Updated for 2023! The 2023 holiday season is here, and the Chicago area has a lot to offer for holiday events and activities. Festivals including Krampus fests and Christkindlmarkets can be found throughout the Chicago area as well as shows and other festivities. Families are also making their plans to get together for the holidays.
Each holiday season, there is a wide variety of Christmas light displays throughout the Chicago area including the city and suburbs. Many of these light displays are up until the new year which gives you plenty of time to arrange visits with your family and take in multiple displays. Visiting Christmas light displays is a fun activity, and you can view the displays on foot and or from your vehicle in cold weather.
When people think of Christmas trees and other holiday decorations, holly trees and pines are typically the first that come to mind. The dark green leaves and bright red drupes of holly trees are found on wreaths and other decorations while pine trees are commonly used as Christmas trees. However, the holiday light displays found throughout the Chicago area do not limit themselves to just these types of trees. Trees of all types are lit up this time of year with bright, colorful holiday lights to celebrate the season. All throughout Chicagoland, residents can view impressive light displays in cities, parks, and even in their own neighborhoods.
Taking in Christmas tree light displays is a favorite holiday season past time for many. Some events may charge a fee to enter but there are also plenty of opportunities to see Christmas tree lights without spending a dime. In this guide, we will highlight the best places where you can see Christmas tree light displays throughout the city of Chicago and the suburbs. Visiting these impressive light displays is a safe family activity for this holiday season.
If you want to make sure your trees receive the proper care that they need to survive the winter, call our experts at Hendricksen Tree Care. We provide complete tree services including tree trimming to get your trees prepared for the winter.
Aurora’s Festival of Lights
The first holiday light display is the Aurora Festival of Lights that takes place in Philips Park in Aurora, IL. The Aurora Festival of Lights is a giant display sprawled out through the entire park that includes lights shaped like reindeer, elves, and stockings as well as lights on the trees. This display is free to attend, and it is open starting November 25 through December 25 from 5 pm to 9 pm every day of the week. Admission is free but you must register for tickets.
Lehnertz Avenue Christmas Display
The Lehnertz Avenue Christmas Display is a neighborhood display that is also in Aurora, IL. Each year, the residents of Lehnertz Avenue put out lights and displays that depict the birth of Jesus Christ as well as lit up Peanuts characters. Visitors drive through the neighborhood to take in the lights and displays that illuminate the entire street. The drive down Lehnertz Ave concludes at a life-size, brightly lit up Nativity scene. This display is free to attend, and people can visit from 5 pm to 10:30 pm from December 10 through January 5. The hours are 5 pm to midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Festival of Lights Winter Walk
The Festival of Lights Winter Walk in Bolingbrook is behind the Town Center and features many light displays around the pond. There are also several events happening throughout the season at the Winter Walk including Bonfire & S’mores, Hot Chocolate with Santa, and Senior Nights. This event is free to attend and open December 2 through January 7 from dusk until 10:00 pm.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo is a big holiday light display spread out across the entire zoo. This display includes ice sculptures, a 41-foot talking Christmas tree, and more than a million lights. Visitors can see the light display at Brookfield Zoo November 24-26 and 30, and December 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-23, and 26-31, 2023 from 3 until 9 pm. It is free for members to attend, but non-members must buy tickets.
Christmas Tree in Millennium Park
Each year, a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree is decorated with several thousand Christmas lights in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. This tall tree really stands out against the Chicago skyline as its backdrop and it is right around the corner from other popular holiday activities such as the Christkindlmarket that happens in Daly Plaza. Visitors can see the Christmas tree from November 17, 2023 until January 7, 2024 and there is no cost to walk through Millennium Park.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry
The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light displays are annual displays at the Museum of Science and Industry that have been a tradition since 1942. The main Christmas tree of this display is four stories tall and there are more than 50 smaller Christmas trees and displays that surround the main tree. Each tree is decorated to represent holiday traditions from other cultures and countries. Visitors can see these displays in the museum from mid-November through January 7 and the price is included in the museum entrance fee.
The Magnificent Mile
Each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Magnificent Mile transforms into a mile-long holiday light display that consists of Christmas trees and more than a million lights. Visitors can walk up and down the Mag Mile, taking in the festive light display while visiting the famous shops and restaurants. While shopping on the Magnificent Mile can cost you, it is free to walk the strip and view the holiday light displays.
Lincoln Park Zoo Zoolights
For the past 25 years, the Lincoln Park Zoo has put on the Zoolights festival featuring holiday light displays throughout the zoo. This event features around 2.5 million lights and other holiday festivities such as holiday crafts and Santa Claus. Zoolights runs from November 17 through January 7 from 4:30 pm to 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and 4:30 pm to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and select special dates. Admission is free on Mondays, $7 on weeknights, and $10 on Fridays, Saturdays, and special dates.
