Where to Safely See Holiday Lights Around Chicago This Season

Holiday festivities will look a whole lot different this year, but there’s one sparkling constant you can count on—seas of twinkling lights adorning many of our favorite local destinations. Here are six spots where you can safely savor seasonal light installations. 

Mag Mile Lights Festival

There won’t be a parade this year, but Michigan Ave. will still shine bright all winter long with illuminated trees lining the Magnificent Mile. Some of Chicago’s most beloved traditions and events that have been canceled this year, including Christkindlmarket and the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, will also be getting a home for the holidays #OnTheMile via storefront displays encouraging e-commerce support. Connecting passersby to a broader swathe of Chicago, South and West Side communities will decorate windows showcasing some of the holiday traditions and values celebrated by their residents. You can even see the Mag Mile lights from the comfort of your couch. Find out how to watch the virtual BMO Harris Mag Mile Lights Festival special broadcast here.

Art on theMART

Photo courtesy of Art on theMART.

Just in time to celebrate the holidays, Art on theMART, in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, is revealing a new program with The Joffrey Ballet. Showcasing images from the Christmas classic “The Nutcracker” and set to music from Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the 30-minute program of projections will be shown nightly at 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. and can be viewed for free from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Dr. between Wells St. and Franklin St.. Note: no more than 100 people can be on the Riverwalk jetty and all must comply with social distancing regulations, including masks.

Through Dec. 30.

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

Enter a captivating world of light, color, and sound on an all-new trail for 2020, designed with safety in mind. The Botanic Garden will have thousands of twinkling lights, including the popular Cathedral of Light, and new delights that will help you make holiday memories. Advanced reservations are highly suggested, as many dates do sell out. Masks will be required, and note that the entire event is outdoors, so dress appropriately. 

Through Jan.3.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo’s annual Holiday Magic, presented by ComEd and Meijer, celebrates its 39th season this year. See the dazzling light displays including a 600-foot-long tunnel featuring thousands of colored lights all synchronized to music; a giant 20-foot-lit orb ideal for Instagram selfies or holiday photos; a 41-foot-tall holiday tree; larger-than-life LED animal sculptures of a bison, a bear, and a giraffe; and 660 LED-lit trees decorated with ornaments. Visitors can also play the Game of Gnomes, a brand-new family-friendly scavenger hunt in search of 24 whimsical and enchanting themed gnomes located throughout the zoo.

Select dates through Nov. 27-Dec. 31; Tickets required.

Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

Photo courtesy of the Morton Arboretum.

The eighth year of Illumination promises to be a special one: The winter tradition has been reimagined as a 2-mile driving experience designed with safety in mind. Embracing the Arboretum’s mission and identity as The Champion of Trees, the exhibition will take guests on a journey that begins with a passage through a new tunnel of lights and past favorites such as Symphony Woods, Woodland Wonder and Crystal Promenade, as well as five new visual exhibits enhanced by beautiful woodland lighting among the trees.

Nov. 20–Jan. 1; Tickets required.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bijalba.

ZooLights, presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ, illuminates the zoo with dazzling lights and dynamic displays. Enjoy socially distant visits with Santa, Snowy’s Spirits & S’more, an Enchanted Forest, Light Maze Presented and more! There will be two free members-only nights on Nov. 20 and Dec. 1. The zoo is also offering five free public nights Nov. 24, Dec. 9, Dec. 17, Dec. 21, and Dec. 29.

Reservations required.

BETTER HOLIDAYS: For more holiday happenings around Chicago and the suburbs, subscribe to the Better Letter to receive our roundup of the best things to do in Chicago in December. better.net/subscribe

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Macaire Douglas

Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.