‘Tis the season to be merry and bright! Celebrate this magical time of year with Chicago’s most luminous Christmas light displays and traditions. Here are a few of our all-time holiday favorites around Chicagoland, from an immersive lights experience at a botanic garden to a towering Christmas tree to a museum exhibit that celebrates holidays from around the world. And check out our holiday guide to Chicago for even more things to do.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo


This spectacular holiday lights display transforms Chicago’s historic Lincoln Park Zoo into a breathtaking winter wonderland. During ZooLights, more than two million twinkling lights illuminate the sprawling grounds, including larger-than-life animal designs and light shows set to holiday music.

The festivities include photos with Santa, gift shopping, warm spiced wine, craft beer, seasonal snacks, and animals in their outdoor exhibits. There will be optional ticketed experiences like the Lionel Train Adventure, Light Maze, festive pop-up bar Snowy’s Spirits & S’more, and more.

Admission is $5 and tickets must be purchased in advance. There are also several free days that require advance reservations.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

See one of Chicago’s most famous streets light up for the holidays during The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The weekend kicks off with a tree-lighting ceremony at the Wrigley Building.

Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse lead the procession, followed by festive floats and Santa himself. During the parade, the surrounding Mag Mile lights up in a glorious display of more than one million lights, adorning the street’s 200 trees. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks display.

City of Chicago Christmas Tree

This year marks the City of Chicago’s 109th Christmas Tree, which will light up in the heart of Millennium Park this winter. The beloved annual tradition kicks off with an exuberant tree-lighting ceremony on Nov. 18, 2022. The tree will shine brightly near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street until January. If you come to see the tree, don’t miss the chance to go ice skating in Millennium Park.

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is bringing back its experiential Lightscape experience for another year. The awe-inspiring display is set along a mile-long path where visitors can admire multi-sensory light installations by artists from around the world. Experiences include the towering Winter Cathedral, fire-filled sculptures, singing trees, and more. Make sure to purchase your timed tickets in advance.

Menorah lighting in Daley Plaza

Menorah in Daley Plaza
Chabad of the Loop & Gold Coast — Center for Jewish Life

Celebrate Hanukkah with the annual Menorah lighting in the Loop’s Daley Plaza. The official lighting ceremony will take place with live music and holiday donuts for spectators. The display is adjacent to the beloved Christkindlmarket, a festive German holiday market where you can shop for gifts and treats.

Macy’s State Street holiday windows and the Great Tree

Macy’s on State Street is an essential holiday destination. It’s home to the historic Walnut Room, the first-ever restaurant to open inside a department store. The stately space is bedecked with antique chandeliers and plenty of elegant holiday decor, with the towering Great Tree as its centerpiece.

Outside, you’ll find even more holiday magic. The Macy’s Holiday Windows have been a tradition for more than 50 years, each year featuring a different theme. The storefront windows are intricately and elaborately decorated to tell a whimsical holiday story as you move from one display to the next.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Light Up the Lake Navy Pier
Light Up the Lake Navy Pier

Navy Pier, Chicago’s famous lakefront attraction, is hosting its luminous indoor holiday experience again this year. Light Up the Lake features sprawling light-sculpture displays made with more than 600,000 twinkling lights, a massive ice rink, a birch tree maze, visits with Santa, and more. And don’t forget to take a spin on the climate-controlled Centennial Wheel for snow views of the city skyline,

Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

Photo courtesy The Morton Arboretum

Illumination: Tree Lights is a popular, immersive holiday event at the Morton Arboretum in nearby Lisle. Marvel at the stark beauty of trees in winter as they’re illuminated by interactive lighting effects, including a tunnel of light, a magical woodland, and a landscape filled with thousands of lights dancing to music.

Walk the one-mile path through the Tree Lights and enjoy the colorful show. Then warm up by the crackling fire, make s’mores, and visit the concessions tent. Get your timed tickets in advance.

Menorah lightings around the city

Menorah in Daley Plaza
Chabad of the Loop & