Christmas is quickly approaching, and that means New York City has dressed itself in colorful lights and extravagant ornaments. As tradition dictates, tourists and locals will don their winter coats to catch a glimpse of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or the holiday windows created by New York City’s largest department stores.
These decorations are certainly beautiful, but few are as gaudy, ornamented and over-the-top (in the best way possible) as the displays put on by the following 10 places. Get in the holiday spirit this season by paying a visit:
If there was a competition that awarded the “most ostentatiously decorated restaurants,” Rolf’s would easily take home the highest honor. The German eatery, located in Gramercy Park at 22nd Street and 3rd Avenue, is noted for its ambitious Christmas display, which incorporates thousands of lights, ornaments and a variety of festive garlands.TimeOut, which describes the interior as “Santa Claus’s opium dream,” notes that the installation process takes about a month to complete. This year, it will be on view until May — so there’s plenty of time to step into this trippy winter wonderland that also happens to serve schnitzel.
9. Dyker Heights
One of the most spectacular Christmas displays New York City has to offer can be found in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Each year, over 100,000 people head to the neighborhood, where homeowners have decked out their properties with a colorful assortment of lights, inflatable figures and animatronics.
While all 22 blocks on the neighborhood participate in festivities, 83rd, 84th and 85th Streets (between 11th and 13th Avenues) are considered to be the “showstoppers.” There are even bus tours through the neighborhood and a dedicated PBS documentary called Dyker Light in honor of the attraction. See photos from our 2015 trip there.
8. Garabedian Family’s Christmas House
With 27 reviews on Yelp, the Garabedian estate in Pelham Gardens, the Bronx (Pelham Parkway North and Westervelt Avenue), is known as “the Christmas House” for a reason. Come the holidays, the pink home is transformed into a traditional nativity scene, complete with blaring holiday music and roughly 200 life-size mannequins that are dressed in Hollywood-style outfits. The swanky dress can be attributed to the fact that the Garabedians are in the fabric-trimming business.
The display has been on view since 1974, although the reason behind its creation has been largely kept a family secret. All we know is that the installation is a way of showing thanks to the Lord, inspired by a miracle that happened to the family on Christmas Eve in 1973.
7. Milon Bangladesh Indian Restaurant + Panna II
At Milon Bangladesh Indian Restaurant, it’s Christmas all year round. Located on 93 First Avenue (2nd Fl. between 5th& 6th Streets), the cozy eatery serves traditional Indian food inside a not-so-traditional space. In fact, its website guarantees that its “over-the-top décor” will “definitely exceed your expectations.” It’s “where chili pepper lights meet Christmas lights,” and where a collection of world flags dangle from the ceiling.
Though small in size, this East Village institution is big in spirit and personality. It opened in 1982, five years prior to the establishment of Panna II, the neighboring, rival Indian restaurant, which also happens to be covered in twinkling lights.
6. Jamaica Estates Christmas House
In Queens, the Jamaica Estates Christmas House is so spectacular that it has its very own dedicated Facebook page. Located on 185-07 80th Drive, the attraction is put up by Anthony Gurino and his grandson (also named Anthony) each year after Thanksgiving. “My grandfather likes to give back to the community. And he loves Christmas,” the younger Gurino explained to DNAinfo.
They have been carrying on Gurino’s grandmother’s tradition since she passed away many years ago. In the past, the family has also added interactive elements to their display, even going as far as hiring carolers, installating donation boxes and offering free treats like cookies, hot chocolate and coffee.
Pete’s Tavern (129 East 18th Street) — the oldest continuously operating bar and restaurant in New York City — opened its doors in 1864. With such a reputation, it’s unsurprising that Pete’s goes all out when it comes to decorating. Come the holidays, both the interior and exterior are transformed: ornate wreaths are hung, whimsical window displays are installed and garlands are strung.
Most notable, however, is its “world renowned red ceiling,” which is completely covered in holiday lights. As an additional plus, Pete’s is open on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (due to popular demand), giving patrons plenty of chances to drink through its menu of fall and winter cocktails.
4. Doubles Private Club
Today’s #Christmas #luncheon at Doubles was beyond fun and way to over the top! I especially loved seeing so many wonderful friends:) #gingerbreadhouse #candycane #rockinghorse #christmastree #deckthehalls #🎄 #🎉
Located inside the Sherry Netherland Hotel, Doubles (783 5th Ave #414) is a private club that opened its doors in 1976. It’s both a dancing and dining club, a “polished brass and velvety mecca,” complete with a red carpeted stairway that leads down to an inner sanctum. While membership is needed to access the club, photos online showcase what it’s like during the holidays.
During its annual Christmas Luncheons, you can expect things like carolers, a dessert buffet, Christmas trees and a stunning ceiling. Notable members over the years include the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tara and Michael Rockefeller and Muffie Potter Aston, among others.
3. Lights for Life
In Staten Island, Joe DiMartino and his family cover every square inch of their Rossville property during the holidays. The “Lights for Life” display, however, is not just decorative: in memory of his late wife, who was killed during the tragic September 11th attacks, Joe (also known as Staten Island’s Santa Claus”) has raised over $200,000 in donations, which he has given to the children’s cancer center at the Staten Island University Hospital.
The display utilizes 9,000 lights, music and various animatronics, which are used to create scenes ranging from the birth of Jesus to Santa’s workshop. In the past, this has included Christmas Carolers, a Ferris Wheel and Mrs. Claus baking ginger bread, among other things.
2. Baita on Eataly’s Rooftop + Haven Ski Chalet
Photo courtesy Eataly
It may still be unseasonably warm for fall, but Baita, the ski chalet on Eataly Flatiron’s rooftop has officially opened for the winter season, bringing the Italian Alps to New York City. ‘Baita’ is the Piemontese word for a small ski lodge in the Italian Alps. Eataly has taken the exact translation and brought the cozy experience to its 14th floor with a wooden walled cabin and a stone-slab roof. Heaters around the floor will bring all the comforts of a warm fire without the flame, complete with stews and mulled wine.
In addition, there are Adirondack chairs, string lights, faux fur throws, and festive wintery decorations. This rooftop transports you to Northern Italy, serving up cuisine from the region including charcuterie options, traditional polenta bowls, raclette (melted swiss cheese shaved off a wheel), a massive beef shank (to share), and of course, pasta like pumpkin gnocchi with butter, sage and Parmigiana Reggiano. Baita, located at Eataly Flatiron location at 200 Fifth Avenue, will be open through April from 11:30 am to 11 pm with kitchen service ending at 10 pm.
Another ski chalet, Haven Rooftop (132 West 47th Street), can be found sitting atop the Sanctuary Hotel in Times Square. The cozy, tented space is decorated with antler chandeliers, twinkling lights, and best yet — scheduled snow shows. As a refuge from the cold, guests can head to Haven for fondue, S’mores and a menu of hot cocktails, including the Toasted Almond (Kahlua, Vanilla Vodka, Amaretto and Milk), the Ginger Toddy (Torres, Bullet Bourbon, Cinnamon liquor, Fresh Ginger and Honey Syrup) and the Peppermint Cream (Baileys, Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and Chocolate Liquor).
1. The Lodge at the McKittrick Hotel
The McKittrick Hotel is welcoming back The Lodge, a wintertime conversion of rooftop bar Gallow Green into a veritable cabin in the woods. Since this is the McKittrick Hotel of Sleep No More fame we’re talking about, expect nothing less than an all-out theatrical experience. This is a cabin that will take you, mind and body, out of New York City and straight to the wintry, Scottish woodlands.
The last time we paid a visit, we encountered an upwards of 50 Christmas trees surrounding the wooden cabin, with forest paths to explore. The main room, whose doors are weighed down by tin cans, had two bunk beds (replete with hot water bottle and Scottish blankets galore), a fireplace, two sitting areas, a long wooden communal kitchen table, a small kitchen and the bar. There was also a small bedroom with the bed surrounded to the ceiling on three sides by old books.
There was a desk in the foyer covered with books on plants and collected specimens. Letters and sheet music were tacked onto the wall. An outdoor patio area had a real fire burning, which doubled as a smoking area. Then through the wooded paths, we found a tent filled (and we mean filled) with sheepskins — but that’s just touching the surface. See over previous coverage of The Lodge.
Next, check out 10 Quirky Houses On Top of Apartment Buildings in NYC, featuring a ski chalet and lighthouse.