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10 Magical Must-See Light Shows In And Around Chicago

Elliot McGowan Elliot McGowan

10 Magical Must-See Light Shows In And Around Chicago

Let there be light!

With October and Halloween 2021 now behind us, Chicago is about to transition from autumnal delight to Christmas cheer. Of all the November and December events, light shows are some of our most treasured traditions this time of the year and they’re coming back thick and fast to the Windy City. Having turned to drive-thru experiences last year due to Covid-19, many have returned to their original formats for 2021.

Every year more dazzling light shows pop up in extraordinary locations around Chicago and here we’ve rounded up the best of them all.

1. Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Gardens

After debuting in 2019, Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape and its immersive, after-hours trail of twinkling lights has been a complete sell-out in its first two seasons and we’re expecting this year to be much the same. Teaming up with renowned local and international artists, Lightscape offers visitors an electrifying experience and a must-do winter activity.

This year guests will find a new-and-improved experience adorned with favorites from the last two years and completely new features and installations. The 1.25-mile pathway will include the magical 110-foot tunnel made up of 100,000 shimmering lights, the enchanting fire garden, and the forest of illumination with numerous trees covered in dazzling bulbs that “sing” holiday songs.

Ticket Prices:

Ticket prices are different for members and nonmembers.

  • Adults – $24-28
  • Children – $12-15
  • Children under 3 – Free

Dates: November 12, 2021 – January 3, 2022

More information can be found here.

2. Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum Illuminations 2020

Chicago’s beloved Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum is returning for its ninth edition. Having resorted to a drive-through event last year, this time around it will once again be a walking experience and will feature five new unique light displays including a special Human+Nature display.

The mile-long walk-through spectacle will take place across 50 acres of the nonprofit public garden and outdoor museum from November 20th through January 2nd, 2022. A paved walking path will take guests snaking through the Arboretum’s majestic landscape amid dazzling light spectacles accompanied by music soundtracks that together highlight the beauty of trees in winter.

Ticket Prices: 

Ticket prices are different for members and nonmembers and vary for peak or standard time entries.

  • Adults – $14 – $24
  • Children (2-17) – $8 – $16
  • Children under 2 – Free

Dates: November 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022

More information can be found here.

3. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo’s much-loved annual ZooLights event is returning for almost eight weeks of family fun involving many of its cherished holiday traditions and some all-new features.

Hundreds of larger-than-life 3D LED displays will cover Lincoln Park while the usual delicious holiday snacks including warm spiced wine, frosty beers, and festive specials, will all be available throughout the event. There will also be exciting additional experiences returning to the zoo’s grounds such as the dazzling one-of-a-kind light maze and a reimagined and enhanced enchanted forest offering guests the chance to “meander among butterflies, flowers, mushrooms, and dripping lights with whimsical music and a magical ambiance.”

Ticket Prices:

  • $5 per person for anybody attending Wednesday-Sunday but free of charge on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Dates: November 19, 2021 – January 2, 2022

More information can be found here.

4. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo isn’t the only light show taking place at a formidable Illinois zoo this winter. Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo will be hosting their 40th Holiday Magic at their 216-acre zoo grounds from November 26th!

Said to be Chicagoland’s largest and longest-running lights festival, Holiday Magic will feature over two million twinkling LED lights and a multitude of awe-inspiring decorations across the park.

This year there will be a collection of both new and old holiday traditions taking place at Brookfield Zoo. The 600-foot Tunnel of Lights, Game of Gnomes, 20-foot-lit orb, and skating rink will all make a return along with the many photo ops and Christmas activities whilst the 2-mile stretch named Sea of Lights is a completely new feature this year.

Ticket Prices:

  • Adults – $25
  • Children 3-11 – $18
  • Children under 3 – Free
  • Seniors – $20

Dates: November 26, 2021 – December 31, 2021.

More information can be found here.

5. Holiday in the Park at Six Flags

For those really dedicated light show enthusiasts, a drive up to the very north of Illinois is a small cost for the annual lights festival at the sprawling Six Flags amusement park. As one of the top 20 most attended amusement parks in North America, you can bet no small measures have been taken for Six Flags Great America’s fourth Holiday in the Park lights extravaganza.

