor.
We had to practically drag the kids away, with promises that there would be many more houses like it.
“There’s the pizza place!” I pointed.
“Noooooo!!!!” Harlow groaned. She wanted to see more houses.
Krispy Pizza was clean, there were bathrooms, the pizza looked good and they were willing to make Harlow some plain pasta which was key. I also loved that the booths could only seat four people so Seri and I got to leave the kids to fend for themselves and sit at our own table. We had no choice!
After dinner, we walked over to 12th avenue and then watched as the houses slowly started getting more and more elaborately decorated as we approached 83rd St.
The parameters for the Christmas houses are around 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street, although there are wonderfully decorated houses that fall outside of that area as well. This is where the houses get considerably larger as well.
The decorations were fantastic and they were everywhere. There were way more houses decorated than not and most of them were completely covered. Harlow called it “The Festival of Lights” which seemed appropriate since it was also the last night of Hanukkah.
There were wooden soldiers.
There were lit up signs of holiday cheer.
There were houses with tons of blow-up characters.
And houses with different color themes.
One of our favorites was a house entirely in blue lights. “It’s the color of Hanukkah!” Harlow said.
“Or Frozen,” Mazzy responded with a grimace. (We are done with our Frozen phase.)
The best houses were around 84th Street between 12th ave and 13th avenues.
There was one house with so many lit up Christmas statues, I have to imagine that at every other time of year, they live with them wall to wall all around them. I mean, where do you find room to store such things?
Taking photos in the dark is challenging, but there were a few houses that were pretty exceptionally lit.
Was it a trek?
Was it worth it?
Did the kids love it?
Would we have had nearly as much fun if it were as cold as it is today?
Would I do it again?
Probably not but I would recommend people doing it once.
Did we take the subway home?
Nope. We shelled out for an Uber. Going back into the city at 9pm, it was $40 for all of us in one car.