Elmo christmas lawn decoration. 25 AWESOME THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS


“I’ve had these candy cane lights for more than a decade,” Russell Locombo tells me. “You can’t find them anywhere anymore — I have to rewire the lights myself. You can find smaller ones, on a string, but these really look like candy canes.”

It’s a cool and humid Saturday evening in mid-November, and Locombo is packing up after spending the entire day festooning the front of his house — one of the more modest on his block, 84th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth avenues in Dyker Heights — with Christmas decorations. A veteran who proudly flies his Star-Spangled Banner even when it’s flanked by garlands, wreaths, and ribbons, he and his wife Angela are very serious about Christmas lights. Russell talks about his light arrangements with a formal sophistication and detail-oriented precision that evokes the way a painter would describe a composition or a photographer might discuss framing a shot.

“I started last weekend and I’ve been working on it every night,” he says. “Those two trees still need lights, the hedges, these plants, the railings, and around the Windows.” He points out the few sections of his house’s façade and front yard that aren’t yet equipped with lit-up miniature figures, garlands, wreaths, or giant red ribbons. The final effect is dazzling but not delirious, with bows, candy canes, and light garlands all around, a glowing reindeer swiveling its head halfway up the front steps, a pair of luminous, trumpet-toting angels straddling the railing, and Santa and snowman cut-outs on the front gate. But Russell says this is a pared-down display compared to past years.

“I used to have two Christmas trees, live ones in pots, and I would put lights on those and have them on either side of the window, and then we had a display in the window, too,” he explains. “And I had a Santa wearing gold with a big white beard standing in the top window, holding a candle. It looked really good with those two trees, but they both died, and the new ones haven’t been growing.” Sure enough, up on the balcony over the garage, two stubby, potted pines are barely visible despite their strings of multi-colored lights.

In any other neighborhood the Locombos would be those strange folks who always go way, way over the top with their Christmas lights, but in Dyker Heights they are just one of hundreds of households participating in the neighborhood tradition known as the Dyker Lights. Every year from the week after Thanksgiving to the first weekend in January, an eight-block section on the neighborhood’s south side becomes a glowing winter wonderland, and the Locombos’ block is ground zero.

Despite Russell’s concern about his stumpy trees, by the weekend before Thanksgiving the Locombos’ decorations are among the most elaborate in the area.

“If you can’t take the kids to Disneyworld or Disneyland, you bring them here,” Angela Locombo boasts. And indeed, in a month’s time, local news crews, parents with cars full of children, and huge buses bearing tourists from Europe and Asia will be clogging the narrow, sloped streets. Angela adds: “I tell Russell: ‘Nobody’s heard of you here, but in Japan you’re a star.’”

Russell, who is short and handsome, with kind eyes, combed-back silver hair, and a stud in his left ear, brushes off his wife’s flattery and points up the street: “Just wait until you see her display.” He’s referring to Florence Polizzotto, of 1145 84th Street, an enormous, white, Palladian mansion with a front yard full of statues and a portico held up by four two-story-tall columns (these are not all that uncommon in the neighborhood). By the first week in December, visitors to Polizzoto’s house will be greeted by a giant animatronic Santa, a platoon of 30-foot-tall nutcrackers with articulated arms, and miniature amusement park rides packed with Christmas-y figures. “She has them brought in on flatbed trucks,” Russell explains.

His display, however, is one of the few in the neighborhood without a single nutcracker. “I don’t do the soldiers,” he says, “because some of the kids are scared of them.”

Lights On

Named after the Van Dykes, one of the families in the original Dutch town of New Utrecht, the neighborhood of Dyker Heights forms a (roughly) two and a quarter square mile rectangle, which extends from Bay Ridge Avenue and the Belt Parkway to the north and south, and the Gowanus Expressway and Fourteenth Avenue to the west and east. Aside from a commercial strip along Thirteenth Avenue — where every third store seems to be a nail salon — and the Dyker Beach Golf Course on its south side, the neighborhood is mostly residential.

Dyker, which has population of about 40,000, has long been a middle-class, Italian-American neighborhood. In recent years, Chinese-Americans have settled in the neighborhood, and they now comprise roughly 20 percent of the area’s population.

The section where the Christmas lights are concentrated remains an Italian stronghold. That said, the Chinese-American family at 1270 84th Street has one of this year’s most elaborate displays, with glowing, blinking bands of lights all around the house’s exterior and a scintillating miniature Eiffel Tower next to their driveway. There is also a pair of inflatable Santas carrying gigantic candy canes and another piloting a helicopter on their front lawn.

Few in number but highly visible this time of year are Dyker’s residents of Greek descent. They are ardent participants in the tradition: at least three of the most elaborately decorated homes this year either belong to Greek-Americans, or are flying a Greek flag. The Italians, however, are credited with launching the light festival.

Except nobody seems to agree about how the Dyker Heights Christmas lights began. The Locombos told me their neighbor two doors up, Lucy Spata — whose balcony, driveway and front yard have been occupied by an army of Santas, elves, angels, reindeer, and nutcrackers since mid-November — has been creating increasingly elaborate displays for nearly 30 years. But they also said she started a couple years after the Polizzotos across the way, who have also been creating similarly grandiose Christmas spectacles for three decades. Another local told me a man on the next block of 84th Street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth avenues, started it all sometime in the mid-1980s, though he also said that for the first few years the phenomenon was more pronounced along Fifteenth Avenue. Over the decades, the theory goes, the tradition crept up to its current confines, between Eleventh and Thirteenth avenues, and 82nd and 85th streets.

