It’s that time of year in Chicago when zoos, gardens, and other outdoor attractions begin to glow with magical light displays. All throughout the city and its suburbs, there are epic places to walk or drive through that will fill you with cheer.
There’s nothing better during the holidays than a festival of lights. Keep scrolling for 11 displays you cannot miss.
1. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier (600 E Grand Avenue)
Check out this glowing winter wonderland playground that will blow your mind. It features 170,000 square-feet of rides and activities, like giant slides and a huge ice rink. General admission is $27 for adults and $12 for children and seniors. Dates of operation are December 1, 2017 through January 7, 2018.
2. Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S Lake Shore Drive)
Also lasting through January 7, 2018, this masterful display of more than 50 Christmas trees showcases cultures from around the world. Most spectacular is the four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree at the center of it all. While members always have free access to the museum, the rest will pay $18 for adults and $11 for children between ages three and 11. (Save two dollars when you purchase tickets online.)
3. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo (N Cannon Drive at W Fullerton Parkway)
This popular free attraction is home to one of the most magical light displays in the entire city. It features 3D displays, live ice-sculpting, light shows set to music, and a light maze as well as snacks and gifts. It runs most days between November 24, 2017 and January 7, 2018.
4. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo (3300 Golf Road in Brookfield)
If you're more interested in a holiday zoo light display in the suburbs, this winter wonderland will be your destination. It features more than one million twinkling lights and runs select days through the end of the year (December 31, 2017).
for previous Only In Chicago coverage of this amazing annual event.
5. Illumination at The Morton Arboretum (4100 IL-53 in Lisle)
This amazing oasis of nature comes alive with one of the best magical light displays in the Chicago suburbs. Unaffiliated to any particular religion or specific holiday, this glowing world will take your breath away. It runs November 17, 2017 through January 1, 2018, and the cost is $22 for adults ($18 for members) and $14 for children (members $12).
6. Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe)
Visitors to this event enjoy a festive model train display as well as ice carvings and lights throughout. Tickets are on sale for $13 for adults ($11 for members) and $10 for seniors and children between the ages of three and 12 (members $8). Tuesdays are half price, and the event runs through January 7, 2018.
7. Holiday Lights in Lilacia Park (150 S Park Avenue in Lombard)
Enjoy these beautiful holiday lights nightly until January 2, 2018. In addition to lights, there are also scheduled meet-and-greets with Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as train rides, reindeer encounters, crafts, and more. The event is free to attend.
8. Naper Lights at Naper Settlement (523 S Webster Street in Naperville)
Located in this popular suburb's downtown neighborhood, this free event is open Thursdays through Sundays between November 24, 2017 and December 23, 2018. Guests may walk through and enjoy Christmas trees, light tunnels, and many more magical light displays.
9. Holiday Lights at Mooseheart (240 W James J Davis Drive in Mooseheart)
Located in a private residential community, this is one of the largest holiday light displays in Chicagoland. It is 1.8 miles long and features about 80 different light creations. Admission is $10 per vehicle, and guests may view the lights December 8-10, 2017 and December 15-17, 2017.
10. Aurora Festival of Lights at Phillips Park (1000 Ray Moses Drive in Aurora)
This free drive-thru light display is a treat for all. You'll be surrounded by cute Christmas and winter scenes as you wind along the path. Guests may attend daily between Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas.
11. Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo (1356 N Gary Avenue in Wheaton)
Between November 24 and December 30, 2017, you can wander through a winter wonderland of lights and unique displays. It features 20,000 lights and admission is free. The zoo offers hot cocoa, Christmas trees, and holiday gifts to purchase.
Which of these magical light displays have you been to so far this year? Share your experiences and photos with us in the comments below!