While Manhattan's sparkling holiday displays are iconic, homeowners in the city's other four boroughs create experiences that can be just as spectacular, with breathtaking lights, animatronics and spirited celebrations each year.
Dazzling homes dripping with lights never disappoint, especially those that have lit up annually for decades, which is why it is important to get out of Manhattan to visit them, even if the trip seems long.
One such home, dubbed "The Little North Pole" by its owner Joe Mure, has been decorated for the past 23 years — except for when superstorm Sandy hit — in the Neponsit neighborhood of Rockaway Beach. Every year, in addition to string lights that are "all over the friggin' place," he and his family set out a Hannukah menorah, dreidels, a large, lit-up globe, ballroom dancing figures and animatronic animals. Mure even transforms his garage into Santa's workshop.
This year, he'll be able to light it all up with an app on his cellphone and make the lights dance to music.
"It's always gotten bigger over the years," Mure said. "It's much different than what you'd see at other places — they do great work and so many of them out there are great people, but by us, we put smiles on children’s faces, we give them a memory of Christmas that they’ll never forget."
Each first lighting is a big event with singers and performers. This year's was on Nov. 14 with tenor Chris Macchio, performers from the USO and a visit from Santa Claus and others. Even though the lineup changes year to year, the reason for it all remains the same.
Mure's son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about 20 years ago and so with each holiday display, he collects donations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. This year, he's already raised more than $30,000, according to his fundraising page. Special needs children and athletes from the Special Olympics also visit for a fun time, he said.
Photographer Barry Brown, who shoots the home yearly and also has a son with Type 1, says the display is like an oasis of joy.
"If you listen to news reports, there's a lot of negativity out there, so when I see a house like this, I get a good feeling," he said. "As a photographer, seeing this display and the lights and all the mechanical merry-go-rounds moving on his property gives me a nice burst of excitement that the holidays are coming and everything is going to be fine."
With that joy mind, we've gathered a list of some of the best holiday light displays across Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.
(Note: Most homes light up as the sun goes down and go dark after 9 p.m.)
185-07 80th Dr., Jamaica Estates, Queens
With a line of nutcrackers, moving lights and holiday characters galore, this interactive house includes a hot chocolate and coffee station and cookies. Holiday music plays on loop, and people are allowed to get close enough to examine the home's intricate window displays.
Santa's mailbox is on the premises, too, and will also be accepting monetary donations to Toys for Tots.
Anthony Gurino, who's in the construction business, and his family have been doing it up for about six years. They start stringing their lights right after Labor Day.
Gurino's son, also named Anthony, said that as a family, "we just want to spread the joy of the holiday spirit and peace all around us."
How to get there:
Take the E or F train to the 179th Street Station and switch to the Q17 bus for a 15-minute ride to the 188 St./80 Rd. stop. Then walk about two minutes west to the house.
107 Sharrotts Rd., Staten Island
On view here, you'll see 9,000 lights, a new animatronic snowmobile race, Christmas carolers, Mrs. Claus baking gingerbread, a Santa Claus workshop train, Ice Capades, a Ferris wheel and a snow maker.
Joe DiMartino and his family have been decorating their home for more than 15 years and raised more than $200,000 for the children's cancer center at the Staten Island University Hospital. DiMartino does it in honor of his late wife, Debra Ann DiMartino, who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Every year more lights and characters are added, according to the family's Lights for Life Facebook page.
How to get there:
Once on Staten Island via the Staten Island Ferry, jump on a bus or take the Staten Island Railway to Pleasant Plains, where you'll hop on a S55 to Bloomingdale Road/Alysia Court. The home is a four-minute walk west from the bus stop. Calling an Uber or Lyft is a quicker option.
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Seemingly unending rows of outrageous house displays can be found on 11th to 13th avenues, from 83rd to 86th streets, in this Brooklyn neighborhood. One house is more grand than the next with layers upon layers of decorations, including large blow-ups and lights set to music. It's a lot like Disney World with its lights and holiday spirit, but regular people live in these houses. Some of them join in the festivities with hot chocolate. Tour groups often travel here from around the city and from the tri-state area, so parking is not always easy.How to get there:
Take the D train to the 18th Avenue/86th Street stop and walk northwest until you hit the hard-to-miss homes.
X28, X27 and X38 buses to the 13th Avenue stop. Walk along 13th Avenue until you see the houses.
1605 Pelham Parkway, Pelham Gardens, Bronx
The Garabedian family has decorated its home, known as "the Christmas House," for more than 30 years with more than 200 animated mannequins in fancy garb, from "Beauty and the Beast's" Belle and Beast to Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe. It's like a mock Hollywood party with some Christmas characters -- cherubs, Mary and Joseph -- included. The Garabedian family is in the fashion business and takes it upon themselves to dress and repair the dolls each year, according to a fan page. Like the others, the home draws thousands of visitors every week during the holiday season.
How to get there:
Take the 2 or 5 train to Pelham Parkway Station, then walk southwest on Esplanade toward Pelham Parkway North, where you'll turn left and walk until you reach it in about 16 minutes.
Take the Bx12 or Bx12-SBS to Pelham Parkway/Eastchester Road, then take a five-minute walk to Eastchester Road, make a left, and the next right on Pelham Parkway North.