The holiday season officially starts with the flip of the first switch of a string of lights. In the case of Chicagoland’s light spectacles, being socially distant is easy as many have transitioned to drive-through displays. For the outdoor versions, ticketing is staggered so that families can still enjoy everything about the weather, the hot cocoa and the season of fun!
Looking for a fun seasonal activity to enjoy during your trip? Download our free Holiday Light Scavenger Hunt printable and see if you can find all of the holiday items.
Note: We’re updating our website as quickly as we can, but changes may occur due to COVID-19. Please double check before heading out for the most updated information on ticket availability, safety precautions and any last-minute closings. Stay safe!
When: Nov. 12-Dec. 30
Where: View show from Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street
After the cancellation of The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker in 2020, Joffrey is teaming up with Art on theMART on a new digital art display featuring music of Tchaikovsky’s score. Projections will daily at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Each presentation lasts for 30 minutes.
When: Nov. 14-Jan. 7
Where: Downtown Naperville, 120 Water Street, Naperville
For fans of Naper Lights, the holiday twinkles are at a new location this year: Downtown Naperville! You can find the lights on Water Street and along the Riverwalk. You’ll still enjoy a winter wonderland of lights and music. Naperville’s Santa House is also on the Riverwalk (click here for Santa’s schedule).
When: Nov. 15-Jan. 9
Where: Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Road, Northbrook
Cost: $29.99-$49.99 per vehicle
Be immersed into a wonderland of light displays synchronized to holiday classics from the comfort of your own car. Drive past archways, candy canes, snowmen and more as you experience a show unlike any other!
Credit: The Magnificent Mile/Facebook
When: Nov. 22, 6 p.m.
Although there will not be a live BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival parade this year, ABC 7 promises an hour of exciting performances, Disney surprises, and magical moments capped off with the thrilling illumination of trees that line Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Tune in as ABC 7’s Cheryl Burton and Alan Krashesky are slated to serve as hosts. The lights will remain on all season long for families that want to drive down the Mag Mile to enjoy the sights.
Photo Credit: Christopher Bijalba
When: Nov. 22-Jan. 3 (Select days: Check website for exact dates)
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago
Cost: $5, reservations required (some free days available)
Features hundreds of luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities, all under the glow of millions of illuminated lights, plus reduced capacity admission to keep families safe. Animal buildings will be closed, but some can be visible in their outdoor habitats.
When: Nov. 27-Dec. 27, select days
Where: Six Flags Great America, 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee
Families can walk through more than 2 1/2 million dazzling holiday lights that are spread throughout the 300 acres of Six Flags Great America. Timed and staggered ticking will encourage social distancing and socially distanced photo opportunities with costumed characters will be available. Watch out for seasonal treats and surprises.
When: Nov. 27-Dec.27
Where: Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive, Aurora
Cost: Free (Donations appreciated)
Featuring colorful holiday displays on their one-mile trail, Aurora Festival of Lights is open everyday from 5-9 p.m. View the lights from the warmth of your car as your drive through Phillips Park.
When: Nov. 27-Dec. 30
Where: 1356 N. Gary Ave., Wheaton
Cost: Free, timed tickets required
Come at 3 p.m., when the lights turn on daily. This light show is perfect for your littles, who will still love the smaller scale of lights and can see zoo animals as well. Plus, they can easily explore in smaller crowds!
When: Nov. 27-Dec. 31
Where: Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield
Cost: Free with admission
See more than a million twinkling lights, stop at the 41-foot tall tree and new for 2020 families can search for gnomes in a scavenger hunt throughout the park. A life-sized cutout of Santa will be available for selfies, since the jolly elf is quarantining this holiday season.
Illumination – Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
When: Nov. 27-Jan. 3
Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
Cost: $29-$64 per vehicle
Illumination is a reimagined driving experience featuring new displays, a customized music soundtrack and returning favorites. Guests will remain in their cars and tune to a synced musical soundtrack via radio while driving nearly two miles among the Arboretum’s majestic trees. In prior years, the exhibition was along a one-mile walking path.
When: Dec. 4-5, 11-13, 18-23, 26-31, Jan. 2-3
Where: Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd, Glenview
Cost: $22 per person; timed ticket required
Walk through Kohl Children’s Museum’s newest light display, an interactive outdoor activity. Using “light wands” kids can project lights across the grass, spin a crank to cascade lights through the color wheel, push buttons to project lights on trees, send patterns of color winding through the hills and follow moving blocks on a color walk. In the end, kids can make their color stick join a lighted mosaic.
The Forge – Lemont Quarries Globe Dining
When: Saturdays-Sundays, Dec. 18-Jan. 18 (dates changed after Illinois entered Tier 3 Mitigation)
Where: The Forge – Lemont Quarries, 1001 Main Street, Lemont
Cost: Free with Forge admission
Guests can experience a special holiday light show coordinated to the sounds of the season. Stop by and cozy up next to fire pits while enjoying drinks and bites from The Foundry’s new winter menu. The light show will be displayed on the trees lining The Forge Quarry.
Note: This event is sold out.
When: Nov. 13-Jan. 3
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
Cost: $24-$28 adults, $12-$15 kids, free children under 3; timed reservations required
In its second year, Chicago Botanic Garden marvels visitors with its very own holiday light display. Stroll through the mile-long path with your family to see colorful lights and a choir of singing trees.
Photo Credit: JB Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Note: The museum will temporarily close to the public starting Nov. 20 until further notice. Please check their website for any updates.
When: Nov. 13-Jan. 3, 2021
Where: Museum of Science & Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Cost: Free with admission; timed reservations required
The Museum of Science & Industry’s fantastic holiday exhibits feature more than 50 trees, representing countries, cultures and Christmas and non-Christmas traditions around the globe. On the weekends, you can also enjoy live holiday performances.
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.
This article originally updated on Nov. 25, 2019. It has been updated with the most recent information.