It’s that time of year again to celebrate Christmas in Chicago! Are you wondering what there is to do at Christmas time in Chicago? I’ve got you covered with all the magical Chicago Christmas Lights throughout the city and suburbs.
There is a wide variety of places to see lights from Museums to Zoo Lights, drive-through lights, local neighborhoods, Chicago Botanical Gardens, Morton Arboretum and Six Flags. All are fun ways to celebrate the holidays with your family.
Get inspired by this newly updated Christmas Lights in Chicago list for 2021 and make some fun Holiday memories together. I will continually be updating this article throughout the Holiday season so you have the latest details.
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Best Chicago Christmas Lights Displays & Drive Throughs in 2021
Our guide to the best Chicago Christmas light displays is organized by walkable light displays, Zoo Lights, and Drive-through light displays. There is a mix of light displays in the city and suburbs so find a few near you and enjoy the holidays exploring unique Christmas lights.
Add to the fun this year by exploring all the Christmas light displays with a free printable Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt for kids.
It’s will keep your kids engaged while you drive or walk through the holiday light displays.
Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape
You probably have visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens in the summer but have you seen all the beautiful holiday lights in the wintertime? It’s not to be missed!
For the third year in a row, they are bringing back their popular Lightscape Event an after-dark illuminated trail. When you enter the gardens, your eyes will be filled with twinkling lights throughout the garden paths.
Visitors will walk through a mile-long lighted path surrounded by a choir of singing trees, hanging ribbons of lights, lighted tunnels, Marshmellow stations, and more.
There is an additional fee to enter the Lightscape exhibit. If you buy your tickets in advance you save $2 a ticket. Prices are different depending on the day you choose to attend and you will be given an entry time for the event.
New for 2021 – This year for a higher price they have added a Flex Ticket option so that you can come in anytime between 4:30 & 9 pm. It is more expensive but does include the parking fee.
Every year this event sells out so I would highly suggest you purchase your ticket in advance. Find ticket information here.
Event Runs from November 12th, 2021 – January 2, 2022
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Morton Arboretum – Illumination Tree Lights
This year Morton Arboretum Illumination Tree lights have returned to being a walking experience, unlike last year when it was made into a drive-through experience.
You will be able to explore over 50 acres of beautiful color, lights, and sounds throughout the trees and paths. There is a one-mile paved walking path filled with festive music and light displays to walk.
Along the path, guests can warm up by the fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores or stop at the concession tent for a snack or drink.
Your kids will be in awe as you walk through this winter wonderland.
New for 2021 – This year they’ve added a new Human+Nature display and 150 colorful lanterns.
IlliumiBrew is back to let visitors sample seasonal beers & ciders while exploring the Illumination trail. This event is only for adults age 21 and older. This is only a two-day special event on November 18th & 19th. Get details here.
This event also sells out quickly like Botanical Gardens so make sure to purchase your ticket in advance.
To find ticket information and learn more visit Morton Arboretum.
Event Runs November 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Related Article – Easy DIY Christmas Card Display Ideas for Home
Six Flags Holiday in the Park Lights
Six Flags Great America Holiday in the Park has also returned this year to a walk-through event rather than the drive-through event they had in 2020. This is great news because now some of the rides will be open during the event.
Guests can stroll through the park admiring more than a million dazzling lights and holiday displays. Families can also enjoy holiday entertainment and visits with Santa Claus.
Stop at the bonfires to warm up and roast some marshmallows for s’mores too.
We’ve gone to this event before without doing any rides and had a great time just walking around and admiring the lights. So don’t feel the only reason to come is like in the summer when you ride the roller coasters.
Bonus if you have a membership or season pass to Six Flags the event is included in your pass.
Find more details and ticket prices at Six Flags Holiday in the Park.
Event Runs Weekends November 2021- January 2022 (with select weekdays)
Museum of Science & Industry
The museums are back open this year which means Christmas Around the World is back at Museums of Science and Industry.
Every year the Museum of Science and Industry hosts its annual Christmas Around the World Display and Holidays of Light. Over 50 beautiful trees are on display representing different countries throughout the world.
Learn about the history and culture of different countries by exploring how they decorate their holiday trees. Your kids will love seeing all the different types of ornaments and big beautiful displays. On weekends you can enjoy live performances too.
