Chicago has no shortage of holiday lights displays and over-the-top decorations that will brighten up your holiday with literal sparkle
If there’s just one thing that makes the bitter cold of a Chicago winter just a smidgen better, it’s how gorgeous she is all decked out for the holidays. We’ve scoured the city to find the best holiday lights displays and decorations in Chicago to lift your holiday spirits. So, leave your grinch-y feelings at home and get out there, explore these memory-making gems with the littles, and fill your Insta feed with gorgeous Christmas and Hannukah photos at these must-visit destinations.
Related: Timber Time! Christmas Tree Farms to Spruce Up Your Holiday
Special Holiday Lights Events in Chicago
Art on theMart
Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART. The Nutcracker performed by the Joffrey Balley of Chicago will be featured for the holiday season.
Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 30
222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza
The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
Chicago lights up around the holidays—literally. The Christmas season officially begins in the Windy City with The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival with Mickey and Minnie Mouse leading the charge as Grand Marshals. It is the Midwest, so dress in warm layers and take your family for an evening of festive city fun. Learn more about this popular Chicago Christmas parade, including where families should line up for the best views, as well as where to stay and what to eat while downtown.
Date: Nov. 18
Walkable Zoo Light Experiences in Chicago
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic
With more than 1 million twinkling LED lights, Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic is Chicagoland’s largest lights festival. In addition, it’s most likely the only place you’ll encounter a 41-foot talking tree. Besides the chatty evergreen, you’ll find a 20-foot-lit orb you can stand inside and snap a memorable holiday photo. Guests of all ages can play the Game of Gnome, a fun-filled scavenger hunt with 27 whimsical and enchanting gnomes located throughout the park.
Dates: Select dates, Nov. 24-Dec. 31
8400 W. 31st St.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
The most wonderful time of the year deserves the most wonderful event of the year. For that, join Lincoln Park Zoo for their annual celebration of ZooLights. This one-of-a-kind, festive holiday experience offers a free, merry, family-oriented celebration of joy right in the heart of the city. ZooLights features hundreds of luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities, all under the glow of 2.5 million lights.
Dates: Nov. 17-Jan. 7
2001 N. Clark St.
Related: The Ultimate List of Free Things to Do in Chicago with Kids This Month
Walkable Outdoor Holiday Lights Displays in and around Chicago
Illumination at the Morton Arboretum
Returning this year is this crowd-pleasing dazzler at Morton Arboretum. “Illumination: Tree Lights” will dazzle visitors with its unparalleled spectacle of color, light, and synced musical soundtrack they won’t experience anywhere else.
Dates: Nov. 18-Jan. 6
4100 IL-Rte 53
Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
Wander into a festive world of wonder and light at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape. Along a 1.25-mile, one-way path, the night comes alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a playful choir of singing trees to a spectacular waterfall of light. At times, you’ll find yourself in the center of it all—stepping inside a cathedral of golden light, walking down an avenue of luminous linden trees, moving through colorful ribbons of light.
Dates: Nov. 10-Jan. 7
1000 Lake Cook Rd.
Sparkle Light Festival
Impact Field is transforming into the ultimate holiday destination with five illuminated villages with millions of sparkling lights, custom 3D holiday features, an ice tube slide, a holiday train adventure, festive fare, and more. Plus, there’s a Rudolph’s Kids Zone and Deck the Walls maze, both new this season.
Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 31
9859 Balmoral Ave.
Kohlights at Kohl Children’s Museum
Kids take charge in Kohl Children’s Museum’s holiday light display. Using glow stick learning wands, they can control and change the lights, so it’s a different lightacular experience every time. Your kids won’t even realize they’re learning while they play with light and color to create new hues and patterns.
Dates: Select dates, Nov. 24-Dec. 16
2100 Patriot Blvd.
Vintage Holidays in Long Grove
Historic Downtown Long Grove invites holiday revelers to take a break from online shopping and rediscover the magic of the holiday season. The annual Long Grove Vintage Holidays campaign is what the classic holiday experience is all about. . . lots of bright festive lights, quaint shops, old-world charms, and family memories. Organized by the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association (HDLGBA), Vintage Holidays 2022 features light displays, merchant open houses, holiday music, horse-drawn sleigh rides and more!
Dates: Select dates, Nov. 17-Dec. 23
145 Old McHenry Rd.
Long Grove, IL
Located on Naperville’s beautiful riverwalk, you’ll find the 9th Annual Naper Lights display. Lights on Water Street trees and the Foyo plaza will be synced to music with an enhanced sound system that will project music across the DuPage River.
Dates: Nov. 23-Jan. 1
120 Water St.
Indoor Holiday Lights Displays in Chicago
Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Light at MSI
What began in 1942 as a single tree, is now an international winter wonderland at Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Light. The family is going to be enchanted by the trees and displays that are decorated to represent the rich multicultural heritage of Chicago. The crown jewel will be the floor-to-dome Grand Tree with 30,000 twinkling lights, sparkly ornaments and all of the trimmings. This year, The Art of the Brick exhibit is getting in on the action with new pieces themed around the 12 Days of Christmas.
Dates: Nov. 18-Jan. 7
5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Navy Pier’s Light Up the Lake
Check out Chicago’s biggest holiday adventure, Navy Pier’s Light Up the Lake. This indoor, temperature-controlled experience features a sprawling light garden of large-scale sculptures comprised of more than 600,000 twinkling lights, a massive Alpine ice rink, an authentic beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Merry Main Street and gift market, and other family-friendly and date-night activities.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 31
500 E. Grand Ave.
Drive-Thru Holiday Lights Displays in Chicago
Magical Christmas at Santa’s Village
Santa’s helpers have been busy transforming Santa’s Village into a festive winter wonderland. This drive-thru experience features over 2 million lights synchronized to holiday music, dazzling displays, live animals, and Santa himself. At the end of your experience, you can purchase funnel cakes and hot chocolate while taking in the breathtaking view of the park.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 23
601 Dundee Ave.
Related: 11 Cities That You Have to Visit in the Winter
Hotel Holiday Lights Displays in Chicago
Hilton Chicago Holiday Tree & Gingerbread Display
Visit Hilton Chicago’s lobby to take a photo by their beautifully lit 24-foot Christmas tree and take a peek at their annual gingerbread display that pays tribute to the city of Chicago.
720 S. Michigan Ave.
Swissôtel’s Santa Suite
Santa Claus is ready to show off his swanky Chicago pad! Swissôtel Chicago Presidential Suite is Santa’s home away from the Pole for the holiday season. The suite offers sweeping views of the city, where Santa can closely monitor the weather patterns before his busy Christmas Eve and provides a cozy retreat for finalizing his naughty and nice list. Santa is taking a more intimate approach with his planned festivities by offering deluxe accommodations and private experiences. Have breakfast with Santa on Dec. 10th or 11th at Élevé, Swissôtel Chicago’s penthouse ballroom, which also includes access to the Santa Suite.
Dates: Starting Nov. 16
323 E. Wacker