The 300-acre property will feature twinkling holiday light displays spread throughout the grounds, world-class entertainment, and special seasonal treats and surprises. As well as the magical Elegance Light Show and Kalightoscope Light Show dazzling guests daily from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm there will be holiday-themed photo ops with costumed holiday characters, holiday shopping specials, a Santa’s workshop, cookie decorating, and Roasted Marshmallows & S’mores Galore.

Ticket Prices:

  • To be confirmed

Dates: November 26, 2021 – December 30, 2021.

More information can be found here.

6. Aurora’s Festival Of Lights

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.

Presented in partnership between The Rotary Club of Aurora, a 98-year-old service club, and the City of Aurora, this signature winter event is a drive-through of more than one mile of spectacular lighted displays including bears, penguins, reindeer, helicopters, shimmering elves, holiday trains, enormous snowflakes, Santa’s Toy Factory and more.

Last year over 50,000 cars drove through and this year the signature annual festival is once again expecting even more. The experience is free but donations are welcome and will all go towards benefiting local charities.

Ticket Prices:

  • Free

Dates: November 26, 2021 – December 26, 2021.

More information can be found here.

7-9. Let It Shine at Northbrook Court, Aurora & Schaumburg

While many light show experiences are returning to their pre-covid walking formats, Northbrook Court’s ‘Let It Shine’ light show is remaining a drive-thru experience after the success of its debut year in 2020 and is expanding even further afield.

Holding the title of the largest drive-thru light show in Chicago and thus claiming to be ‘Chicagoland’s premier drive-thru Christmas light show experience’ Let It Shine returns with three new Christmas light show experiences across Chicagoland. In addition to a Northbrook Court location, this year there will be locations at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora and at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg.

Guests are invited to safely drive through the immense light shows and immerse themselves in each wonderland of light displays all synchronized to holiday classics. You can expect dazzling archways, sparkling candy canes, glowing snowmen, and more innovative illuminated installations. While similar in concept, according to organizers, “each show is unique with jaw-dropping holiday displays with over 1M LED lights.”

Ticket Prices: 

Tickets are priced the same across all three locations and are per vehicle.

  • Weekday Admission–  $29.99 per car
  • Weekday Fast Pass – $49.99 per car
  • Weekend Admission –  $39.99 per car
  • Weekend Fast Pass – $59.99 per car

Dates:

  • Northbrook: November 5, 2021 – January 9, 2022
  • Aurora & Schaumburg: November 5, 2021 – January 9, 2022.

More information can be found here.

10. AMAZE Light Festival at Rosemont’s Impact Field

An exciting all-new lights festival is debuting inside Rosemont’s Impact Field stadium this season. Delighting people of all ages, AMAZE is pure holiday magic featuring train rides, a holiday market, a candy shop, a Santa’s Workshop, and a “Thrill Hill” tubing slide where friends and family can race down icy slopes on single and double tubes.

Seven theme-based illuminated worlds offer a variety of different adventures and plenty of memorable photo opportunities. Bundle up and explore the different realms ranging from the company of elves in the North Pole to the smell of fresh pine at the Tree Farm.

Ticket Prices: 

  • Adults – $23
  • Children 2-12 – $18
  • Children under 2 – Free

Dates:

  • November 19, 2021 – January 2, 2022

Don’t forget: The BMO Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Of course, a roundup of Chicago light shows can’t go without mentioning Chicago’s iconic Magnificent Mile lights and parade. Friday, November 19th is the day that over one million lights will begin illuminating The Magnificent Mile for the holiday season. The stretch of Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Oak Street is one of the most magical places to embrace the festive cheer with more than 200 glistening trees offering a phenomenal spectacle in the heart of Chicago.

The holiday tree lighting ceremony will take place at 4 pm in The Wrigley Building Centennial Plaza on Friday, November 19, to kick off the festive weekend before Chicago’s iconic Tree-Lighting Parade will move down North Michigan Avenue on Saturday, November 20.

The event-filled Saturday begins at 11:00 am starting at Lights Festival Lane (401 North Michigan Avenue) with a free-admission outdoor festival. A festive thoroughfare of booths and family activities, including photos with Santa Claus, treats from Eli’s Cheesecake, a holiday DJ, and more will be taking place for any crowds that come out to embrace the festive cheer before the grand Tree-Lighting Parade takes off down North Michigan Avenue.

Ticket Prices:
  • Free

Dates: November 26, 2021 – December 27, 2021.

More information can be found here.

See more: 10 Essential Chicago Bucket List Experiences For 2021

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