The Accidental Locavore was looking for a good way to get in a holiday mood and found it with a Slice of Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour! Tony, who I met on my crazy week, was kind enough to invite me to come along. If you need a jump-start to feel that holiday spirit (and Black Friday doesn’t do it for you, either) jump on the bus and explore a section of Brooklyn where they say fuhgettaboudit to electric bills and carbon footprints!
Between Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, Christmas light competition reaches new levels, not for the faint of heart. If you can stomach a $10,000 Con Ed bill for the month of December, these are your people! Competition runs wild, with some neighbors taking the theme approach (all blue or all white lights) or just throwing everything up and hoping it sticks. And we’re talking everything. 30 foot Santas, lights programmed to blink along with Oh Holy Night, green topiary bears, plastic carolers, you name it, it’s here.
Part of the fun is the enthusiasm of the guides. Paula, Tony’s cousin, was our guide. She’s full of local gossip and definitely has her favorite houses (Note to Sam the Greek: she wants to meet your sons). Michelle, who was also on the pizza tour, and Edwin (the remarkable bus driver) made for a great team.
If you’re not sure where Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights are, they straddle the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (one of the world’s longest suspension bridges). Even though you’re less than a half hour from Manhattan, you’re worlds away. We started in Bay Ridge, the classier ‘hood, according to our guide (not going to tell you which one). Massive villas overlooking the water were covered in lights. This was the neighborhood where monochromatic lighting schemes reigned supreme. The flashiest (and this title is not easily given out) house was the all-blue one, which is probably visible from outer space. My favorite was the one next door with a garden full of savage looking stone animals, toned down with wreaths of white lights.
After that, on to Dyker Heights, or as it’s known this time of year, Dyker Lights. This is the scene of massive excess! You’re considered a slacker if every square inch of your house is not swathed in lights, animated, synchronized and orchestrated. As someone near me said, “How on earth do they even get in their houses?” Oh, and here, it also seems you need someone dressed up as (pick one) Elmo, a reindeer, a snowman and/or Santa, to hand out candy canes. The undisputed champion here is the home of the late Al Palazato, where the 30’ Santa holds court. Sam the Greek, gets a special mention for covering all four sides of his house along with the garage. His displays, a mere 250,000 lights, with over 20, 000 just on his Christmas tree.
How to end all this excess? With a steaming cappuccino and cannoli at a local spot, Mona Lisa. If you had time, you could join in the dancing and karaoke (to tunes like Volare) with the locals.
Back on the bus heading home, vintage Christmas variety shows (including Chaz Bono when he was Chastity). My suggestion? Jump on the bus early in the season. The weather was great for roaming around and the traffic was manageable, both things that will only get worse as we get closer to Christmas.