NEW YORK - If you could pick just one "thing" that represents the holiday season, what would it be? I suspect many of you would choose light.
We mark and celebrate so many holidays with some form of illumination. LEDs on trees, candles on menorahs and other candleholders, and string lights across our yards, on our homes, and in our communities.
Here are several light-centric holiday experiences that take the concept to whole other creative, artistic, and joyful levels. All of these are outdoors, which, according to the CDC, could help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
LIGHTSCAPE | BROOKLYN
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is hosting the stunning Lightscape installation for the second year in a row.
The after-dark experience features more than a million lights on sculptures, structures, trees, architecture, and water features complemented by site-specific sound and music along a winding one-mile trail. New York-based and international artists created installations for Lightscape.
"The largest and most extravagant, artistic winter lights exhibition in [New York City] history, this distinctly Brooklyn-flavored celebration encourages everyone to find happiness and beauty, and create festive, fun gatherings with friends and family, at the darkest time of the year," Brooklyn Botanic Garden President and CEO Adrian Benepe said in a statement. "We hope residents and visitors from around the region will make Lightscape at BBG an annual tradition."
Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on opening night. (Photo by Arun Kristian Das/FOX 5 NY)
Many features are new this time around. The Winter Cathedral and Fire Garden, which were visitor favorites last year, are back.
Concession stands along the trail offer hot chocolate (including a spiked version), mulled wine, and seasonal treats.
You must reserve tickets for a specific date and time. BBG members get a discount.
- Where: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 990 Washington Ave., Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- When: Now through Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023; closed on select days.
- Tickets: Adults/teens (13–) $40, children (3–12) $20, kids under 3: free; fees may apply; discounts for BBG members; timed entry.
Amaze Light Festival promotional image. (Photo Courtesy of Amaze Light Festival)
AMAZE LIGHT FESTIVAL | QUEENS
The Amaze Light Festival returns to Citi Field in Flushing for the holiday season.
This experience features holiday-themed worlds and an animated display with more than a million lights. You can explore the North Pole, the Land of Sweets, the Tree Farm, the Storybook Village, and the Whimsical Forest.
If you upgrade your ticket, you can ride on the Arctic Express Train and/or tube down Zing's Thrill Hill.
The festivities include live performances every two hours and a light show every half-hour.
Amaze Light Festival also features a holiday market, a toy store, and food trucks. (Don't worry, parents: adult beverage are available.)
The vision of the creators of the festival is to bring guests into a "fully-immersive world," according to Sarah Basch, the creative director of Artistic Holiday Designs.
"Once visitors step inside, that indescribable magic of the holiday soaks in," Basch said. "Every corner of Amaze Light Festival is intentionally created to keep our guests in that spirit throughout their exploration."
You must buy tickets in advance for a specific date and time. Prices vary and group discounts are available.
- Where: Citi Field, 41 Seaver Way, Flushing, Queens, N.Y.
- When: Now through Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023; closed on select days.
- Tickets: Adults/teens (13–): $44–$94, children (2–12): $36–$86, kids under 2: free; fees may apply; timed entry.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival promotional image. (Photo Courtesy of Kaleido Arts & Entertainment Group)
WINTER LANTERN FESTIVAL | STATEN ISLAND AND QUEENS
The NYC Winter Lantern Festival, which actually began in October, is being celebrated at four locations — two in New York City and two on Long Island — until early to mid-January, depending on location. (This post focuses on the two in NYC.)
The festival showcases more than 10,000 Chinese-inspired LED-illuminated lanterns handmade by more than a hundred artists. Each site features a different theme.
"Lantern festivals have been a part of Chinese culture and history for thousands of years, honoring our ancestors and celebrating peace, prosperity, and good fortune," Haokun Liu of Kaleido Arts & Entertainment Group, the event's creator, said in a statement. "We are thrilled to… introduce all visitors to the beauty of these artisan installations, and have the show become part of New York’s cultural holiday tradition."
The Staten Island event is called Journey to the East and is located at the minor league ballpark next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
You'll explore a world inspired by Chinese myths and legends, including a huge lantern display of Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) and lanterns representing an animal kingdom and an undersea realm.
Food vendors and other concessions are available. You can either reserve tickets or buy them on site.
- Where: SIUH Community Park, 75 Richmond Terrace, St. George, Staten Island, N.Y.
- When: Through Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, on select days.
- Tickets: Adults/teens (13–): $28.99, children (3–12): $17.99, kids under 3: free; fees may apply.
The Queens event is called Illuminate the Farm because it is located at the Queens County Farm Museum.
The creators describe it as a "radiant oasis" and "immersive world of light" featuring illuminated tunnels and swings and much more.
- Where: Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., Floral Park, Queens, N.Y.
- When: Through Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, on specific days.
- Tickets: Adults/teens (13–): $26.99, children (3–12): $17.99, kids under 3: free; fees may apply.
Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights on opening night. (Photo by Julie Larsen Maher/Courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society)
BRONX ZOO HOLIDAY LIGHTS | THE BRONX
The Bronx Zoo's annual Holiday Lights display highlights more than 360 wildlife-themed illuminated lanterns representing 90 species across a large swatch of the zoo property, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The installation's six lantern trails feature more than 70 new lanterns representing 30 new species. Each trail depicts scenes from a different region or ecosystem: North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, the oceans, and the Forest of Color, which features what the WCS calls "larger-than-life representations of some… lesser known but impressively colorful animals and plants vital to life on Earth."
"Each year we add more animal lanterns and new experiences," Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said in a statement. "Holiday Lights is now bigger than ever and gives everyone an exciting new way to learn about wildlife while experiencing the spirit of the season."
The event features light shows, ice-carving demonstrations, animal-themed stilt walkers, train rides, shows in the Wildlife Theater, and concessions offering hot chocolate and holiday treats.
You must buy tickets in advance for a specific date.
- Where: Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, N.Y.
- When: Through Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023; closed on certain days.
- Tickets: Adults/teens (13–64): $39.95, seniors (65–) $34.95, children (3–12): $24.95, kids under 3: free; WCS members get a discount.
Arun Kristian Das is a senior digital content creator for FOX5NY.com. He also happens to be a licensed New York City sightseeing guide.