It’s wonderful to live in an area with so many holiday light shows. What’s even better is we are so lucky to have many beautiful historic mansions on Long Island offering the perfect back drops for such events. Coupled with that, these holiday light shows are a safe way to enjoy an evening outside with family and friends. With walk through and drive through options there is something for everyone to enjoy.
We chased many holiday light shows this season and are happy to present our top five (in chronological order of our visits). The best show for the evening may change based on who is attending with you. With that said – they are all really pretty and fun and you can’t go wrong with any of them! Unless your kids complain that they are cold…
1. NYC Winter Lantern Festival: A Bug’s Night at the Nassau County Museum of Art
If you are looking to relax in your heated car while seeing a beautiful holiday light show, animatronic dinosaurs, sunflower fields, sea creatures, and endless flowers, “A Bug’s Night” is for you! This was a fun light show to kick off the season. This show is located on the grounds of one of our favorite museums – a former Long Island Gold Coast mansion – with history dating back to 1862. I loved how they incorporated some of the sculptures in their large garden (one of the largest publicly accessible sculpture parks in the Northeast) into the holiday light show. In addition, they have some food vendors and a bathroom at the end in the museum’s parking lot. This show runs October 22, 2021 – January 9, 2022.
If you are looking to leisurely walk-through a big garden and enjoy multiple types of light installations or loved the game Simon as a kid, Shimmering Solstice is for you. This is one of our happy places so to see how they masterfully utilized their expansive grounds (off season) to bring this Gold Coast mansion (completed in 1906) to life was fantastic. The holiday light show culminated with a gorgeous cinematic extravaganza projected onto the back of Westbury House. Add in the hot chocolate and s’mores from Lessing’s and we could not have been happier. Well, except maybe me – as I ate a gourmet pulled chicken sandwich. There is also a nice mobile bathroom at the entrance that my kids said was nicer than the bathroom in our house. Kids will love this show but it also fits the bill for a date night or girls night out. This show runs November 20, 2021 – January 9, 2022.
This winter wonderland offers multiple beloved characters and themes across a 24-acre park. Highlights of LuminoCity Festival situated in the historic “West Egg” park include the iridescent “fortress of solitude”, the light up floor planks, and illuminated things to stick your face in for pictures (my favorite). While this park is not a large piece of land, there were many paths to take. With each direction came a different adventure and we loved seeing everything in one place before us. This holiday light show is a great option if you want to maximize your light show experience and minimize your walking. There were lots of delicious food vendors and the park’s bathrooms were open once inside the event. This show runs November 12, 2021 – January 9, 2022.
The third holiday light show installed throughout the spacious grounds of a Gold Coast mansion (built in 1910) is Bright Lights. This event was unique because there was a lot going on in addition to the lights. We were greeted by favorite holiday characters near the crepe truck and coffee and donut truck as well as while we walked around. There is also a charming courtyard (with a European feel) waiting for you with hot pretzels and carolers. If you want to be transported to old world charm, this show is for you. There were bathrooms at the entry gate house. This show runs November 27, 2021 – December 23, 2021.
While not on Long Island, I would be remiss not to include the holiday light show that started it all for us. The Bronx Zoo (which opened in 1865) is one of our favorite places in New York. The Bronx Zoo Holiday Light Show transforms the beloved zoo into miles and miles of lights, performers, shows, and our favorite – ice carvers. You could spend hours here meandering through all the paths and watching the shows. All the zoo bathrooms and food vendors are open (including additional fire pits for s’mores). This show runs November 19, 2021 – January 9, 2022.
Experience Long Island History
Each holiday light show mentioned is unique and enjoyable for a different reason. Tickets to any of them would make great experiential gifts for the holidays. Above all else, I love how the light shows are woven into the historical context of Long Island. What’s even more interesting – some of these historic properties did not have electricity themselves in their heyday!
Drive Your Own Light Show
With the holidays coming and the temperatures dropping, don’t forget how much fun it is to pile into your car and drive around hunting holiday lights. We love venturing into new areas and finding all the crazy, creative, and beautiful things people do for the holidays. Each year I put together a map for my friends to follow based on many hours of research. I’ve yet to finish this year’s list but here is my list from last year, as well as the LI Lights Map. While I can’t confirm all houses on here are up and running this year, I can confirm driving the routes will showcase beautifully lit homes. Hopefully you will find some specials ones of your own.