We have no doubt your holiday decorations are lovely, of course, and the others on your block aren’t too shabby, either. But some streets go above and beyond to get in the spirit of the season. Here are six examples, but of course there are many, many others out there, too. If you live nearby, go check them out!
[Image via Patrick Smith Photography]
Peacock Lane in Portland, Oregon
The lovely folks on Peacock Lane have been strutting their stuff on Christmas since the 1920s. This quaint block in southeast Portland includes carolers and bagpipers. “This is not an over the top, see-it-from-outer-space display,” says Sarah Longwell, a resident. “There is a nice mix of newcomers and longtime residents who get involved. Our Christmases here really help us get to know our neighbors. We all work together.”
Peacock Lane is a 100% commercial-free community. The neighbors host a potluck for the homeowners and provide free cocoa and apple cider to visitors. In the past, they have had carriage rides, but not this year. “Since the foot traffic began overflowing onto the streets, we can no longer predict when the police will close it off to vehicles,” says Longwell. But it’s no matter. There are so many other exciting draws. A club of pirate enthusiasts come dressed in full regalia, groups of runners sprint down the lane, and the Portland Chapter of SantaCon makes an appearance.
Don’t miss the famous Grinch house and the house with a beautiful tunnel of light on its stretch of sidewalk. For up-to-date information on when Peacock Lane will be opened only to pedestrians, check the Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Smedley Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Venture into South Philly for this hidden holiday gem on the 2700 block of Smedley Street between Moyamensing and Oregon Avenues. Some 65 years ago, 4 families started the holiday tradition in this Italian neighborhood. Today, all 40 families on the block contribute to the holiday decorations. A big center grass plot called the terrace boasts a three-story-high Evergreen tree, along with holly trees and dogwoods. Every tree is wrapped with lights.
Barbara Oldrati moved here eighteen years ago. “My husband was a cop, so we had to live within city limits, and I told him to just find me a street where I could raise my babies,” she said.
The neighbors begin putting up the lights just after Halloween. They have a big reveal over Thanksgiving Weekend, with a huge block party and a visit from Santa. The festivities last until January 15th, weather permitting. Smedley Street has its own Facebook page, and is open to vehicular traffic. “We put on the light display for the look on the children’s faces,” says Ms. Oldrati. “There’s nothing like it.”
Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York
The New York Times once referred to these lights as Con Ed’s warmest heartthrob. ”The “Dyker Lights" are as Brooklyn as Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, Park Slope’s Food Coop, and The Brooklyn Book Festival. Dyker Heights is a middle-class community with a bastion of Italian-Americans. Notable current and former residents include news anchors Rosanna Scotto and Maria Bartiroma, plus Scott Baio of Happy Days fame.
The holiday tradition got going in the 1970s with Peter Marcolini of 79th Street, who ignited the Dyker Lights obsession. His daughter, Jessica, who still lives in the house with her mother, Janet, reflects on those Christmases of long ago. ”My father died when I was only ten, but the lights keep him alive,” she says–which is precisely why traditions matter.
The brightest displays these days are from 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd Street to 86th Street. You can find a mind-blowing gallery of photos here. Dyker Heights is between subway stops, but the closest ones are the18th Avenue D and M trains and 86th Street R train. Alternatively, take the Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour or a three-and-a-half hour guided bus tour that starts from Union Square in Manhattan at 7 p.m.
Candy Cane Lane in Los Angeles, California
Candy Cane Lane is actually a group of homeowners in Woodland Hills, a neighborhood bordering the Santa Monica Mountains in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. The display here spans eight blocks, but its heart is one intersection–the corner of Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street, where homeowners engage in healthy competition.
A gingerbread house lit from palm to frond aims to outdo an enormous inflatable Santa. There’s artificial snow, live music, and kids selling hot chocolate and holiday snacks. With a playful spirit, neighbors keep up with the Joneses come Christmastime in this one-square mile of ranch homes and electric overload.
The real winners are the families on foot with baby carriers and strollers who are having a blast. On Candy Cane lane, you’ll find the friendliest of family celebrations on the happiest holiday of the year.
37th Street in Austin, Texas
This residential street makes good on the old saw “everything is bigger in Texas.” Just a few blocks from the University of Texas campus, between Guadaloupe and Home Street, the residents put on the funkiest, off-beat light displays in the nation. Leave it to a college town.
Residents here have been known to adorn themselves and even their pets with Christmas lights. Cars, curb lines, sidewalks and lawn chairs light up. It’s downright Austin-tatious. The tradition here began in 1980 with one tree and grew to be one of the most dramatic, quirky displays around. This little street has even been featured on Good Morning America.
When the number of renters on this block increased, the lights went a bit dim, but a former UT student led a revival. Support the second coming of 37th Street as residents get creative again.
[Image via treyerice.com]
[Image via belvedereaustin.com]
34th Street in Baltimore, Maryland
Affectionately known as the “Miracle on 34th Street” homeowners on the 700 block of 34th Street between Chestnut Avenue and Keswick Road in Baltimore’s Hampden Community have been wowing viewers since 1947. The display on this block gives a nod to Baltimore with Natty Boh and crabs. Local metal artist Jim Pollock creates a Christmas tree of hubcaps and snowmen from bicycle wheels. Elaine Doyle-Gillespie lights her home with the theme of peace. This year, the homeowners used the power of their Christmas light display to effect political change.
Neighbors were frustrated by police response to a spate of violent crime in the area. Bob Hosier, a 34th St. resident led the charge on a threat to do away with the famous light display this Christmas. He told local t.v. news, “I think it would have a heck of an effect. I don’t want to go that route, but the problem is no one listens until you rattle the cage, and I’ve rattled the cage.” He lives in the house with the most bling on a block where lights are strung across the roadway, trains alight on rooftops, and Santa is ubiquitous.
This electric power display clearly has political power. When neighbors rallied behind him, town leaders took to local television stations to pledge that police would significantly step up patrols. Bob Hosier told The Baltimore Sun, “I felt pretty comfortable with that.” The homeowners answered the city they love by graciously turning on the Christmas lights.