A survey of the local press only yields greater uncertainty about the lights’ early years, although the Spatas are often cited as the pioneers. According to a 2007 Brooklyn Paper article, Lucy Spata and her parents started it all more than 45 years ago; the same article also cites “local historians” who claim the tradition goes back to the 1940s. A 2002 New York Post story dates the tradition’s origins to 1984, crediting Spata and her husband Angelo as the trailblazers. In 2011, Spata told the Wall Street Journal: “I’m the troublemaker that started all this.” A 1987 article in the New York Times singles out the neighborhood as having the city’s best Christmas lights displays, but says little about their beginnings. In 2001 PBS aired the documentary “Dyker Lights,” profiling the residents behind the biggest displays. And in a 2000 segment for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” O’Brien visited the neighborhood, crowning the Polizzoto household and its animatronic Santa the winner, before berating residents of a non-participating neighboring household for not having any Christmas lights. While the tradition may have been around for the better part of a half-century, most accounts seem to agree that it achieved critical mass sometime in the early to mid-1980s.

Today, if you ask a seasoned south Brooklynite about Dyker Heights, Christmas lights are probably the first thing she’ll mention. Inquire more, and you will, of course, hear about the houses. Dyker Heights long had a reputation for having some of the city’s most elaborate residences. Its homes, from the most ornate and ostentatious — many of which are modeled after Tuscan villas or Greek temples — to the smaller, semidetached houses and single-story bungalows, have carefully manicured yards redolent with replicas of classical Greco-Roman sculptures, multi-tiered waterfall fountains, whimsical topiary, and statues of deer, greyhounds and other assorted animals. Many of these are conscripted into holiday service come November, adorned with lights and sometimes given Christmas-appropriate makeovers. Although manger scenes are a popular motif in the neighborhood this time of year, the area’s innumerable front-yard statues of Mary, Jesus, and various disciples and saints are on display all year round.

Putting the Christ in Christmas

Walking the neighborhood’s normally quiet, mansion-lined blocks amid throngs of light-gazers, you’ll mostly come across a secular cast of characters ranging from inflatable Snoopys and Mickeys to statues of Santa and Frosty. But some locals go Biblical with elaborate nativity dioramas. Certain displays, like the Spatas’, include miniature figures portraying Jesus’s birth tucked into a corner of a larger arrangement. Others, like that of Maria Hronopoulos, make Jesus’s birth the FOCUS of their displays.

A small and shy older Greek woman, Hronopoulos has been adding to her huge array of decorations for about ten years. On a sunny but very chilly Saturday in late November, she was surveying her nearly completed display, at the corner of Twelfth Avenue and 85th Street. “I can only do it for an hour at a time in this cold, but I do it myself,” Hronopoulos says, pausing in front of the manger scene halfway up her front steps. “It’s my promise to God for Jesus’s birthday … I used to decorate inside for my children. Now I decorate outside for Jesus.”

Most residents of Dyker Heights are less zealous and have humble, crowd-pleasing aspirations. “We like to keep it simple and tasteful,” says a man named Berk, who was winding a string of lights around his front yard railing on 84th Street between Twelfth and Thirteenth avenues with his wife Oya on a weekend afternoon in November. “We’ve got a garland, and we hang up a wreath. We’ll put out a Garfield, too — for the kids.”

For Tony Stucchio, at 1148 85th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth avenues, his manger diorama — which is surrounded by animatronic carolers — is an essential part of his display. “I like it because I can see some people reflecting,” he says, “you can see it in their faces.” He maintains his display’s calmer, more contemplative mood by sticking to a consistent aesthetic that he tweaks slightly year in and year out — for 2013 he has added an angel to his second-floor window.

“My thing is to try to keep it simple and tasteful,” he says. “My wife always has to remind me: ‘Sometimes more is too much.’”

While tastefulness is a quality that few of the people I’ve spoken with mentioned striving for, many boasted about assembling their light displays themselves.

The DIYker Lights

On most nights and weekends in November, residents of Dyker Heights are in their yards and on their front steps, wrapping strings of lights around railings, positioning nativity scene figures, and running wires up staircases, through flower beds, and behind hedges. These committed souls boast of being able to do their own displays rather than resorting to hiring a decoration company. After all, the tradition started out as an amateur event, and has only become professionalized as the stakes and means have escalated.

“A lot of people in the neighborhood are business owners and they just don’t have the time to do it themselves,” a man named Jack, who has been decorating his house and front yard on 82nd Street between Twelfth and Thirteenth avenues for the past twelve years, tells me in mid-November. “A lot of people hire companies to do it. I’m one of the few who still put up their own lights; my neighbor across the street does too, so does the guy next to him.”

And it’s not hard to see why so few locals still do it themselves: The displays are logistically daunting and technically complex. Handyman dads working in their front yards can be heard bragging about blown fuses and having to bring in electricians to test their circuitry. Thinking about the sheer volume families’ assorted ornaments represent in terms of storage space can be dizzying — although it partly explains why so many of the newer, gaudier mansions have two-car garages.

Returning to the neighborhood every week leading up to the Dyker lights’ unofficial launch in early December, I keep seeing the same people hard at work in their front yards: the Locombos on 84th Street, Hronopoulos and her family at Twelfth Avenue and 85th Street, and just up the block Tony Stucchio, who remembers being courted by BR Christmas Decorators, the neighborhood’s dominant professional decoration company.

“The guy from BR says to me, ‘I’ve been watching you put up your display over the years, when are you gonna give me a call?,’” Stucchio says. The display outside his narrow, two-story home features garlands, candy canes, a manger, and statues of Christmas carolers similar to those offered by BR. “I told him the year I can’t do my own I’ll stop doing it … Everybody displays their inner self. It’s the individual coming out.”

