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, in the warm comfort of your car, or even from a helicopter, you’ll find many impressive and unique holiday lights displays throughout Illinois.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated for 2017.
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. November 27 through January 1.
New for 2017: You must enter within a half hour of the date and time reflected on your ticket. 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 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.: November 24-26; December 1-3, 8-23, 26-31; January 1-7, 2018. Enjoy musical light shows, warm spiced wine, crafts for the kids, carousel and ferris wheel rides, and a light maze.
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic runs Saturdays and Sundays, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, plus Tuesday through Sunday, December 26-31. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m, with festivities beginning at 4 p.m. Enjoy over a million lights, ice carving, the Holly Jollly Theater, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and lots of entertainment.
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Holiday lights by helicopter
On the Chicago Helicopter Experience Holiday Lights Tour, view the dazzling lights of Chicago from the air, including Michigan Avenue, Lakeshore Drive, and State Street. From the moment you lift off the ground, all the way through your half-hour ride, the lights will spread before you. Book your tour in advance.
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 23, 2017, and runs nightly through December 31.
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 17, through Sunday, December 31, 2017, except closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.
The Du Quoin Annual Holiday Lights Fair turns the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds magical from Thanksgiving through December 30 with a 1.5 mile drive through lighted displays. In addition, on the first three weekends in December the Expo Hall opens for visits with Santa, food, crafts, entertainment and decorated trees. Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
There is plenty of time during the holiday season to enjoy more than one of the holiday lights displays. Why not take a weekend off of shopping and make a getaway weekend of it? Please check the individual web sites for display hours and admission fees.
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