Get us in your inbox

Search
Belton House Christmas Lights
Photograph: Alex Hewitt

Where to see twinkling Christmas lights in Chicago

Celebrate the holidays at these gorgeous light displays throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp
Advertising

Few sights jumpstart feelings of holiday cheer quite like sparkling Christmas lights—and lucky for us, the Chicago area has plenty of stunning options to choose from. Here in the city, take a stroll down Michigan Avenue or visit Lincoln Park Zoo's famed ZooLights installation, which is free on Mondays and features a glowing Ferris wheel this year. You'll also find impressive lights downtown at the City of Chicago Christmas tree at Millennium Park, which is lit during an annual ceremony that's happening November 18 this year. 

Where are Christmas lights in the Chicago suburbs? 

Looking for even more festive displays? If you’re willing to drive, suburban installations fill some of the area’s most beautiful parks and gardens with miles upon miles of elaborate light designs. You can also check out brand new exhibits, like an expansive option in Rosemont complete with tubing and train rides, or a revamped winter festival that's headed to Tinley Park. Discover some of the best things to do during Christmas in Chicago this year with our guide to the area's most beautiful holiday lights. 

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Christmas in Chicago

Christmas lights in Chicago and the suburbs

  • Things to do
  • Late openings
  • Lincoln Park

To see one of the largest displays of holiday lights within city limits, you need to head to Lincoln Park Zoo, where the annual ZooLights display strings up millions of LED blubs. While most of the animals will be keeping warm inside, visitors are free to wander through the park, snapping photos of the various displays and taking part in a variety of activities throughout the holiday season.There are some new ticketed features to look forward to this year—including a Ferris wheel for ogling the lights from a bird's eye view—and as always, guests will also be able to enjoy hot beverages and snacks at stands throughout the park.

Just like last year, a $5 admission fee will be charged throughout most of the week, with free admission tickets on Mondays. Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo website for information on special ticketed events during ZooLights, including the BrewLights beer festival and a musical tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Suburbs

The Chicago Botanic Garden hosts this annual (and quick to sell out) display of festive lights, giving guests a host of shimmering reasons to visit the forest preserve during the holiday season. Set along an illuminated path, the after-dark experience features a series of installations to explore, including a 110-foot tunnel made up of 100,000 lights and a group of trees festooned in bulbs that "sing" holiday songs. This year, check out new exhibits like Starscape, a series of more than 700 handmade acrylic stars lighting up a 130-foot-long tunnel.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

After debuting a glittery holiday spectacle last year in Rosemont, the Amaze Light Festival is headed to a larger venue in Tinley Park this winter with five themed light-up exhibits, photo ops, a holiday market and more stunning seasonal attractions to explore. General admission tickets include access to the light shows, shops and food and beverage areas, but visitors can also opt for exciting ticket add-ons like Zing's Thrill Hill (an all-ages tubing hill) or the Arctic Express train. 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

Ready to get into the holiday spirit? The Morton Arboretum's annual holiday light show returns for its 10th anniversary this year as a mile-long, walk-through spectacle of LED lights and music, featuring a blend of new and returning light displays set amid 50 acres of trees. New features for 2022 include "Electric Illumination," a series of late-night parties with DJ-curated playlists that will synchronize progressive and trance house beats with the light shows, as well as a special finale exhibit in the arboretum's new Grand Garden. Timed entry tickets for Illumination, which will run from November 19 through January 7, go on sale October 1—keep an eye out for 20 percent off deals on select Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from event sponsor ComEd.  

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Millennium Park

Every year, Millennium Park is adorned with an epic Christmas tree that remains on display until the beginning of the new year. The larger-than-life attraction is festooned with twinkling lights and crowned with an illuminated star. Spectators can check out the festive tree near Washington Street and Michigan Avenue through Sunday, January 8. Want to see the tree light up for the first time this season? The annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony returns this year on Friday, November 18 starting at 6pm.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Each November, the Magnificent Mile rings in the start of the holiday season with a parade and other festive activities along Michigan Avenue, arguably the city's most well-decorated strip during the holidays. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is always nice to see, but we think you'll find there's still plenty of holiday cheer to be found in taking a stroll along the street on any random evening during the season (and best of all, it's free)! 

Advertising
  • Attractions

Rosemont's Impact Field (home to the Chicago Dogs) hosts the inaugural Sparkle Light Festival, which will house millions of holiday lights among winter attractions like train rides, themed mazes, tubing and tons of other wintry attractions. Wander through five themed "villages" of lights and visit a kids zone filled with interactive activities for little ones. Older attendees can also spring for the fest's $70 Rivers Stadium Club Tickets, which include access to a premium buffet, drinks and unlimited tubing rides on the Alpine Slide. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Hyde Park

Every year, the Museum of Science and Industry puts up its four-story Grand Tree and surrounds the towering pine with more than 50 trees that represent Chicago's various communities and their respective holiday celebrations. Visitors will be able to take in even more seasonal cheer at the accompanying "Holidays of Light" exhibit, which recognizes the traditions of Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day and St. Lucia Day. Admission to "Christmas Around the World" and "Holidays of Light" is included with a regular Museum of Science and Industry ticket.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

More than one million lights cover the trees, fences and structures in the Brookfield Zoo at this annual holiday event, which is open for its 41st year this season. Guests can walk through a 600-foot-long tunnel featuring colored lights synchronized to music, spot larger-than-life illuminated animal sculptures and warm up with concessions such as funnel cakes, pizza, spiced wine and hot cocoa. 

  • Things to do
  • Loop

See Christmas lights without leaving your car at Shine Light Shows, a pandemic-era innovation that allows visitors to drive through a gleaming tunnel of more than one million LED lights synchronized with holiday music. This year, the show will offer locations in Northbrook (Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Rd) and Schaumburg (Wintrust Field, 1999 S Springinsguth Rd). 

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Streeterville

Too cold outside? Navy Pier brings all of the winter fun indoors during the holiday season, filling its gigantic 170,000-square-foot Festival Hall with a regulation-size Alpine ice skating rink, kiddie train rides and a 600,000-bulb light show made up of themed sculptures. This year, guests can also check out new attractions like a lit-up maze of birch trees, interactive light sculptures and a reflection pond for resting and photo ops. Each Light Up the Lake ticket also  includes a ride on Navy Pier's 200-foot Centennial Wheel—don't worry, all of the gondolas are fully enclosed and heated!

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising

      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!