1. St. Charles
A gorgeous and historic downtown, St. Charles is looking awesome this time of year with Christmas lights all over the streets. It kicked off with an appearance by Santa, a parade, and free horse drawn carriage rides. Stroll downtown and explore the many shops to find that perfect gift for someone.
Visiting Chicago during the holidays can instantly give you that holiday spirit. There are so many things to do, from visiting the big tree (now in Millenium Park), eating some German specialties at Christkindlmarket, eating at the Walnut Room at Macy's, and seeing the decorated store windows.
Do you want magical? Then head down to Galena's Main Street. Through December 12, enjoy "Old Fashioned Christmas Weekends." This coming weekend, enjoy the "Night of the Luminaria," where over 5,000 luminaries will be lit and windows will come to life. You definitely don't want to miss this.
Monticello has that Christmas spirit all season long, but things really kicked off with the Christmas Parade. Don't worry if you missed it, though, because Santa is going to be at the Depot. Your child can have lunch with Santa on the train! It is the Polar Express but up a few notches. Kids of all ages will enjoy this.
Home to the World's Largest Cross, you have to believe that Effingham is going to be all about Christmas. Yes, they are. You will love their "Wonderland in Lights." Only in its first year, it is already a huge success. Santa is there every Saturday and he has special gifts for the kiddos. Drive through to see the lights and you'll be inspired to sing Christmas carols.
You should visit Elburn to see one house. A house you say? Yes, a house. But not just any house. It's Larsen's Light Show, a light show so incredible that it was the winner of the 2013 show "Light Fight." You can see videos and photos online, but there is really no comparison to seeing it in person. Santa visits on Saturday nights!
This weekend, Christmas in Rochelle was kicked off by the Downtown Christmas walk, featuring food, contests, and carriage rides. Many homes are decorated and will give you that Christmas spirit.
Canton, Illinois really knows how to get into the Christmas mood, with tons of lighted trees, trolley rides, and an Old Fashioned Christmas Walk.
Downtown Naperville always looks great lit up. Stroll around downtown and find plenty of neat shops to find unique gifts. There are tons of fun things going on at Naper Settlement, like the Jingle Bell Jamboree, Naper Lights, and a Holiday Mansion Tour.
Visiting Alton is a great way to start the Christmas countdown. People from all over come for the "Christmas Wonderland" holiday light display. Rock Springs Park in Alton is transformed into a Winter Wonderland. Visitors can drive through the park to view more than 2 million lights, cascading waterfalls of lights, lighted trees and displays, and visit Santa Claus in the Enchanted Forest.
Does your town really do it up on Christmas? As always, share pics and tips on the Only in Illinois Facebook page!