Where to See Holiday Light Shows in the Chicago Area

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Nothing screams "it's the holiday season" quite like light shows, and there's no shortage of dazzling displays in the Chicago area.

As cold weather moves in and a new year approaches, a string of light shows will amp up the merry mood throughout the wintertime, a few of which are open already.

From ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo to Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden, here are twinkling light shows that will spruce up the season in the area.

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden takes guests past pine trees draped with strings of lights, candle-lined pathways and a variety of other holiday light formations.

A new exhibit called Starscape features a 130-foot-long tunnel decked with a series of over 700 shimmering handmade acrylic stars.

Lightscape opened for the season Nov. 11 and will run until Jan. 8. Tickets range in price from $14 to $30.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights, one of Chicago’s most colorful holiday staples, is set to return to the spotlight at Lincoln Park Zoo.

The longtime tradition will mark its 28th running Nov. 18, with a slate of attractions in store for visitors. A Ferris wheel, an expansive light tunnel and re-envisioned light shows are some of the event's highlights, according to the zoo.

ZooLights will run from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Nov. 18-23, 25-30, Dec. 2-14, 16-23, 26-31 and Jan. 1. Of the dates, tickets to the show will be free Nov. 21 and 28, as well as Dec. 5, 12, 19 and 26.

Tickets are available here and cost $5 Tuesdays through Sundays.

Chicago's Christmas Tree at Millennium Park

A 55-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce tree will be the centerpiece of the city this winter.

The tree, which has adorned the front lawn of a Morton Grove home for decades, beat out more than 80 entries when it was selected to be the city's "official" Christmas tree for 2022.

The tree will be illuminated Nov. 18 and remain lit throughout Jan. 8.

The tree tallies as a long-time Chicago tradition, as this year's will become the city's 109th. Each year, the tree can be seen glistening near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street.

Shine Light Show

Shine Light Show will let visitors catch synchronized holiday displays from the comfort of their cars. The show will feature a glistening tunnel of over one million LED lights paired to holiday music.

The event will run Nov. 18 and end Jan. 1 at two locations: Northbrook and Schaumburg. Tickets cost $32.99 for weekdays and $42.99 for weekends, holidays and select weekdays. One ticket will be necessary per vehicle.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Traditionally, around 200 trees along North Michigan Avenue have been illuminated to signal the kick-off of the holiday season in Chicago.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival will ring in the holiday season with a parade and free, family-friendly celebrations along Michigan Avenue Nov. 19. The event will be capped with a display of fireworks.

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

From Nov. 19 through Jan. 7, the Morton Arboretum will spotlight holiday festivities through its annual Illumination light show. More than 50 acres of the arboretum's trees will be decked out with collaborative displays of color, light and sound.

Along the arboretum's one-mile path, guests can tune into seasonal music, sit by a fire, roast marshmallows and take a snack or beverage to-go. The spectacle also will feature six new exhibitions, including a "re-imagined" finale that will take place in the arboretum's new Grand Garden.

The light show will be open each evening from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., with the last entry at 8:30 p.m. Due to the holidays, the exhibit will be closed Nov. 21, 24 and 28, as well as Dec. 5, 12, 24 and 25.

Tickets are available for purchase.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Billed as the largest indoor lights experience in the Chicago area, Light Up the Lake will run from Nov. 25 to Jan. 7 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall.

Guests can interact with light displays, ice skate, visit Santa and more. Tickets to the event, which range in price from $17 to $27, also include a ride on Navy Pier's 200-foot Centennial Wheel.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo will return for its 41st year Nov. 25, with more than two million immersive holiday LED lights and holiday events planned for visitors.

Tickets will be required for admission. Hours and dates will vary throughout the season, and the event will end Dec. 31.

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