Twinkling lights add a bit of magic to the holiday season. Infants to elderly are fascinated by dazzling lights displays. Whether you prefer to enjoy holiday lights on foot or in the warm comfort of your car, you’ll find many impressive and unique holiday lights displays throughout Illinois.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published but has been updated for 2021.
Holiday lights by foot
At Morton Arboretum’s Illumination, hug a tree and it changes color. Stand in front of the camera and your face projects high onto the trees. With a wave of your hand you create the illusion of rain or snow. Sing to a tree and watch the colors change. Take a mile-long stroll through this interactive virtual kaleidoscope of color. Through January 2.
Note: Tickets are available for specific times, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Some days sell out, so they strongly recommend you purchase your tickets ahead of time. Once admitted, you can stay as long as you’d like. Admission ends at 8:30 p.m., and the exhibition closes at 9:30 p.m.
Lincoln Park Zoo Lights twinkle on the following evenings from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.: November 20-24, 26-30, December 1-23, 26-31, and January 1-2. Stroll through a light maze and enchanted forest; ride the carousel or train. Tickets most days are $5. Download the program for the complete program, including free days and special events.
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic runs Friday through Sunday, November 26-28, Wednesday through Sunday, December 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, and Sunday through Friday, December 26-31. Hours are 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Enjoy over two million lights, a skating rink, dolphin shows (additional fee), and a gnome hunt. Advanced, time-entry reservations are required.
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Holiday lights by car
If you miss East Peoria’s lighted parade, not to worry. The floats that were in the parade are part of the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland. Instead of the floats riding past you, you drive past two miles of colorfully lighted floats, showcasing everything from traditional whimsical toy soldiers to spaceships and dinosaurs, all covered almost solidly with twinkling lights. Opens Thanksgiving night, November 25, 2021, and runs nightly through January 2, 2022.
The Way of Lights at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, focuses on the biblical story of Christmas. Drive through a mile and a half of life-size biblical statues and electro-art displays that include over a million lights. The trail takes you on a scriptural Journey to Bethlehem. Open nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, November 19, through Friday, December 31 for the lights. Special events include camel, donkey, and pony rides; carriage rides, community performances, and more. All events except lights are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas. Check the website for complete event schedule and other details.
The Du Quoin Annual Holiday Lights Fair turns the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds magical from Thanksgiving through December 30 with over 3 miles of lighted displays from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
There’s plenty of time during the holiday season to enjoy more than one of the holiday lights displays. Why not take a weekend off from shopping and make a getaway weekend of it? Please check the individual web sites for display hours and admission fees.
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