Growing up in Brooklyn, the holiday activity that my family and I enjoyed the most was taking a drive to see the Christmas light displays around the neighborhood. During the 60’s and 70’s, the Christmas decorations were the majority, although we’d occasionally see the Menorahs and lit candles in windows. But somewhere along the line, since the invention of the lightbulb, the competition for the most brightly lit home began, and some neighborhoods were known for their majestic displays that could be seen even by planes flying overhead. And those were the ones we’d head out to see. Some neighborhoods even became infamous for their displays, like Dyker Heights, Canarsie, and Marine Park. I’m sure there were more, but these were our regulars. It was a cozy way to enjoy the season, taking these rides in my parents’ ’57 Chevy, and then the blue Pontiac on cold, clear nights, knowing that when we got back home, there’d be a hot chocolate to warm us up. Simple times.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has taken this tradition and ramped it up with their Drive-Thru Holiday Light Show, called “Peace, Love & Lights.” (What else!). Set on the site of the Woodstock 1969 concert, in Sullivan County, the site already offers concerts, workshops and seasonal events throughout the year, but now they’ve taken advantage of their 800-acres to create a light display like no other. Of course, “peace, love and lights” is the central theme, but others highlight the amenities of the area, like fishing, skiing, and hiking – the activities that make this part of New York such a popular destination for the city dweller.
The drive is a slow and steady crawl, with headlights off, throughout the over mile and a half of the displays, passing Snowflake Alley, Candy Cane Lane, and, of course, Groovy Way. Once tuned to 107.7 on the radio dial, we hear the best holiday songs, old and new, to complete the experience. Once the drive is done, head to the Holiday Hub for snacks, hot beverages, and marshmallows for roasting on the outdoor fire pits, and where kids can ask their pressing questions to one of Santa’s reindeer, like the toddler who asked what does Santa feed them on Christmas Eve. Things like that.
As we meandered the slow drive, one sight caught my eye – a super-duper, ginormous peace sign spread out on the ground lit up with thousands of lights, certainly visible to those on the planes passing by in the night skies overhead. Yes, peace; can’t say it enough.
The light show is on until January 2, 2022. The Museum at Bethel Woods is also open at a discounted admission (with light show ticket), and the gift shop is open for last-minute holiday shopping.
Photo of Santa’s sleigh by MJ Hanley-Goff. All others, courtesy of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.