Those who persist in putting up their homemade displays do retain an intangible personal touch that evades the decoration companies. Whether it’s the handwritten sign Russell put up to dissuade would-be thieves from pulling up his candy canes, the incredible pileup of cartoon characters on Stephen Brimigion’s façade and front lawn at 8312 Twelfth Avenue, the potentially seizure-inducing bands of blinking lights at 1270 84th Street, or the legions of Christmas figures — including the trademark pair of 15-foot-tall nutcrackers — filling every inch of available space outside Lucy Spata’s home, the best DIY displays are easy to pick out from the professional jobs. Like a handmade gift among store-bought presents, the amateur decorations have a rough-hewn charm. DIY arrangements are easy to pick out, too. They’re asymmetrical, or feature a maximalist mashup of incongruous characters. Wiring is visible, ornaments are often vintage or at least sui generis.

But with the increased attention from the press and tour organizers who bring international tourists by the busload, many of the neighborhood’s biggest displays are simply too complex for someone who is gainfully employed to put up in their spare time. The Dyker lights are such an institution that they’ve spawned an industry.

The Christmas Light Pros

For all of November and early December, before the droves of tourists descend, the neighborhood’s blocks are dotted with decoration company vans and trucks, and many of its front yards teem with Christmas helpers of a different stripe. Dressed in blue or red hoodies depending on whether they work for Di Meglio or BR, respectively, the predominantly Latino crews of professional decorators drape garlands over hedges and balustrades, sheath leafless trees in meshes of tiny lights, and erect all manner of glowing statuary. Professional decorators did the articulated snowmen with creepy, Terminator-like eyes at the corner of 84th Street and Twelfth Avenue; they did the ensemble of dancing elves lining the front steps of a house on 84th between Tenth and Eleventh avenues; and they wrapped the pride of concrete lion sculptures at the corner of 84th Street and Eleventh Avenue in garlands and lights. (Those displays all happen to be by BR, who have the upper hand in the Dyker lights market.)

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Bonavito, of BR, says he got into the lights business by chance. “My father’s friend was looking for someone to do his lights in the area,” he tells me. “And I went over there and did the lights, and a couple other people asked me to do their lights, and then it took off. I had a couple clients, and then three, and then ten. Now it’s over 100.”

A Bensonhurst resident who works as an art teacher in addition to designing and deploying decorations around the holidays — his company also does some Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Easter displays, though Christmas is their specialty — Bonavito has seen the Dyker lights tradition expand from a local custom into a global attraction.

“It has grown tremendously,” he says. “When I first started it was very little, hardly anybody was going to see the neighborhood, now people from around the world are coming by the busload — you pay 40 and get a free hot chocolate. I should get a piece of that.”

For Bonavito, the distinction between amateur and professional displays often comes down to a matter of aesthetics.

“My tastes are more simple,” says Bonavito, “but there are people who do it themselves who do more gaudy displays. You won’t see that with me; I mean, I do a lot, a lot of lights, but I’ll never do gaudy.”

The lights put up by BR and DiMeglio, while often enormous and technically impressive, frequently feature many of the same decorations. The laser-eyed snowmen at in the yard of the house at 84th Street and Twelfth Avenue, for instance, are the same as the one at 83rd Street and Tenth Avenue, while the musical elves outside 1221 82nd Street are close cousins of those on the front steps of a house on 84th Street between Tenth and Eleventh avenues. The repetition and homogeny is a little like seeing your local coffee shop replaced by a Starbucks.

Decorating one’s own home guarantees a unique light show with more character than a company display, but it can also be a handicap. In spite of the benevolent spirit that many claim reigns over the neighborhood, the professionalization of the Dyker Heights lights may be a direct result of the inexhaustible energy fueling the phenomenon: The desire to keep up with the Joneses, or, in this case, the Garzones.

No Competition?

“A lot of the people, especially Italian people, are very competitive — they know each other, they think ‘I could do better,’” Bonavito tells me, by way of explaining how the displays have steadily become more elaborate and ambitious. “Whenever someone does something nice, someone does something even better next door. That’s how that neighborhood is. It’s a typical Italian and Greek area.” Walking down the brightest blocks, the clustering of decorations on certain corners and blocks supports Bonavito’s claim.

The neighborhood’s brightest and loudest displays — several incorporate looped soundtracks of familiar Christmas jingles — often seem to be directly opposite one another, or on adjacent corners of the same intersections. At 83rd Street and Twelfth Avenue, for instance, the house on the northwest corner has a huge, lit-up pack of reindeer pulling a glowing sled full of presents in front of a gazebo covered in lights, while the house on the southwest corner boasts a troupe of robotic carolers along its balustrade and a 10-foot-tall snowman. One block over, at Twelfth Avenue and 84th Street, the house on the northwest corner boasts a beautiful and dazzling tree covered in flickering lights; the house on the southwest corner has nutcrackers, a nativity scene, animatronic snowmen, and a glowing blue penguin pond; and the house on the southeast side has a display that spills onto the sidewalk and has taken over the street sign, wrapping it in red lights. The two homes most frequently cited for having the neighborhood’s must-see displays, Lucy Spata’s and Florence Polizzotto’s, are almost directly across the street from one another. The competition to have the most impressive display may not be formalized, but it’s quite apparent in the distribution of show-stopping decorations.

Some residents go out of their way to deny that a competitive spirit feeds the neighborhood’s increasingly ambitious displays. “No, it’s not really a competition,” Russell Locombo says. “We just want to do something to make people happy.” Of course, with Lucy Spata two houses away and the Polizzotto manse just up the block, the Locombos don’t really stand a chance.

Stephen Brimigion’s house features an eclectic display of pop culture characters and posters promoting Community Mayors.

