Winter WonderLights at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside

Modern, environmentally-friendly LED lighting technology and state-of-the-art theatrical equipment are the backbones of a massive new holiday lights extravaganza taking place this season at Sunnyside, the historic Tarrytown homestead of author Washington Irving.

Taking inspiration from Irving’s famous tale of Rip Van Winkle, the team that creates the wildly popular Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in October, is transforming Sunnyside’s woodlands into a larger-than-life dreamscape of Rip’s visions during his 20 winters of sleep.

Irving didn’t tell us much about what Rip experienced during his slumber thus providing plenty of opportunity for creative interpretation.

Winter WonderLights is a walk-through experience into and through a charming wooded landscape featuring peaks, valleys, and towering ancient trees. Visitors will discover fields of ice sculptures, life-sized eco-sculpted animals, a supersized candyland forest, magical creatures, flowers, toadstools, and more. All sculptures are made on site and many are created entirely from light. Winter WonderLights takes place for 17 evenings, Dec. 11-14, 18-23, 26-30, and Jan. 2-3. Information and tickets are online at All proceeds support the non-profit Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based educational and preservation organization that owns and operates Sunnyside as a museum of history.

A Green Dream

Though visitors to Winter WonderLights will be immersed in tens of thousands of points of light, green modern technology promises an environmentally-friendly experience.

The vast majority of light will be coming from LED sources which are super energy efficient. For example, one installation includes a massive LED light curtain. Despite its size, the light curtain uses only half as much power as a hair dryer. Similarly, the entire walkway through the woods will be lined with white LED string lighting. All of those lights combined also use only half the amount of energy as a hair dryer.

Another installation features two miles of electroluminescent wire. This is the same technology that backlights a cell phone, and the energy output of the entire two-mile strand is barely measurable. All two miles of it can be plugged into the same circuit.

For many of the sculptures, the team used recycled and repurposed material. Icicles and ice cave formations use recycled plastic but look completely realistic and magical when lit up.

Other green examples include Winter WonderLights’ life-sized animals, which were "eco-sculpted" using fallen trees limbs and branches from the woodlands. Large wooden wire spools are being used as the body for magical toadstools.

Admission to the event is per car, rather than per person, which encourages carpooling and good old-fashioned holiday togetherness.

Historic Hudson Valley members may attend for free on selected nights but need to make advance reservations either online or by phone. Member tickets include a free shuttle service from the nearby DoubleTree Hotel in Tarrytown as well as free cookies and cider.

‘Premiere Experience’

Holiday light displays at homes are a tradition in our area, and the Bronx Zoo was known for its traditional December display. But this year, the Zoo decided to refocus its special holiday programming, launching a new animal-centric daytime event instead.

Waddell Stillman, President of Historic Hudson Valley, said, "With the Bronx Zoo opting not to do a holiday lights display this year, we feel very confident this will be New York’s premiere holiday lights experience."

Video-savvy visitors are encouraged to enter the Winter WonderLights YouTube Video Contest by filming the event, editing their work, and uploading their video (three minutes or less) to YouTube. Four iPod touch prizes, provided by 100.7 WHUD, will be awarded to the four videos that best capture the creativity and excitement of Winter WonderLights. Full contest details and requirements are available online at

Tickets and information are available online at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recommended For You

About the Author: Rob Schweitzer