Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

During a time wherein many things are famous that don’t seem to warrant all of the attention, it’s refreshing to have found an attraction worth all of the buzz it gets: the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. I drove out to see the lights on Christmas Eve in this southwestern Brooklyn community with my husband unsure of what to expect.

Driving around and taking in the best of the local Christmas lights on Christmas Eve was a tradition in my family growing up. My sister and I would dress up in our favorite velvet dresses, the kind that usually had lace and pearl necklines, and we’d brush our hair and do our best to look worthy of the mound of presents we’d receive the very next morning. We’d pile into the family car with my brother and parents and make our way to church for the Christmas Eve service. Our little hands that cupped the hot chocolate we’d drink after the service were usually red from candle-wax burns. We were blushing and excited, at least according to my memory, and then we’d race to the car, careful not to slip on the icy pavement, and my father would drive us all around town looking at the beautiful Christmas lights.

%Gallery-174271%Even as I got older, some of the lights would manage to dazzle me. The immense effort some people take in putting together spectacular Christmas light shows would amaze me, even as a surly teenager who refused to wear or own a fancy velvet dress. The quiet of Christmas Eve can be magical, even long after you’ve stopped believing in Santa. And those twinkling lights capture enough of that magic to make even the most stereotypically seasoned and jaded New Yorkers flock to Dyker Heights each December to see the lights.

We nosed around the neighborhood looking for the 13th avenue and the 80s streets after having been told that’s where the best of the best lights would be. We parked and walked around in awe and we were in plenty of good, excited company. Parents propped their children up on their shoulders for a better view. Adults posed for photos in front of an elaborate collection of moving, singing carolers perched atop a front yard fence.

I’m not crazy about a lot of facets of Christmas, but the lights are fun, no matter which way I look at it. I’ll admit, however, that I was just as impressed with some of the Dyker Heights houses as I was the lights. Nothing quite accents ornate Christmas decorations like your dream Brooklyn house.

If you haven’t seen the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights yet, some may still be up! If not, pencil the trip in for next year. It’s worth it.

Photo of the Day – Holiday lights

With the holidays fast approaching, trees, houses and fences across the world are beginning to glow with decorative lights of all shapes and sizes. Whatever your religion or beliefs, these festive displays add a burst of warmth and color to the dark days of December. Flickr user herb.g does a great job of capturing this holiday spirit in today’s shot from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania – the flickering colors and soft-focus blur of the lights create an eye-catching work of abstract art.

Taken any great photos during your recent travels? Why not add them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Virginia hosts ‘100 Miles of Lights’ this holiday season

It might not even be Thanksgiving yet, but holiday travel planning is well underway. If you’re looking to be razzle dazzled this holiday season, the state of Virginia offers a festival of lights that has been bringing visitors back year after year. The 100 Miles of Lights celebration is a series of world-class light displays spread across six cities: Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. While exploring the glitzy trail, visitors will find drive-through light displays, twinkling cityscapes, and other sparkling spectacles.

The whole shebang kicks off in Norfolk this Saturday with the Grand Illumination Parade, an event that sets downtown Norfolk ablaze in lights and is followed by a parade featuring festive floats, marching bands, giant balloons, dancers and more. Nearby, the Virginia Beach boardwalk will also be shimmering with Holiday Lights at the Beach (pictured above), which is expected to draw 30,000 cars to the boardwalk before the new year begins.

Newport News Regional Park will become home to Celebration of Lights (picture above), a two-mile drive of 750,000 lights and 200 displays, including the animated “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa’s Enchanted Kingdom.” Over in Richmond, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will features more than half a million lights, botanical decorations and trains for GardenFest of Lights. New this year, the “Virginia is for Lovers” LOVE artwork will be on display, allowing families and couples to take holiday photos.

Besides these long-running events, Colonial Williamsburg will host a Grand Illumination on December 4, while Hampton will host the Holly Days Parade on December 11.

If getting the whole family to go to Virginia seems like a Christmas miracle, you may be in luck: The Virginia Tourism Corporation also just announced the “Virginia Snowmotion Sweepstakes.” The grand prize includes a free ski or snowboard lesson, complimentary equipment rental and lift tickets, a $200 gift card for dining, and a three-night, four-day stay at Wintergreen Resort for a family of four. Also included in the promotion is round-trip airfare and car rental to explore the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. To enter, visit www.virginia.org/sweeps.

Not able to make it to Virginia? Check out more of the best Christmas light displays in the United States.

Disney’s Spectacle of Dancing Lights: By the numbers

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is one of the most popular holiday events at Walt Disney World.

Each night at dusk, the lights are turned on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is impossible to take a picture that shows the magnitude of Disney’s dancing lights display. It completely covers the buildings in the theme park’s Streets of America section. So, to try to give you the big picture, here are some of the numbers that go into making this display.

1,000 – The number of lights this display started with when Jennings Osborne put some lights up outside his Little Rock, Arkansas, home at his daughter’s request. When the exhibit grew into millions of lights, it drew too much traffic to his neighborhood and was moved to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.

16 – The number of years that the spectacle has been lighting up the night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where it was first displayed in 1995.

5,000,000 – The number of individual lights now in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights display.

350 – The number of miles the strings of lights would cover if laid end to end.

40 – The approximate number of “hidden Mickeys” in the lights display. Disney designers add Mickey shapes to the display, and many guests try to find them all.

%Gallery-108574%1 – The number of black cats in the Christmas light display. When the Osborne family’s lights were transported to Walt Disney World, a cat from the family’s Halloween display wound up with the Christmas stuff. Each year, the Disney designers put the cat in a different location in the display for guests to find.

66 – The number of machines used to make the “snowflakes” that fall periodically during the display, according to Studios Central.

5 – The number of songs the Christmas lights are programmed to “dance” to. This year’s songs include “Christmas is Starting Now” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

3 – The number of “Phineas & Ferb” characters heard in the audio track that plays on the Streets of America. A bit with Phineas, Ferb and Dr. Doofenshmirtz has been added to the Spectacle of Dancing Lights this year.

21,000 – The approximate number of hours that Disney employees work to install the display.

53 – The number of nights that Disney’s dancing lights display can be seen this holiday season. It runs through Jan. 3, 2011.

Get out and go: Events around the world (November 11-15)

It’s time to look at the festivals and events happening around the world, and this week has a particularly international selection of happenings. If you’re close and have time, then you have no excuse to get out and go!

  • Saskatoon – The Saskatoon Fall Fair, an agricultural and livestock show in Saskatchewan, Canada, will begin tomorrow, November 11, and continue until November 14.
  • Tokyo – The Shinjuku Ootori Matsuri Festival will take place November 11-12 and 23-24. The festival attracts over 600,000 people to the Hanazono Jinja Shrine.
  • Tallinn (Estonia) – Thursday 12 November 2009 The Black Nights Film Festival combines feature films with the sub-festivals of animated films, student films and children/youth films. The event begins Thursday, November 12, and continues for a full month until December 6.
  • Boulder – The Boulder Adventure Film Festival will be held November 12-14. This gritty, raw film fest is dedicated to the beating heart of adventure and a community undertaking run by adventurers, filmmakers and artists wishing to spread the creativity, enthusiasm, and activism inherent to outdoor adventure.
  • Frankfurt – The ‘Botticelli’ exhibition showcasing the art of Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510), whose work has become a landmark of the Italian Renaissance, opens this Friday, November 13, at the Stadel Museum and will continue until February 28, 2010.
  • Boston – The city’s annual Christmas Festival of Lights will take place this Friday, November 13. The lights will be on display until January 3.

If you make it to one of these events, let us know how it was, or if you know of an event that’s coming up, please let us know and we’ll be sure to include it in the next “Get out and go” round-up.