“Oh yeah, it’s competitive,” says Berk on 84th Street. And for many, in fact, the contest to have the biggest, brightest, or most distinctive display is an essential part of the tradition.

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“For me, the houses on 84th Street have given me the impetus to take it up a notch,” Tony Stucchio says, before boasting of his customized carolers and intricate nativity scene. “It’s always big on 84th Street so I thought, why not bring it to 85th Street?” That block-against-block mentality seems to be paying off — in addition to helping his next-door neighbor with a slightly less unique but perfectly respectable display, the occupants of the three-story mansion down the way at 1170 85th Street have also gone all out this year — their decorations include a glowing reindeer and polar bear, an assortment of Christmas trees and wreaths, an ensemble of snowmen stationed along the terrace railing, and two ten-foot-tall nutcrackers stationed on either side of the front door. While Con Edison gets much of the credit for powering the Dyker Heights decorations — in 1998 the New York Times dubbed the neighborhood “Con Ed’s warmest heartthrob” — the spirit of competition between neighbors and neighboring blocks is just as important.

The ornate displays aren’t just about friendly rivalries, though. For more than a few locals I’ve spoken to, the tradition has also served a very powerful cathartic function following the death of a family member.

Life Lights

According to one account of the Dyker lights origin story, Lucy Spata started doing it after her mother died. Across the street, Florence Polizzotto is said to have pulled the plug on her sprawling display in December 2001 when her husband Al, the household’s Christmas lights expert, died. Her continued participation in the tradition serves as a tribute of sorts to him.

Tony Stucchio’s distinctive display gained its current form as a tribute to his father. “I used to have a smaller nativity scene,” he says, “but I made this one in 1998 when my father died.”

Such celebrations of life and death in light are an annual occurrence in the neighborhood. Certain residents mark their loss by mounting especially elaborate displays, while others tone theirs down as an act of mourning.

Bonavito recalls: “A man from a bus company stopped me while I was working with my guys and said, ‘are you doing this house now?’ and I said, ‘No, we’re not actually doing this particular house,’ a huge, huge house on 83rd Street. they had a death in the family and decided not to do it all; we just did wreaths with lights on them. So we told the guy who owns the bus company we’re not doing it, and he was very disappointed because they’d already put it on their list for the tour.”

For other families in mourning, doing a light display can almost become an act of healing, a way of signaling to the outside world that life goes on.

“I had a couple of clients who had deaths in the family, and they were talking about not doing it; they didn’t know, but they felt they had to do it for the neighborhood,” Bonavito adds. “They didn’t want to disappoint people, which I thought was very, very nice of them.”

Perhaps in part because of this annual tradition’s occasional function as a mourning ritual, but also simply as a result of the benevolent holiday atmosphere it fosters, some locals are tapping the gawking crowds for charity fundraising.

Spreading the Light

On the block of 84th Street where the Spata and Polizzotto homes face one another, helpers in Christmas-appropriate costumes can often be seen collecting donations for charities including the American Cancer Society — Al Polizzotto died of cancer just before the holidays in 2001. Meanwhile, at 8312 Twelfth Avenue, Stephen Brimigion uses his populous display of inflated cartoon characters to raise money for Community Mayors, a non-profit that works to better the lives of children with disabilities.

“I’ve been a member of Community Mayors for fifteen years and fundraising for five,” Brimigion, who is 83, tells while his friends set up the last of the many, many figures he has accumulated over more than a decade of doing Christmas displays. Figures from pop culture abound in his front yard and on the façade of his house, including Spider-Man, Darth Vader and Captain America on the second story balcony, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and Cookie Monster on the lawn, and this year’s addition: a fifteen-foot-high Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer presiding over the whole horde. Community Mayors signs are prominently arrayed, but there’s not a nativity scene in sight.

“I have in mind that the kids will know the characters’ names even when I don’t,” Brimigion says. “The whole point is to let them enjoy secular, everyday life … and I worked in the church most of my life — that’s not why it is secular.”

On a chilly weeknight in early December, despite the relatively small numbers of sightseeing visitors to the neighborhood (including just one small bus of Japanese tourists), two of Brimigion’s friends are out taking donations — one of them dressed in a reindeer costume.


Less than two weeks later, on a cold but clear Sunday evening, the neighborhood is absolutely bustling. The streets are packed with cars and pedestrians; 83rd Street and 84th Street are both bumper-to-bumper with traffic, buses are stationed on Twelfth and Eleventh avenues waiting for foreign tourists to make the rounds. Packs of visitors speaking French, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, and in thick Brooklyn accents pass me, cameras in hand. The narrow sidewalks are clogged with people on foot and in wheelchairs, and countless kids in strollers. Drivers progress at a crawl, Windows rolled down with smartphones protruding, capturing the whole crazy scene.

Outside Lucy Spata’s house, a man in an Elmo suit is collecting donations from motorists and pedestrians while families pose with the animatronic Santa at the front of Spata’s display. Parents and their children are trying to enumerate the inflatable figures on Stephen Brimigion’s house and front yard; “I see a SpongeBob!” an excited dad shouts. The front steps leading up to Florence Polizzotto’s front gate are clogged with people posing for photos with the humongous Santa and nutcrackers. “They’re all taking selfies,” quips a passing driver with a car full of light-gazers.

On Twelfth Avenue, a handy homeowner replaced the burnt out “C” in his “Merry Christmas” sign with a strand of red Christmas lights.

