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Jones Beach Magic of Lights

Familia Mendez and family, of Huntington Station, took the trek out to Jones Beach for its annual light show this year. Photo from Mendez

By Angela Palumbo

No matter where one may be on Long Island, there is a drive-thru light show available for you, but make sure to plan some extra time when thinking about attending.

The space above spectators heads glows at the Jones Beach Miracle of Lights display. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Long Islanders are eager to participate in holiday fun, but with the coronavirus pandemic causing the shutdown of many holiday activities, more and more locals are looking for events that are COVID safe and fun for the whole family.

With people turning to holiday light displays to get into the holiday spirit this year, the vast amount of people going to the displays seems to be causing longer wait times than usual.

With the most popular Long Island display being the Jones Beach Magic of Light’s show, normally, hundreds of thousands of people take the trek to Nassau for the colorful, festive experience.

“The $25.00 was well worth the money, especially since it was a safe way to experience some holiday spirit during COVID,” said Christina Seaman Meixsell, from Northport. “It was totally worth it.”

Familia Mendez, from Huntington Station, said she also enjoyed bringing her family to Jones Beach this year.

“We went two years ago to the same show and we decided to go again this year and my kids were thrilled and happy to go,” Mendez said. “The lights and decorations made us feel the feeling of Christmas. They have done an awesome job.”

But is the Jones Beach Magic of Lights display the best option for all Long Islanders? Even with its popularity and success, the Jones Beach show has run into issues this year with longer lines than usual.

Jenna Schmitt from Rockaway, Queens, tried to go to the show on Dec 5, but because of the long line, she and the people she travelled with had to turn around in the middle of waiting.

“We went there at 8:45 p.m. and the opposite side of the parkway was backed up all the way to where the line started,” Schmitt said. “Then, we decided that it wasn’t worth the wait, but we had to sit in an hour and a half of traffic to finally be able to get off of it.”

Because so many people tried to leave the long line, Schmitt said her car never made it to the turnaround, and herself and other cars drove on the grass and took a side street to exit.

Some locals have decided to go to other shows on Long Island that are closer to their homes and less popular to avoid the wait.

One of several light-based creations of the Smith Point Light Show. Photo from Smith Point Light Show website

Alexandra Wasser from Dix Hills prefers the Smith Point Light Show located in Shirley, a smaller display compared to the Jones Beach Magic of Lights Show.

“It brings a jolly mind set to you and it really brings a lot of joy to the Christmas season,” Wasser said. “It’s just a nice way to spend time with family and friends. It’s a quick little bonding holiday activity. It’s great during COVID because you just have to sit in the car and it’s safe.”

The Smith Point Light Show has been a part of the Long Island community for 17 years and is run by the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County and the office of the Suffolk County Executive.

“Planning for the Smith Point Light Show begins in January,” said Tammy Severino, representative of Girl Scouts of Suffolk County. “We work with our light display company to choose our displays for December. We also work closely with the County of Suffolk to ensure all permits and safety measures are in place.”

According to Severino, over 55,000 people attended the Smith Point light show last year. With Long Islanders looking for holiday activities that are COVID safe, event organizers are expecting more people to attend the show than ever before. The Smith Point light show has taken measures to manage potentially longer wait lines than usual.

“Visitors have the choice of pre-purchasing tickets that can be used for any date and time that the show is open, so the option to attend earlier in the week during less-busy times is always available,” Severino said. “Additionally, we have security personnel managing the line and we open a second ticket window on busy nights to facilitate traffic flow into the show.”

Another light show on Long Island is the Riverhead Holiday Light Show, located in Calverton. This show takes place Thursday through Sunday until Dec 21, when it will run every day that week leading up to Dec. 30. Unlike the Magic of Lights show at Jones Beach and the Smith Point Light Show in Shirley, only cars can come through the Riverhead Holiday Light Show, excluding buses and limos.

To avoid long wait times for any of these displays, all of the shows sell tickets in advance and encourage attendees to come during the week.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting.