Let there be light!
While many parts of Illinois have closed down due to Covid-19 health and safety restrictions Chicago’s annual outdoor light shows are one of the few beloved seasonal events to be going ahead. Every year more dazzling light shows pop up in extraordinary locations around Chicago and here we’ve rounded up the best of them all.
Lightscape has returned to Chicago this November, kicking off its second season on Friday, November 13. It was a complete sell-out in its debut season as rumor has it tickets are already hard to come by. One of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers teams up with renowned local and international artists to put on an electrifying experience like no other. A 110-foot light tunnel, a forest of illumination, a fire garden, and more magic than your eyes can muster make it an electrifying experience suited to all ages. Lightscape runs until January 3 and tickets (though at the time of writing were few) vary depending on membership and booking date:
- Adults – $24-28
- Children – $12-15
- Children under 3 – Free
Dates: November 13, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Illumination will take place in the Morton Arboretum on November 20 and will last until. The nonprofit public garden and the outdoor museum will host its annual immersive tree lights display but instead of the usual mile-long walking path, the experience will this year be a 30–40 minutes long drive-through event. Guests are invited to cruise through a two-mile stretch of lush landscape and take in the dazzling light spectacles all from the warmth and safety of their cars. There will be returning favorites reenvisioned, including Symphony Woods, Woodland Wonder, and Crystal Promenade, and five newly designed sights somewhere among the Arboretum’s magnificent trees.
Ticket Prices (per car):
- Guests – $49 peak night, $39 standard night
- Members – $39 peak night, $29 standard night
- 15 Person Passenger Van – $64 peak night, $54 standard night
Dates: November 20, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Let It Shine is taking place not far from Chicago Botanic Garden at North Shore’s Northbrook Court. Claiming to be the largest drive-thru light show guests are invited to drive through an immense wonderland of light displays all synchronized to holiday classics. You can expect dazzling archways, sparkling candy canes, glowing snowmen, and more innovative illuminated installations. In appreciation of frontline heroes, Let It Shine is putting on ‘Shine Bright Heroes’ day on Saturday, November 14. All first responders, military members, and law enforcement officers can enter Let It Shine at Northbrook Court completely free of charge from 6–9 pm.
Ticket Prices (per car):
- Weekday – $29.99
- Weekend – $39.99
- Fast Pass Add On (optional) – $15
Dates: November 15, 2020 – January 9, 2021
ZooLights will return for its 26th year following a phenomenal anniversary last year. Due to the global pandemic or the first time in 20 years, Zoolights will be charging $5 for entry but compared to other lights shows it is far from a lot to ask. The enchanting annual event will run from November 21 until January 3 and will host thrilling activities throughout the festive season including ice-carving demonstrations, carol singing, and Santa meet-and-greets! There will be five free days on November 24 and December 9, 17, 21, and 29. While the lights illuminate the world-renowned zoo the animal buildings will be closed but animals may still be visible in their outdoor habitats so keep a lookout!
- $5 for all including five free nights
- Adults – $25
- Children 3-11 – $18
- Children under 3 – Free
- Seniors – $20
Dates: Friday through Sunday, November 27, 2020 – December 31, 2020.
A little drive out of Chicago and a city that shares its name with nature’s most spectacular natural lights show has set up thousands of shimmering light displays in Phillips Park. The best part? It’s absolutely free. Volunteers have helped set up the scenes that make Aurora’s 14th Festival of Lights one of the largest free outdoor drive-through holiday light displays in Illinois. The experience is free but donations are welcome and will all go towards benefiting local charities.
Dates: Friday, November 27, 2020 – Sunday, December 27, 2020.
For those really dedicated light show enthusiasts, a drive up to the very north of Illinois is a small cost for the annual Holiday in the Park at Illinois’ sprawling amusement park Six Flags. As one of the top 20 most attended amusement parks in North America, you can bet no small measures have been taken for this year’s light extravaganza. Don’t worry, after the 45-mile drive you can park up and wander through the re-imagined experience featuring over 3 million sparkling lights. Surprise open-air viewing entertainment, special socially-distanced photo opportunities, and delicious holiday treats make this a terrific family day out.
- All – $19.99 with free parking.
Dates: Friday, November 27, 2020 – Wednesday, December 30, 2020.
8. Chicago Transit Authority’s Holiday Train
A list of Chicago’s light shows can’t go without mentioning the Chicago Transit Authority’s unique Holiday Train. Each year the decked out CTA Holiday Train and Bus ride through Chicago as a smiling Santa and his reindeer wave from an open-air front car sleigh. Normally elves would serenade riders as they board and exit between stops but this year passengers won’t be allowed on board in order to keep the event safe and socially distanced. But the train will still be a sight to behold as it rides through Chicago decked out in twinkling holiday lights and it provides an exciting experience for families to safely greet a real-life Santa! The six-car locomotive’s special journey around all 8 lines will last from Friday, November 27 through December 21. More information about the train’s exact schedule can be found on the Chicago Transit Authority website.
Dates: Friday, November 27, 2020 – Monday, December 21, 2020.