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Where to Find the Best Holiday Displays Just a Day Trip From New York City

Feel merry and bright from New York Botanical Garden to Mystic, Connecticut.


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The holidays are nearly here, which means it’s high time you plan yourself a little holiday cheer. Though plans this year may look a bit different, there are still plenty of ways to experience the magic of the season, both down the block in New York City or within a quick day trip drive. The truth is, while the Christmas lights in Germany are always delightful, you don’t need to get on a plane to find stunning festive displays. Instead, there are plenty of lights in driving distance to answer the annual “Where are all the Christmas lights near me?” conundrum. Here are eight holiday displays to visit this season, all within a two-hour radius of NYC.

Fantasy of Lights: Lighthouse Point Park, Connecticut

Each year, the Goodwill of Southern New England puts on a cheerful holiday display at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven. The light show, which stretches on for about a mile, is the work of local businesses, corporations, or individuals, who all come together to sponsor the different displays. According to Visit Connecticut, the display is eco-friendly thanks to the new LED light bulbs, “saving both energy and electricity and making the displays much more vibrant and colorful than ever before.” Admission starts at $10 per car.

Related: America’s Most Perfect Christmas Towns

Christmas in Newport: Newport, Rhode Island

Christmas in Newport is a time-honored tradition. Since 1971, the small Rhode Island community has put on a two-week festival meant to celebrate “the noncommercial traditions of the holiday season.” The festival, which is a true community effort brought about by thousands of volunteers, uses only clear bulbs to light up the night sky, which is meant to mimic candlelight. The lights shine up and down the harbor, throughout the Point and Historic Hill sections of town, and along Bellevue Avenue. The lights officially turn on Dec. 1. Check out the community calendar for details.

Old Mistick Village Holiday Lights Spectacular: Mystic, Connecticut

For something a bit more low-key and even more old-school, head to the Holiday Lights Spectacular event in Old Mistick Village in Mystic, Connecticut. The lights will turn on Nov. 25, 2020 and illuminate the town into January. Not only is the display beautiful, but it also comes with plenty of fun in the form of live entertainment and complimentary holiday treats at the Meeting House. Mystic is a delightful Connecticut town, filled with boutique shopping and quaint restaurants, so you can do some holiday shopping at local businesses as you peruse the light display.

A Longwood Christmas: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

The Longwood Gardens Christmas trees are ready for their closeup. Each year, the botanical garden in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, puts on a twinkling lights show with a little help from its evergreens. Inside, guests can walk through the garden displays, which the garden says includes “fragrant lilies and paperwhites” alongside deep red poinsettias. Outside, guests can also walk among the evergreens adorned with lights, check out the Garden Railway, and sit by the warm fire pits for as long as they’re timed ticket allows. Grab tickets starting at $30 for adults.

Candlelight Tours: Staten Island, New York

To really take part in a holiday light display, head to Staten Island for a candlelight evening tour that will show visitors hundreds of years of New York history. Visitors will learn how homes were decorated for the holidays in the 19th century by first meeting at the candle-lit Christmas tree in the Stephens House. Next, guests will head to the Guyon-Lake-Tysen House for a holiday cooking treat and stop at the Guyon Tavern for a warm beverage before heading back to the 21st century. Tickets are timed, and groups are limited to ensure health and safety this season. Tours are available each Saturday from Nov. 28 to Dec. 19, and tickets run at $150 per tour for up to six guests.

Night of Lights: Mullica Hill, New Jersey

The countryside is calling this holiday season. Head to Mullica Hill, New Jersey, for the Night of Lights event at Creamy Acres dairy farm. Each holiday season, the dairy farm transforms itself into a holiday spectacular, complete with thousands of lights and even a musical dancing tree show that kids (and kids at heart) will simply adore. The event also includes a concession stand for treats and plenty of fire pits so families can gather around for warmth. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.

Related: Hotels Around the World That Go All Out for Christmas

Winter on Broad Street: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Winter on Broad Street is a holiday wonderland so big it may require more than one visit to see and do it all. This year, the winter celebration includes 193 light sculptures and displays spread out across 160,000 acres to maximize social distancing. The sculptures include a 25-foot reindeer, an entire “enchanted” winter forest, icicle paths to follow, and so much more. The event opens on Nov. 27 and runs through Jan. 3 with tickets from $28 per person.

New York Botanical Garden Train Show: New York, New York

Finding a stunning holiday display doesn’t require traveling far. After all, this is New York City we’re talking about. It’s home to unquestionably the greatest storefront holiday displays in the world up and down Fifth Avenue and perhaps the most famous Christmas tree on earth in Rockefeller Plaza. And, of course, it has a few stellar holiday displays strewn about the city, too. One holiday event that’s not to be missed is the New York Botanical Garden Train Show. The show includes a model train that weaves in and out of a miniature New York City, complete with the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, and more. And, as the botanical garden explains, the entire display is made of natural materials, including birch bark, acorns, and cinnamon sticks, which only add to the holiday flare. Tickets to the event are extremely limited this year to ensure proper social distancing, so make sure to grab your spot early.


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