The holiday season is upon us, and there’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit than to look at the many light displays and Christmas trees around the Chicago area. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and we’ve rounded up the places with the best Christmas lights in Northern Illinois. Grab some hot chocolate, put some Christmas music on in the car, and enjoy one of our favorite holiday traditions!
Lincoln Park Zoo | November 17-January 7
Cost: $7 on Weeknights, $ 10 on Weekends, FREE on Mondays
Sensory-Friendly Visit Night: December 6
ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is honestly one of the best things to do in Chicago around the holidays, and it’s a bonus that it is so affordable. It’s only $5 per person, and it’s free on Monday nights! The zoo is illuminated with millions of lights and holiday music plays as you walk the paths of the beautiful zoo in the heart of Chicago.
You can still see the animals indoors, and sometimes Santa Claus makes an appearance! Be sure to check out the enchanted forest, light maze, and the 18-foot holiday tree in the new Pepper Family Wildlife Center for maximum holiday cheer.
Brookfield Zoo | November 24-26, 30 and December 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-23, 26-31, 2023.
Cost: FREE with Admission
If you love animals and holiday lights, another great place to check out is the Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic. This is Chicagoland’s longest-running lights festival, and the zoo will twinkle with 2 million LED lights!
Kohl Children’s Museum | Select Dates from November 24-December 16
Cost: Prices range from $22 for members $37 for nonmembers
The Kohl Children’s Museum is one of the best places in the Chicago area for toddlers, and they really know how to deliver a light show experience to younger kids. The interactive light installations allow kids to explore with hues and patterns.
It’s a great way for them to learn and get into the holiday spirit simultaneously! Another bonus? Because it’s located in the Chicago suburbs, parking tends to be easier and it’s less crowded than some of the other experiences.
Navy Pier | November 18-January
Cost: $27 for Adults, $17 for Children 3-12
It’s the time of year for Navy Pier’s annual “Light Up the Lake”. This holiday experience is unique because it’s indoors, making it the perfect place for holiday cheer during inclement weather. The experience includes an alpine ice rink, interactive light displays, a birch tree maze, visits with Santa, and more!
Morton Arboretum | November 18-January 6
Cost: Prices range from $10-$32
Nature lovers will love Morton Arboretum’s one-of-a-kind color and light spectacle. It’s a one-mile walking experience on a paved path with festive music and illuminated trees, culminating in a laser light finale.
Chicago Botanic Garden | November 10-January 7
Cost: Prices Range from $22-$32
Chicago Botanic Garden hosts a breathtaking light display that “explores the whimsy of nature in winter through music, light, fire, and color”. The 1.25-mile walking path that is illuminated against the backdrop of the unique gardens will be mesmerizing to people of all ages.
Michigan Avenue between Oak Street and Wacker Drive | November 18
Last year was the 31st year of this annual parade and lights festival. The Grand Marshals,Mickey and Minnie Mouse, travel down Michigan Avenue and “light” the trees along the way. Santa Claus always makes an appearance, and it’s a great kick off to the holiday season in downtown Chicago. They often pass out candy canes to the little ones too!
November 24-December 21
A CTA train gets decked out in holiday decor and Santa and his reindeer wave to riders from an open-air car.
The schedule is listed here so you can plan ahead, but it’s also really exciting when you spot it unexpectedly! To get on the car, it’s just the normal CTA fare, which means it’s a free ride for kids under seven.
This tradition is probably a bit better for older kids, but it can be a very memorable experience. The department store on State Street has a restaurant with a great tree that stands at 45-feet tall. They have breakfast with Santa, tea, and lots of other family events during the holiday season.
Museum of Science and Industry | November 18-January 6
Cost: Included with Museum Admission
This special exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry is a great way to introduce kids to different holiday traditions around the world. The rotunda is decorated with over 50 Christmas trees, each representing a different country. The centerpiece is a four-story, floor-to-dome grand tree.
Santa’s Village Amusement Park | November 24-December 23
Cost: $35 per car
There’s no better place to see Santa than at Santa’s Village! This Drive-Thru display gives you a great view of the lights in the warmth of your vehicle. After the light display, families can get out of their cars and meet Santa for no additional cost.
Six Flags Great America | November 17-December 31
Cost: $39-$49 per car
This drive-through experience at Six Flags Great America is a perfect way to enjoy light sculptures from the comfort of your own car. Join Beti the Yeti through one of the most whimsical light shows in the Chicago Area. On select nights, enjoy the Carousel Lights and Market for photo opportunities, decor, and holiday treats.
This is the largest, free outdoor drive-through light display in Northern Illinois, and it’s located in Aurora, one of the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Enjoy the twinkling snowflakes and dancing Christmas trees with the whole family!
Enjoy this FREE light display put on by the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise. Stroll down Water Street and the Riverwalk in downtown Naperville and enjoy the free, holiday magic.
Impact Field in Rosemont | November 17-December 31
Cost: $24 for ages 13 and up, $18 for ages 2-12
Impact Field, the home of the Chicago Dogs, will be transformed into a sparkling winter wonderland with five illuminated villages, including a “Frozen Forest”, the North Pole, and “Snowflake Circle”. Children will love Rudolph’s Kid Zone, which will have free train rides, letters to Santa, and interactive activities. Don’t miss the two-story ice slide!
Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake | November 18-January 1
Cost: Prices range from $30 per car and up for Drive Thru, $16 per person for pop-up village
Santa’s Rock N Lights is a drive-through dazzling spectacle of light tunnels, giant dinosaurs, polar bears, emojis, and reindeer set to seasonal music. Some new features this year include a pop-up village with ax throwing, ornament making, face painting, and food trucks.
Central Park in Oak Brook | November 23-January 7
Cost: FREE but donations accepted
Come enjoy a half-mile walk through the beautifully lit Central Park in Oak Brook. There will be cascading snowflakes, dancing trees, and inspirational signs. This accessible light display is completely free, but donations are accepted for local charities.
It wouldn’t be a complete list without Chicago’s “official” Christmas tree. The enormous tree near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street will illuminate Millennium Park from late November until early January. It’s right by the McCormick Tribune skating rink if you want some additional winter fun!
The Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook drive-through light display is back for its second year! Drive through light tunnels and see Rudolph and his pals, Frosty, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and an abominable snowman.
Cosley Zoo | November 24-December 30
Cost: FREE but donations are greatly appreciated
This quieter light display, Christmas tree, and wreath sale has become a family favorite tradition, and all proceeds benefit the zoo. There will be a unique assortment of gifts and delicious hot chocolate to keep you warm as you admire the thousands of twinkling lights.
Chicago River between Wells and Lake Street | November 16-December 30
If you want to see a super unique, impressive light installation, be sure to check out the projections on Merchandise Mart. This event happens year round, but from November 16-December 30th, the “MART” will feature projections from works by Yorgo Alexopoulos calel. Grab some hot chocolate on the riverwalk and admire a one-of-a-kind art installation.
22. Lilacia Park Holiday Lights
150 S Park Ave, Lombard, IL 60148 | December 2- December 17
Lilacia Park in Lombard turns into a winter wonderland every year, and it’s an annual event you don’t want to miss. It’s especially great because it’s free and on the smaller side–making it perfect for younger kids. They. have lots of events, including the jingle bell jubilee, a magical elf hunt, polar express night, and more!
42W813 Reinking Rd, Pingree Grove, IL 60140 | November 23-January 6
Cost: $25 per car
Goebbert’s, known for its annual pumpkin patch, is hosting a drive=through holiday light experience this year! They have a special deal on Wednesdays where you can see see two light shows, Goebbert’s and nearby Larsen’s for only $5 extra.
*Note* The light show is at the Pingree Grove location!
The Promenade Bolingbrook is debuting an immersive light experience this year! Sparkling lights, magical candy canes, photo opportunities, and occasional visits with Santa will make this a magical experience for all.
The Commons in New Lenox will feature a 50=foot tall lighted Santa, sparkling holiday lights, horse-drawn carriage rides, visits from Santa, and more on Saturday and Sunday evenings.