‘TIS THE SEASON to decide between tasteful and trashy. Trashy often wins, cuz, well, it’s just a month, right? Okay, counting back to Halloween, it’s more like three months . . . but who’s counting? Why decorate with the ever-so-subtle white-light tree when you can blast LEDs in all colors around the room?
But public venues and their deep-pocketed corporate sponsors have taken up the burden of Christmas overkill, in all its wondrous wonder. So if we don’t feel the obligation to glam up our own houses/apartments/pickup trucks/front and back yards (unlike our beloved LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens,” she of the peacock feathers and glitter), we can rely on such entities as Bank of America (BofA Winter Village at New York’s Bryant Park) and MassMutual Pittsburgh (Ice Rink at PPG Plaza—there’s a twofer for you).
Installations we wrote about last year—the Pittsburgh ice rink, the Phipps Conservatory gardens, Longwood Gardens’ light extravaganza, Philadelphia’s BlueCross RiverRink Winterfest and DC’s Georgetown Glow—are up and running again this year. But we thought an update was in order, so we found a few more places worth sharing, including a few on the quieter side.
Shopping malls try to rise to the occasion, conjuring shows like “Ice!” at Gaylord National on the Potomac River in Maryland, wherein they haul ice carvers from Harbin, China, to illustrate, this year, the Dr. Seuss story “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” because who wouldn’t want to relive the story’s charm at a chilly (okay, freezing!) 9 degrees? (Not a typo.)
New Yorkers have long relied on major retailers to mark the hols—a lot of people stumble and call the annual Thanksgiving parade “the Macy’s Day Parade.” Lord & Taylor, which many years ago started the Christmas display-window competition with its charming animated holiday scenes, closed its Fifth Avenue mothership last year, ceding the (very expensive) battle for eyeballs to others. Bergdorf Goodman has always veered toward glamour and sophistication, not warm hearths with Ma and Pa in their nightclothes, and has produced a video to show the care and artisanship that go into their windows. (You can find it on Youtube.) Saks Fifth Avenue opened its “Frozen 2”-theme windows by virtually painting the facade of its Fifth Avenue HQ with LED lights that awed the opening-night crowds (but you can wander past at any time and see them).
DC Georgetown Glow
Just another shout-out to this free exhibit in its sixth year on display around the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. A lot more restrained than some of the holiday extravaganzas out there, it’s more an artistic light installation than a kiddie delight. But there’s wit and wonder here too. The Georgetown Business Improvement District, which presents the Glow, offers addresses and a downloadable map on its site.
The lights will glow every night from 5 to 10pm through January 5, 2020. Various locations throughout Georgetown, Washington DC.
Philadelphia Zoo “LumiNature”
While you’re wandering around the extravagant lighting displays of LumiNature, presented by Chase, with Hilton as a partner, the zoo’s inhabitants are tucked away asleep in their dens and lairs. Which allows a 21-foot lighted snake, a 35-foot-tall polar bear and a whole bunch of pink flamingoes (and other exhibits) to take over and dazzle. This is a timed ticketed event, open from 4:30pm till 10:30pm, with the last entry at 8:30pm. Tickets range from $19 to $24, with kids under 2 being free. Through January 5, 2020.
Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia 19104; philadelphiazoo.org.
Bank of America Winter Village in Philadelphia
Winter Village touts its appeal as an authentic German Christmas market, so the Love Park event is open only through Christmas Eve. There are more than 80 vendors selling all manner of European festival foods plus crafts and ornaments and gifts. The event is presented by Bank of America, but the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute and the center-city parks council, along with others, are also sponsors and partners.
Christmas Village 2019, Love Park, 1500 Arch Street, Center City Philadelphia 19102; philachristmas.com. From 11am through 7 or 8pm, depending on the day, until 5pm on Christmas Eve.
Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park in New York
These corporate sponsors ain’t shy: They often put their name first. The Winter Village behind the main branch of the New York Public Library isn’t really about lights. But it is about skating for free, most nights up until 11pm, at the only “free admission ice skating rink” in the city (if you don’t have your own skates, you can pay to rent theirs). Remember that you have to reserve your time slot. It’s also about shopping—the same European foods, as in Philadelphia and Baltimore, plus handcrafts and other gifts. The shops are there through January 5, 2020. The skating rink is open through March 1, 2020.
Note: There is also a Christmas Village in Baltimore, 501 Light Street, Baltimore; same hours as Philadelphia and also through Christmas Eve.