Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right Where to see dazzling Christmas lights in Chicago

Where to see dazzling Christmas lights in Chicago

The weather outside is frightful, but these twinkling Christmas lights in Chicago are downright delightful

Advertising
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Everyone has their favorite holiday traditions and must-visit Chicago Christmas events, but nothing compares to an evening spent gazing at shimmering lights displays. Throughout December (and much of November), Christmas lights in Chicago are strung up at Lincoln Park Zoo, along the Magnificent Mile and inside the Museum of Science and Industry. You can even spot some DIY displays in some of Chicago's most beautiful neighborhoods. Bundle up, get outside to peep these dazzling Christmas lights in Chicago before New Year's Eve. (You can even pregame your outing with the steamiest hot chocolate Chicago has to offer.) Use our guide to find some of the brightest spots in Chicago and the suburbs.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Christmas in Chicago

Christmas lights in Chicago and the suburbs

1
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do, Late openings

ZooLights

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL, Lincoln Park
icon-calendar

Unless you've got a big budget, your Chirstmas light display won't hold an LED candle to the 2.5 million bulbs that festoon Lincoln Park Zoo during the annual ZooLights event. While most of the animals will be inside, guests are free to wander through the park, snap photos of the display and take part in a variety of activities throughout the holiday season. Ice sculpture carving, strolling carolers and Santa are regular fixtures of the event, but you'll also find ticketed happenings like a holiday market (Dec 3), an adults-only night (Dec 5), a live performance of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec 15) and a Zoo Year's Eve celebration (Dec 31).

2
Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Festivals

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
icon-calendar

Ring in the holiday shopping season at this two-day festival that takes place on Michigan Avenue. The fun begins on Friday, November 22, when Pioneer Court hosts family-friendly activities (including a visit from Santa Claus) and treats from Garrett Popcorn, Frango and Eli’s Cheesecake. On Saturday, November 23, stores on the Magnificent Mile will offer special experiences and offers throughout the day, before Michigan Avenue hosts a two-hour tree-lighting parade led by Grand Marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, which sets off from Oak Street at 5:30pm. Head to the Chicago River by 6:55pm to catch the spectacular fireworks display that closes out the evening.

Advertising
3
Illumination
Photograph: Courtesy Morton Arboretum
Things to do, Festivals

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

icon-location-pin Morton Arboretum, Suburbs
icon-calendar

When the weather gets cold, the trees at Morton Arboretum light up in a sea of color at this popular winter event. Guests at Illumination walk down a one-mile path through the forest, admiring the magical display and seasonal music. Enjoy the display while strolling along a one-mile path and then warm up by a crackling fire with hot beverages and s’mores.

4
1113.chi.05.wwfattractions.jpg
Things to do, Festivals

Winter WonderFest

icon-location-pin Navy Pier, Festival Hall,
icon-calendar

Too cold outside? Navy Pier brings all of the winter fun indoors, filling its gigantic 170,000-square-foot Festival Hall with an ice skating rink, carnival rides, a tubing hill, seasonal activities and piles of holiday decorations. Bring the kids and avoid the slush for an afternoon or show up on New Year's Eve (when the attraction is open until 10pm) to slide around the fake ice during the final hours of 2019. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

Advertising
5
Photograph: J.B. Spector
Things to do, Exhibitions

“Christmas Around the World”

icon-location-pin Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL, Hyde Park
icon-calendar

Every year, the Museum of Science and Industry puts up its 45-foot-tall Grand Tree and surrounds the towering pine with more than 50 trees that represent Chicago's various communities and their respective holiday celebrations. Visitors can admire the 30,000 lights that cover the trees and stick around for the "snow" that falls from the rotunda every 30 minutes. During the weekend, live performances of holiday music fill the room, lending some additional seasonal cheer to your day at the museum.

6
Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Things to do, Performances

City of Chicago Christmas Tree

icon-location-pin Millennium Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park
icon-calendar

Every year, Chicago's front lawn (er, 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—and it's not too far of a walk from Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Spectators can check out the festive tree near Washington Street and Michigan Avenue through Sunday, January 6, 2020. To see the tree's big debut, head to Millennium Park at 6pm on Friday, November 22, when the city hosts a lighting ceremony headined by Grammy award-winning South African singer-songwriter Jonathan Butler. The evening will also include performances from mariachi group Cielito Lindo and the cast of Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish - The Musical, as well as appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus (the mayor usually shows up, too).

Advertising
7
Bars, Pubs

Butch McGuire’s

icon-location-pin Gold Coast

There's nothing subtle about the holiday decor at this Division Street bar. Each year, the owners of Butch McGuire's cover the ceiling with strings of shiny LED lights and set up a toy train that zooms around the room. In December, it's not uncommon to find coworkers and friends gazing upwards to admire the festive display, which coexists with the Irish saloon's collection of antique beer paraphernalia and model ships.

8
1113.chi.05.wwfattractions.jpg
Things to do, Festivals

Winter WonderFest

icon-location-pin Navy Pier, Festival Hall,
icon-calendar

Too cold outside? Navy Pier brings all of the winter fun indoors, filling its gigantic 170,000-square-foot Festival Hall with an ice skating rink, carnival rides, a tubing hill, seasonal activities and piles of holiday decorations. Bring the kids and avoid the slush for an afternoon or show up on New Year's Eve (when the attraction is open until 10pm) to slide around the fake ice during the final hours of 2019. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

Advertising
9
018.ac_.mu_.tock_.holidaymagic.jpg
Things to do, Festivals

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

icon-location-pin Brookfield Zoo, Suburbs
icon-calendar

More than one million lights cover the trees, fences and structures in the Brookfield Zoo at this annual holiday event. Attendees are encouraged to sing carols to the animals, explore the zoo's indoor exhibits and view light shows. This year, Holiday Magic will feature a Chicago Wolves skating rink, where visitors can slide around while admiring the decorations.

10
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Department stores

Macy’s

icon-location-pin Loop

This historic downtown department store takes the holiday season very seriously. On the seventh floor, hungry visitors can sit down for lunch or dinner in the Walnut Room, which is outfitted with a massive light-strewn Christmas tree for the holiday season. On your way out, be sure to check out the epic window displays along State Street, where you'll find magical, illuminated scenes that the whole family will enjoy.

Advertising
11
Things to do

Logan Boulevard

Logan Square may be best known as a destination for cocktails and cheffy dinners, but the neighborhood also hosts one of the most festive holiday light displays in all of Chicago. Locals refer to property at 2656 W Logan Boulevard as "the Logan Square Christmas House" because of the over-the-top decorations and twinkling blubs that cover the home during the holidays. Owner Frank Lopez creates wire frames of reindeer, birds and Christmas trees that he festoons with lights—it's a spectacle worth seeking out.

Advertising