There is no additional fee for this event other than your entrance ticket to the museum. However, you will need to purchase your tickets in advance as they have reserved time-entry into the museum.
The museum is also still observing a reduced daily capacity so make sure not to wait too long to book your tickets. I am sure weekend times will fill up fast.
Family members over the age of 2 will need to wear a mask and stay socially distanced. Find more details about restrictions at Science & Industry.
Learn more about the Christmas Around the World Event.
Tip: Learn more tips for your visit in our Museum of Science and Industry Review.
Event Runs November 17th, 2021 – January 3, 2022
Related Article – DIY Dollar Tree Christmas Decorations & Hostess Gifts
Zoo Lights – Christmas Light Displays
What could be more fun than Christmas Lights and Zoo Animals! Both Chicago Zoos offer great Holiday Light Events for your family.
Lincoln Park Zoo Lights
Zoo Lights is celebrating its 27th year at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The entire zoo will be aglow with 2.5 million lights and hundreds of holiday displays.
Kids will love finding all the lite up animal figures and the cool light show set to music. Strolling through the light displays and seeing the animals playing at night what could be more fun?
As you walk around you’ll find festive holiday snacks, snowy spirits, and s’mores pop-up holiday bars.
New in 2021 – A new Holiday light experience on the Main lawns and South Lawn, the opening of the new Pepper Family Wild Life Center, and two sensory-friendly nights.
The Zoo will continue with a limited capacity this year so you need to reserve tickets in advance. Tickets on Monday and Tuesday nights are free but tickets on Wednesday -Sunday are $5.
Tickets will go on sale in mid-October and you can find information here.
Make sure to dress warmly as many indoor buildings will not be open but you will be able to see some animals outside. However, I would mainly go to see the lights not the animals as many go inside when it’s cold.
Event Runs – November 19th 2021 – January 2, 2022, from 4-10pm
Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic
Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic is Chicagoland’s largest and longest-running light festival. This is the 40th year for Holiday Magic featuring over 1 million twinkling lights, a 41-foot talking tree, ice carvers, an ice skating rink, carolers, and much more.
Make sure to check the schedule when you get there to see all the different events happening that night. We have found this to be a great holiday tradition for our kids and I think yours will love it too.
Entrance to the event is included in your entrance fee. If you are a member it is free. Advanced tickets will be required for this event in 2021.
The event runs from 3-9 pm but I would highly suggest you get there earlier by at least 1:30 pm because there is a huge traffic jam to get into the zoo for the lights every year.
To find more information & purchase tickets visit Brookfield Zoo.
Tip: Get more of my Brookfield Zoo Guide for Families tips and be ready for a fun adventure.
Event runs in 2021- Friday through Sunday, November 26-28, Wednesday through Sunday, December 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, Sunday through Friday, December 26-31
Christmas Drive Through Lights
Why get out and walk around in the cold when you could view the holiday lights from the warmth of your car?
Plus it’s the perfect way to watch holiday lights and social distance. Here are a few great options for drive-through Christmas light displays.
Let It Shine Light Show
This is the Northshore’s largest and newest 2020 Drive-thru Christmas light show. Let It Shine Light Show is located at the Northbrook Court Mall parking lot in Northbrook, IL.
Guests will drive through dazzling archways, sparkling candy canes, glowing snowmen, huge trees, singing Santas, and more. The lights are set to holiday music you listen to on your car radio as you drive through the display.
The coolest part is they have partnered with Northshore University HealthSystem and a portion of the proceeds will directly benefit Kellogg Cancer Center in honor of their Co-Founder’s battle with throat cancer.
So you can have a fun family night out and feel good about giving back this year.
They charge per vehicle, not individuals in your car and there is an optional fast pass to use on busy weekends. You can purchase tickets ahead of time at the Let It Shine website.
As of October 5, 2021, details for 2021 are not up yet I will update as this information becomes available.
Event Runs – No dates available yet
Santa’s Rock N Lights Drive-Thru Light Show
Located in Grayslake, IL at the Lake County fairgrounds you will find a fun drive through Santa’s Rock N Lights.
Drive through this amazing Holiday light display which is almost a mile long. This year they have added almost double the lights.
While driving through you will find nearly 1,000 programable elements, 700ft of tunnels, and over 100,000 programable lights dancing to music. Watch the display all through the warmth of your car and hear the holiday music on your radio.
It’s a great outing on a cold winter night. Pricing is per car for up to 6 people. The price changes based on the day of the week you come so try for Mondays when it’s the cheapest. Find more about pricing here.
As of October 5, 2021, the exact pricing is not up yet I will update as this information becomes available.
Event Runs – November 19th – January 2, 2022
Aurora Festival of Lights
This fun drive though light display is FREE which is pretty awesome. Returning for it’s 15th year this display runs more than a mile long through unique christmas light displays.
As you drive along you’ll see Santa’s Toy factory, reindeer, holiday trains, huge snow flakes, old man winter and more amazing lights. So pack some hot chocolate and cookies for the ride and enjoy a free night out with the kids.
You’ll find the drive through in Phillips Park, South Smith Street & 5th Ave, Aurora, IL 60505. Make sure you enter the event South on Smith BLVD and 5th Ave.
In 2020 they had over 50,000 cars visit the event which lead to longer waits to get in. This year you need to make a reserved time but it is still free. Here’s the Festival of Lights link to get tickets once their available.
The Rotary Club of Aurora sponsors this event along with the City of Aurora and does accept donations to benefit local charities. Here is the link if you’d like to donate to this fun event and help others during the Christmas season.
Event Runs Friday Nov 26, 2021 through Dec 26, 2021. Sunday through Saturday 5-9pm
Neighborhood Christmas Lights Displays
Lights on Magnolia
A cool neighborhood in Rolling Meadows, IL has worked together to create a synchronize Christmas Light Display on their homes. It’s hard to show how cool the show is in pictures but you’ll love it.
When you enter this neighborhood, you will see a sign for the radio station playing their synchronized music. Sit in your car and listen to holiday music while watching the fun light show.
There are tons of details on each house that keeps the kids interested and excited. You can even get out and walk on the sidewalks to get a better view.
There is no charge to view this light show but they do ask for a donation of non-perishable food which will go to a local food pantry. There are boxes set up to leave your donation.
It’s free entertainment for the family plus you can feel good about helping a local food pantry.
As this is in a residential neighborhood please make sure to not block anyone’s driveway.
Here is a link to their website Lights on Magnolia
As of October 5, 2021, details for 2021 are not up yet I will update as this information becomes available.
Event Runs – Not available yet
Sauganash Holiday Lights
This Northwest side neighborhood of Chicago has been a popular destination to see neighborhood Christmas light since the ’60s. You will find 6 blocks of homes uniquely decorated for Christmas and Hanukkah.
It gets pretty busy and on weekend nights. You may even find traffic jams as cars slowly drive through looking at the beautiful lights. Load up on some cookies and hot chocolate and take the kids on a fun drive through this historic neighborhood.
When using GPS put in the corner of Leroy and Albion in Chicago. It’s off Devon just west of the Edens Expressway.
Dates – There are no specific dates for these light displays as they are all on individual homes. Just drive over and check it out all through December.
Car Game -Lights Scavenger Hunt & Would You Rather
As you drive through Christmas Light displays keep the kids entertained on your drive with fun free printable Christmas Games. Your whole family will love playing these games.
Get the kids excited about looking for holiday items in the light displays with a free printable Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt.
Read off this hilarious game of Would You Rather Christmas to keep your whole family laughing on the drive. Don’t worry all are kid friendly questions.
Grab your FREE printable and bring it with you on your next holiday adventure.
Continue the fun all Holiday season with more Free Printable Christmas Games for families. Fun games for Holiday parties and family dinners too!
Are you ready now to celebrate Christmas in Chicago? I hope your family can find a few great places to view Chicago Christmas Lights Displays this year.
Our family has enjoyed spending Christmas in Chicago visiting all of these beautiful light displays and I am sure your family will love them too!
Do you know any other great Christmas Light Displays in Chicago? Please share with us in the comments so we can all visit or let us know how you liked visiting the ones on this list. I love to hear from my readers.
Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!!
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Bonus you’ll get our FREE printable Would You Rather Questions Christmas Edition and enjoy a fun holiday game with your kids.