The best drive-thru Christmas lights in the NYC area this year
The Grinch that is COVID-19 took a lot from us this year, but it can’t steal Christmas cheer in the city.
Drive-thru and walk-thru holiday light shows are popping up across the tristate area, making spirits bright with the flick of a switch.
“Once COVID hit, we had to rethink the way we planned to do the ‘Magic of Lights’ [holiday event] this year,” Jorelle Aronovitch, general manager of the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ – which puts on the annual light show — told The Post. “We used to have a holiday village where people could walk around and kids could sit on Santa’s lap. Now, with social distancing, we can’t do that. But the new attractions we have this year make [the show] one of the safest, most beautiful ways to celebrate the holiday.”
Other merry Instagramable moments can be captured this year by pulling up alongside the 240 feet of dancing Christmas trees at Jones Beach, driving through the trippy Rainbow Tunnel of Lights in Holmdel, NJ, cruising down Candy Cane Lane in New Haven, Connecticut, or checking out the lit animal safaris while walking through The Bronx Zoo.
With an emphasis on safety as the virus rages on, the common trend across these socially distant events is providing a happy experience during this unprecedented holiday season.
“2020 Magic of Lights” at Jones Beach
Billed as the “perfect holiday experience for the young and young at heart,” “Magic of Lights” at Jones Beach ushers families on a 2.5-mile adventure through an assemblage of LED displays and digital animations. Boasting over 1 million lights, this event brightens this year’s doldrums with travels through the Enchanted Tunnel of Lights, Toy Land and Candy Cane Lane, leading to an all-new illuminating mega-tree spectacular shining as its centerpiece.
Instead of snapping pictures with Santa after riding through the Enchanted Tunnel, this year organizers have added a drive-in holiday photo tent where families can “drive up, poke their heads out of the windows and take a picture with a holiday background,” Brett Pegler, director of marketing at the Jones Beach location, told The Post.
“It’s definitely been a unique year,” he added. “We had to get really creative and think outside of the box to put these sights together.”
Jones Beach State Park, 895 Bay Parkway Jones Beach, NY; MagicOfLights.com. Through Jan. 2. $30 per car Monday-Thursday, $35 Friday-Sunday, reserve tickets in advance online.
“Holiday Lights” at The Bronx Zoo
Lions and tigers and bears? It’s lit! A sprawling wildlife spectacular, “Holiday Lights” at The Bronx Zoo features a menagerie of animal lanterns and lantern safaris.
“This year’s [‘Holiday Lights’ 2020] experience will encompass a larger area of the zoo and [will be] organized to accommodate social distancing,” a zoo spokesperson said of its new additions to the exhibition. “With dozens more animal lanterns than last year, the zoo’s created five geographically representative lantern safaris that include species from different regions of the world.”
Bigger, brighter and better than ever, the outdoor walk-thru features the new Luminous Garden with larger-than-life flowers, plants and butterflies unlike any other garden in New York.
2300 Southern Boulevard The Bronx; BronxZoo.com. Through Jan. 10. $23 for kids, $35 for adults, reserve tickets in advance online.
“Fantasy of Lights” in New Haven, Connecticut
“Fantasy of Lights,” now in its 26th year, was nearly canceled due to COVID-19. Thankfully, the holiday tradition lives on in New Haven, Connecticut, with over 60 animated time-honored attractions, featuring over 100,000 lights.
“We wanted to keep the show traditional this year,” Richard Borer, CEO of the event, told The Post. “This wasn’t the year to add laser shows or anything extra. People needed to enjoy the familiar sights they love seeing here every year.”
Expect an explosion of glimmering beams dancing across the evening sky above New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park. And don’t forget the show’s pièce de résistance: the towering ice tunnel, which welcomes families into a world of Christmas wonder.
All proceeds support the mission of Easter Seals and Goodwill to aid people with disabilities.
“It’s fair to say everyone is over 2020,” Borer said. “We’re happy to provide families with safe holiday entertainment as we are winding down on this challenging year.”
2 Lighthouse Road, New Haven, Connecticut; Goodwillsne.org. Through Dec. 31. $10 per car, reserve tickets in advance online.
“Magic of Lights” Holmdel, NJ
Captivating carloads of families with colorful luminescence, the “Magic of Lights” drive-thru is the epicenter of Yuletide cheer in New Jersey.
Featuring sky-high Christmas tree fixtures dancing to classic seasonal songs, the psychedelic lights of the Rainbow Tunnel and a radiant 12 Days of Christmas animated display, the 2020 “Magic of Lights” is “the best and biggest it’s ever been,” said Aronovitch.
PNC Bank Arts Center 116 Garden State Parkway Holmdel, NJ; MagicOfLights.com. Through Jan. 2. $25 per car in advance, $30 per car at gate, reserve tickets in advance online.
LuminoCity festival on Randall’s Island
The Chinese lantern festival by LuminoCity is also returning to Randalls Island this year.
The 10-acre entirely outdoor festival features all-new installations themed into various fantastical lands — including a lushly colored forest scape and an ancient civilization recreated with lanterns.
“It explores the delicate relationship between humans and nature, and will hopefully provoke a deeper consideration of the world around us,” said Xiaoyi Chen, the festival’s founder. “We want to create a brief and wondrous escape from reality.”
Open weekends and most weekdays from 4 to 11 p.m. through Jan. 5. Tickets are $19 to $88; there’s a shuttle bus ($5 each way) between East 125th Street and Randall’s Island; LuminoCityFestival.com