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Traffic is moving at a crawl on Twelfth Avenue, too. In addition to the crowds gawking at Brimigion and Hronopoulos’s overwhelming decorations, a film shoot at 8404 Twelfth Avenue — the house with the penguin pond and the laser-eyed snowmen — has blocked the entire sidewalk. They’re shooting a Star Wars-themed holiday commercial, for the bro-courting cable channel Spike TV, in which a troupe of yuletide Stormtroopers dances down the house’s front steps in time to a tweaked version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” “You better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout. I’m telling you why,” goes the playback. “The Empire is coming to town!”

On nights like these it seems like everybody — from those who live in the next neighborhood over, to people from other continents, and even visitors from galaxies far, far away — is making their annual pilgrimage to see the Dyker Heights Christmas lights. As Spata told me: “They can’t start their holidays until they come see the lights.”


From playing pretend on a giant wooden castle, to climbing up a real-life concrete one, there’s an endless amount of activities for kids to enjoy in Bucks County. Find these fun, educational and exciting activities to do with the whole family.

New Hope Railroad

  • New Hope Railroad

Step back into the golden age of rail travel by taking a ride on the New Hope Railroad. View the beautiful scenery as it passes through the Bucks County countryside. Check their schedule for family-friendly excursions, like the North Pole Express.

Washington Crossing Historic Park

  • Washington Crossing Historic Park

This 500-acre park preserves the site where General George Washington and his troops made their famed crossing of the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War to New Jersey in 1776. The park contains restored 18th century buildings and homes, Revolutionary War gravesites, and Bowman’s Hill Tower to climb.

Ringing Rocks Park

  • Ringing Rocks Park

Ringing Rocks Park is a great place for wilderness exploring in Upper Black Eddy. Bring your hammer and listen to the mysterious ringing of the boulder fields when the rocks are struck.

Giggleberry Fair

  • Giggleberry Fair

Located in Peddler’s Village, Giggleberry Fair is Bucks County’s one-and-only indoor obstacle course that is three stories high! Kids can spend time running through the levels, riding the grand carousel, winning prizes from the arcade and eating at the Painted Pony Café, while adults can relax in the parents’ lounge.

Shady Brook Farm

  • Shady Brook Summer unWINED

Established more than 100 years ago, Shady Brook Farm always something fun to pick, from blueberries to pumpkins! Seasonal events include their Holiday Light Show, HorrorFest and PumpkinFest. You can also enjoy Uncle Dave’s Homemade Ice Cream and pick up some fresh produce from the market.

Tree Trails Adventures at Phoenix Sport Club

  • TreeTrails

TreeTrails Adventures offers an adrenalin rush while seeing the forest from the treetops. The Park offers six courses made of cable, rope and wood for adults and kids that span between platforms built around trees using quirky bridges, netted tunnels, gliding rides and zip lines to navigate tree to tree.

.The Tileworks

  • Moravian

This National Historic Landmark is considered a “working history” museum where handmade tiles are still produced. Explore a piece of Bucks County’s history on a self-guided tour and get the chance to purchase handmade reissues of tiles and mosaics.

Sesame Place® Philadelphia

  • Roller Coaster at Sesame Place

Sesame Place® Philadelphia is a popular theme park with full of fun for the whole family. Meet Elmo, Big Bird, Grover and many more Sesame Street characters. This season, join in on the fun with an exciting line up of meet greets, music, magic, pirate adventures, and fireworks on select weekends.

Mercer Museum

  • Mercer Museum

Henry Chapman Mercer was a renowned architect, philanthropist, archaeologist and more from Doylestown. Housed in the Mercer Museum are more than 40,000 American artifacts, including a Conestoga wagon and horse-drawn carriages.

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Bowman’s Hill Tower Wildflower Preserve

  • Kids at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Feel like you’re on top of the world when you climb to the top of Bowman’s Hill Tower. Then enjoy the beautiful scenery while picnicking in Washington Crossing Historic Park and hiking through 134-acres of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Take a guided tour of the Preserve!

1. Michener Art Museum

  • Michener Art Museum

Originally built in the 19th century as the Bucks County prison, this attraction named after James A. Michener was transformed into an independent, non-profit cultural institution that exhibits arts, has a café and gift shop and offers various family-themed activities and other programs all year-round!

Kids Castle

  • Kids Castle

Located in Doylestown’s Central Park, Kid’s Castle is a kid’s dream come true! Climb and play on this eight-story wooden playground complete with slides, swings, a treehouse and a rocket ship.

3. Peace Valley Lavender Farm

  • Peace Valley

See and smell the field in bloom throughout June and July at the Peace Valley Lavender Farm! Located across from Peace Valley Park and Lake Galena, the unique shop on the farm is open year-round and filled with handmade lavender gifts for home, bath, body and garden.

4. Bucks County Children’s Museum

  • Bucks County Children’s Museum

Reserve your playdate at this museum made for little ones. You can even reserve the entire place out! Children can explore exhibits featuring the hospital, town square, the post office, the Big Dig, airways to waterways, and even a recycling adventure!

5. Nature Centers

  • Kayaking at Silver Lake Nature Center

Nature centers offer lots of public programs and rental options for young explorers. At both Silver Lake Nature Center and Churchville Nature Center, examine a diversity of habitats with hands-on exploratory activities.

Doylestown Rock Gym Adventure Center

  • Doylestown Rock Gym

The only indoor rock-climbing facility in Bucks County is located in Doylestown. Packages for all ages and ability levels are offered as well as walk-in packages, climbing lessons and adaptive climbing.

Cast a spell at The Cloak Wand in Peddler’s Village

  • Cloak Wand blog

The Cloak and Wand is a fantasy store and a potion bar dedicated to the wizards and witches of folklore, myth and literature!

8. Bowlero

  • Bowlero

This is your one-stop-shop for arcade games, laser tag and bowling. Don’t forget to keep score as you and the family bowl one of their 48 all-star lanes. Game on!

9. Ice Cream and sweets

Candies, chocolates, bakeries. oh my! From homemade ice cream shops to delicious doughnut shops, cure your sweet tooth craving at an abundance of yummy stops.

0. Nockamixon State Park

  • Lake Nockamixon
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This 5,286-acre park is inclusive of Tohickon Creek, Three Mile Run, Haycock Run and Lake Nockamixon. Go swimming, picnic, bike, hike, fish, ice skate, sled and more with your family.

1. Family-Friendly Breweries Wineries

  • Naked Brewing Co.

Many of the 23 breweries and 8 wineries along the Bucks County Ale Trail and Bucks County Wine Trail are welcoming to children. Naked Brewing Co. offers an outdoor area filled with games like giant Jenga, and Newtown Brewing Co. offers movie nights for multiple ages monthly!

Pennsbury Manor

  • Pennsbury Manor

Jump back to the 17th century and enjoy this historic Bucks County landmark! Pennsbury Manor is a reconstruction of the founder of Pennsylvania William Penn’s summer home on the Delaware River. Go explore the attraction’s 43-acres filled with gardens, stables, outbuildings and manor house.

3. Snipes Farm and Education Center

  • Snipes Farm

Snipes offers various hands-on learning about farming and nature. Experience their Fall Harvest weekends, visit the animals and become one with nature here!

4. Fonthill Castle

  • Fonthill

Take a tower tour of Fonthill Castle, another castle along the Mercer Mile built by Henry Chapman Mercer, where you’ll climb many steps to hidden rooms filled with beautiful tiles. This is where Mercer used to live.

5. Pet Alpacas

  • Deerwood Alpaca Farm

This small alpaca breeding farm allows for scheduled visits of the charming ‘pacas. Pet these peaceful creatures – they will steal your heart with their graceful appearance, dark eyes and humming sounds. Visit their gift shop after for alpaca wool socks, gloves, hats, dryer balls and more.

A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place San Diego

Meet me on Sesame Street for the very first Christmas event, A Very Furry Christmas. Sesame Place opened the very first West Coast theme park inspired by the award-winning show Sesame Street earlier this year in San Diego, and the theme park has undergone a magical holiday transformation. A Very Furry Christmas celebrates everything you love about the holidays with your favorite Sesame Street characters. Included with admission, here is what you can expect at Sesame Place during the holidays.

Consideration provided by Sesame Place San Diego.

Sesame Place San Diego

I grew up watching Sesame Street and when my kids were born, they learned math, the alphabet, and how to be kind through the characters on the show. For those familiar with the show, you’ll remember that the stories are centered on 123 Sesame Street and the iconic Stoop. When you walk into Sesame Place San Diego, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped right onto the street where the iconic show takes place complete with Hooper’s Store, Abby Cadabby’s Garden, and Big Bird’s Nest.

Sesame Place San Diego features 18 themed-rides and water attractions, a family-friendly roller coaster, and a 500,000 gallon wave pool. Daily live character shows, an award-winning parade, and adorable photo opportunities make this unique theme park one of the most memorable in Southern California. And for families with children who have special needs, Sesame Place is a Certified Autism Center, offering quiet rooms, low sensor spaces and experiences, and a ride accessibility program.

A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place San Diego

For the first time ever, Sesame Place San Diego presents A Very Furry Christmas. This brand new holiday event features holiday festivities and the park’s transformation into a winter wonderland complete with “snow”. Here is what you can expect during A Very Furry Christmas:

New Holiday Shows and Entertainment

Elmo’s Christmas Wish: This brand new show stars Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, Zoe, and Rosita as they dance and sing about their favorite holiday, talk about what each of them wants for Christmas, and bring the Christmas spirit to Sesame Street. Sesame Street Theater

A Very Merry Sesame Street Sing-Along: Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and their friend invite you to a festive sing-a-long as they share their favorite parts of the holiday season. With heartwarming moments and your favorite holiday songs, Elmo and his friends remind families what the holiday season is all about. Rosita’s Harmony Hills

Furry Friends Christmas Dance Party: Sing and dance to your favorite holiday tunes with Elmo and his friends on the lawn at this energetic Christmas dance party. Plus, you’ll enjoy lawn games such as hula-hoop during this interactive show. Big Bird’s Wave Pool Lawn

Sesame Street Christmas Parade: This award-winning parade will feature spectacular floats decorated for the holiday. During the parade, the characters step off of their floats for a heartwarming performance showcasing the magic of the holiday season. Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert, Ernie, Zoe, and Telly join the theme park’s performers for their rendition of holiday favorites including “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” “Jingle Bells,” and Elmo’s special rap to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Parade Route

New Christmas Experiences

Cookies with Cookie Monster: Join Cookie Monster for his favorite snack, cookies and milk. Plus, you’ll enjoy a special meet and greet opportunity with your favorite cookie-loving Sesame Street character. (39.99 for 4 people and includes cookies and refillable mugs with milk).

Holiday Photo Opportunities: Dress in your holiday best for photos with your favorite furry friends dressed in their festive holiday attire including Elmo, Cookie Claus, and Oscar the Grouch. Be sure to check the Sesame Place app for meet and greet locations and times.

Christmas Tree Maze: Take a stroll through the festive Christmas tree maze. Oscar’s Rotten Rafts

Spot-The-Gift Scavenger Hunt: This holiday scavenger hunt throughout the park is a creative way to explore the holiday happenings at the park. Plus, the Christmas prize you’ll receive at the end is furry-tastic! Purchase at the Scavenger Hunt HQ.

A Very Furry Christmas takes place at Sesame Place San Diego through January 8, 20223.