Light Up the Lake
Light Up the Lake is an impressive indoor Christmas light display at Navy Pier. Visitors can enjoy the 42-foot-tall Christmas tree along with thousands of lights in the 170,000 square foot indoor space protected from the harsh winter weather. In addition to the Christmas tree and light displays, Light Up the Lake includes an indoor skating rink, Ferris wheel, live snow globe, and other attractions. This festival runs from November 24 through December 31 and those visiting must buy tickets for the event.
Illumination – Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
The Morton Arboretum covers more than 50 acres in Lisle, IL and during the Christmas season, the trees of the arboretum are lit up for its Illumination festival. This a different kind of Christmas light display as the trees themselves are not decorated with holiday lights. Rather, interactive lighting effects are used to illuminate the trees as visitors walk down the path. The lights highlight the beauty of the trees and holiday music accentuates the display. This event runs from November 18 through January 6 and visitors must buy a ticket to attend.
Sparkle Light Festival at Impact Field in Rosemont
The Sparkle Light Festival is a holiday light display and festival taking place at Impact Field in Rosemont. This large, immersive display features over one million holiday lights in five themed-based illuminated villages with timed light shows. Guests can also enjoy train rides, mazes, and a winter tubing slide as well as food and drinks. This display runs from mid-November through December 31 and visitors can buy tickets for entry to the festival and premium ticket packages with add-on experiences.
Chicago Botanic Garden Lightscape in Glencoe
Lightscape is a holiday light display at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe that features thousands of twinkling lights, music, and a fire garden. The display also includes the iconic Winter Cathedral. This event runs from November 10 through January 7 from 4:30 to 11 pm. Visitors must buy tickets.
Kohlights at Kohl Children’s Museum
Kohlights is an immersive holiday light display at the Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview. The interactive light display allows children to change the light and colors of the display using glow stick learning wands so they can explore different hues and patterns. The event is running at the museum November 24-26, and December 1-2, 8-9, and 15-16. Visitors must buy museum tickets to enter, members get a $5 discount.
Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo
The Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton features displays with more than 20,000 lights and lighted animal figures. The zoo also has a sale during the festival that includes Christmas trees, wreaths, and greenery. This festival runs from November 24 through December 30 from 3 pm to 9 pm. The zoo is closed on Christmas Day and open from 9 am to 12 pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It is free to get into the zoo, but donations are appreciated.
Holiday Lights in Lilacia Park in Lombard
The holiday lights display in Lilacia Park is put on by the Lombard Park District. The display includes light shows, trees decorated with holiday lights, a gingerbread house, and complimentary hot cocoa and cookies for kids who visit Santa on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. You can visit the light display from December 2 through January 1 from 4:30 pm to 10 pm every day of the week. It is free to attend, and donations of unused and unwrapped toys are accepted.
Willow Hill Lights
Willow Hill Lights is a drive through holiday light display at the Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook, IL. This drive through display has a 2.5-mile route that goes through three tunnels and features more than one million LED lights. The light display includes a 30-foot Christmas tree and characters such as Rudolph, Frosty, and more. You can visit this display from November 17 through January 6, 7 days a week after 5 pm. Visitors must purchase one ticket per vehicle.
World of Illumination Arctic Adventure
The Arctic Adventure is a drive through light display hosted by World of Illumination at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL. This display is set up in the parking lot with plenty of lights and winter characters. You can visit this display on select nights between November 17 and December 31. There is also a Carousel Lights & Market that includes holiday treats and décor on select nights. Visitors must purchase tickets.
Naper Lights in Downtown Naperville
Naper Lights is a holiday light display on Water Street in downtown Naperville, IL. This display includes lights and sound and stretches down Water Street into Foyo Plaza, Jaycees Park, and the Riverwalk. The light display is up from November 23 through December 31 from 4 pm to 10 pm and it is free to attend.
Winter Tree Care Services from Hendricksen Tree Care Throughout Chicagoland
If you love to see Christmas light displays with your family, check out the events listed above to see the most impressive tree displays that the Chicago area has to offer. There are several light displays that happen in some of the most popular areas in Chicago and many of these events are totally free to visit. Regardless of which combination of events you choose to attend, you will be treated to some of the most impressive Christmas tree lights and light displays throughout the Chicago area.
It is important to remember that your trees may be in need of maintenance before the winter weather fully sets in. Certain fertilizer treatments and winter tree pruning can help your trees better survive the harsh Chicago winter season. Make sure you call our professional arborists at Hendricksen Tree Care to give your trees a final inspection and the care they need to survive the cold weather and grow back strong in the spring.