Hanukkah Celebration at Sesame Place San Diego

Celebrate Hanukkah at Sesame Place San Diego with your favorite Sesame Street friends. Enjoy a game of dreidel, light the Menorah, dance to festive music, and learn all about Hanukkah! Scheduled to take place on December 19th, 2022, here is what you can expect during Sesame Place San Diego’s Hanukah Celebration.

Play Dreidel with Elmo: Spin the dreidel with Elmo and compete to see who can win the most Gelt. Abby’s Garden

Hanukkah Storytime: Learn about Hanukkah with Sesame Street friends at the first Hanukkah Storytime. Families can also purchase the book at Hooper’s Store. Holiday Hills

Menorah Candle Lighting Ceremony: Join the first Menorah Candle Lighting Ceremony, led by a local Rabbi, followed by a festive Dance Party with Sesame Street friends to Hanukkah Music. Big Bird’s Wave Pool Lawn

Hanukkah Dance Party: Dance with your favorite Sesame Street friends to Hanukkah Music. Big Bird’s Wave Pool Lawn

Kosher Food and Drinks: Sesame Place San Diego has partnered with Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage to offer a special Kosher food menu and Hannukkah-themed cockails. Monster Snacks

Sesame Place San Diego Season Pass

The best way to enjoy all of the season offerings available at Sesame Place San Diego is to invest in a season pass. A 2023 Sesame Place Season Pass starts as low as 117 or 13 per month for only nine months. Season Pass Members enjoy unlimited access to the park with the added benefits of free parking, free friend tickets, discounts on cabanas, Abby’s Magic Queue, and Stroller Rentals, exclusive monthly rewards of free friend tickets, and more. It should be noted that perks vary based on the type of Season Pass purchased. Guests can purchase a 2023 Season Pass and enjoy unlimited visits this year (2022) and next, including A Very Furry Christmas, Mardi Gras Celebration, Elmo’s Eggstravaganza, Elmo’s Springtacular, Summer Fun Fest, and The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular. If you are local, you can also opt to add a SeaWorld Annual Pass for only 87 or 7.25 a month, and enjoy both parks every and any day of the year. For more information and to purchase tickets and Season Passes visit SesamePlaceSanDiego.com. For the most recent updates, can follow Sesame Place San Diego on and @SesamePlaceCa on Instagram.

Sesame Place San Diego is located at 2052 Entertainment Circle in Chula Vista, California.

Caryn is a NICU nurse by day, blogger by night and mom 24/7. She savors the warm Southern California sun and loves to travel, shopping, baking, reading and frequenting her local tea room. Caryn created the column Lavishly Green for Peekaboo Picks Magazine to share her best tips for going green in style, she is the Former editor for Family Review Network, former OC Family Magazine online contributor, former Orange County Moms Blog contributor, former Evenflo Savvy Parent contributor, former member of the Totsy Advisory Board and former freelance writer for CBS Los Angeles.

Christmas lights in DFW: drive-by guide to the best neighborhoods

Are you looking for the best neighborhood Christmas lights in DFW? Well, buckle up the family and hit the road: These festive districts and stand-out residences are legendary for over-the-top holiday decorations. We broke down our favorites by city (and added some travel tips from Christmas past).

– Christmas Lights in PLANO TX-

Christmas Lights at Deerfield Plano

From tasteful blue and silver lights to giant snow globes and Santa dancing on the roof, most of the homes in this community get into the holiday spirit (pretty sure Jenkins Street can be seen from space). Of course, the elaborate displays make the neighborhood quite popular: To avoid long lines of cars, try starting at the back of the district off Quincy at multiple entrances: Bettye Haun Drive, Ivanhoe and Tweedsgate.

Elmo’s Party! Celebrate with Elmo & Friends | Sesame Street Compilation

Where: Deerfield neighborhood, Plano

When: December 1 through 30. Most homes turn their lights on at dark until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Get more detailed driving directions and pro-tips for visiting Deerfield Plano here.

Brookshire Drive Holiday Lights Extravaganza

The Brookshire Drive Holiday Lights extravaganza has been delighting Christmas-light lovers since 1998. An estimated 30,000 lights and 20 flood lights illuminate the star-studded displays including the cast of the Wizard of Oz, Luke and Leia from Star Wars and an always excited Olaf from Frozen.

Where: 3601 Brookshire Drive, Plano

When: December 6 to 25, 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Holiday Lights at Independence and Biscayne Drive

These neighboring homes light up the block with colored lights that twinkle from the treetops down to the snow-covered lawn-turned-ice rink where Snoopy and the Peanuts crew hang out. Two model trains with toys from Santa chug around railroad tracks and expect some familiar faces from America’s favorite street: Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo. Best to explore by foot.

Where: Biscayne Drive off of Independence Parkway in Plano

When: December 6 to January 12, 6 to 10 p.m. weekdays, 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Price: Free, donations for Minnies Food Pantry have been welcomed in the past.

Synchronized Light Show at 2709 Westridge Drive

Over at 2709 Westridge Drive in Plano, just a two-minute drive south of Biscayne Drive. Look for the giant inflatable Scrooge atop a red bag of gifts. There’s a sign in front of the house that says to tune in to radio station 89.1. Park up and enjoy the synchronized light show featuring more than 50,000 LED lights.

When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Keep the fun going … Continue east along Westridge Drive and as you reach the junction of Westridge and Custer. The entire street is known to get in on the festivities and it’s an ideal spot to park and walk around.

Good to know: The Christmas lights at Brookshire Drive, Biscayne Drive and Westridge Drive are all in the same area of Plano. If you’re going to visit one, it’s a good plan to take them all in in the same night. AND, if you’re wanting even more lights, Lights on the Farm at the Heritage Farmstead Museum is in this area too.

905 Whitney Court, Plano

This is a one-home display that makes for a fun drive-by if you’re in the area. Don’t miss the giant Christmas rubber ducky and the helicopter piloted by penguins perched on the roof! In 2020, the display was ready the first weekend in December.

Where: 905 Whitney Court, Plano

– Christmas Lights in FRISCO TX-

6942 Walnut Street, Frisco

Find a spot to park when you see an inflatable farm of characters—snowman, Santa, a yeti—to the right. Meanwhile at the house on the left you’ll find an enchanting collection of hundreds of miniature houses that decorate the entire front entrance of the house. Take your time to admire and enjoy the display and then admirers are welcome to walk through a glittering tunnel of lights and into the front garden where more Christmas lights and a traditional nativity scene await.

Where: 6942 Walnut Street, Frisco (close to downtown Frisco)

When: December 1 through the holidays.

The Burkman Holiday Home

The Burkman home is known for their impressive homage to holiday cheer. Highlights over the past 20 years include a life-sized gingerbread house with a smoking chimney; garage-turned-miniature Christmas village; and more than 25,000 lights on the facade. Among the cast of penguins, reindeer and polar bears is a gigantic Santa overseeing the operation. Via the page for the Burkman Holiday Home of Frisco, the house may be a contender for The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC.

Where: 3809 Hazelhurst Drive, Frisco

When: December 1 through the holidays.

Before or after visiting the Burkman Holiday House, there’s a few other homes that decorate nicely with fun Christmas lights and are worth a drive-by:

  • 5913 Myrtle Lane, FriscoTiny white lights cover the entire house with large snowman and Santa inflatables on the lawn
  • 12365 Flamingo Court, FriscoDelicate snowflakes glow from the trees and a smiling lion illuminates the lawn.

– Best Christmas Lights in MCKINNEY TX-

The Christmas Lights at Tucker Hill

The Tucker Hill neighborhood in McKinney is transformed into a sophisticated winter wonderland, and they take decorating seriously: Neighbors compete for the title of “Best Holiday Décor;” past winners brought the holiday cheer with North Pole signage; large candy canes and lollipops; and a flawless Christmas tree so tall Boban Marjanovic would struggle with the star. The community also awards a “Best Daytime” award, so it’s worth a drive before dark. Trees throughout the neighborhood boast white twinkling lights, and the same style of lights outline gorgeous two-story homes with wreaths and red ribbon on almost every doorstep.

Where: The Tucker Hill neighborhood in McKinney, 2100 State Blvd

When: December 1 to January 1 starting at 6 p.m.

– Best Christmas Lights in PROSPER TX-

When it comes to Christmas lights, we’d consider Prosper as up-and-coming. In recent past years, we haven’t found anything that holds a candle to Deerfield Plano, for example. However, there’s two things to know about and they are:

Prosper Tunnel of Lights

In the Whitley Place neighborhood of Prosper, along Beechwood Drive, the entire street features a literal tunnel of lights that leads all the way up and around the cul-de-sac.

Established in 2018 by the Judd family, this holiday lights experience has become a favorite tradition in Prosper!

Where: Whitley Place Neighborhood in Prosper, Texas: Beechwood Drive

When: December

– Holiday Lights in Parker TX-

Browne Family Holiday Light Show

The Browne Family Holiday Lights Show at Dublin Park Estates in Parker is an elaborate coordinated light display featuring Christmas classics as well as some more unusual holiday songs and some fun songs that have nothing to do with Christmas at all. The video below is of “Happy” By Pharrel Williams.

Where: 2701 Dublin Park Drive, Parker TX

Take note: The Browne Family Holiday Light Show is an official drop-off location for Toys for Tots. If you can afford to do so, please consider taking a donation.

Light the Night! Prosper Decorating Contest

Oragnized by the Prosper Parks and Recreation Department, Prosper’s annual Light the Night contest challenges all Prosper homes and residences to decorate for Christmas. All homes and businesses in the city of Prosper are eligible to enter and judging takes place on December 5.

Where: Prosper, TX

When: Judging takes place on December 5

– Christmas Lights in ARLINGTON –

For those who can’t get enough of local Christmas light displays, a visit to Lights of Interlochen is worth the drive. Every year, homes in the Interlochen neighborhood deck the halls with the most extraordinary and elaborate Christmas lights. Similar to the Christmas Lights at Deerfield Plano, traffic is often bumper-to-bumper through the neighborhood so plan your visit accordingly.

Where: Interlochen neighborhood, 2001 Westwood Dr. (more than 200 neighbors). Entrance at intersection of West Randol Mill Road and Westwood Dr.

When: Mid-December–12/25/21, from 7 p.m.

– Best Christmas Lights in Dallas –

Christmas Lights in Highland Park

Where: Start your tour at Armstrong and Preston. Take note that the neighborhood is approximately 20 blocks long. The lights on Beverly are a must see.

When: Thanksgiving through Christmas

What to know:

  • Book a carriage ride for the best experience. Here are two options.
  • Brazos Carriages
  • Pickup: Transwestern Building, 3811 Turtle Creek Blvd.
  • Park in the parking garage in the visitor’s area.
  • Variety and sizes of carriages. Book online at brazoscarriage.com
  • Pick up at 4200 Oak Lawn Ave, Highland Park
  • Load in front of the shops in front of the breezeway next to Meritt Coffee
  • Variety of carriages and sizes. Book online at highlandparkcarriages.com

Christmas Lights at Lake Highlands

The Christmas Lights at Lake Highlands is a coordinated “12 Days of Christmas” display along one street, Timberhollow Circle.

Where: Timberhollow Circle, Dallas

When: Holidays

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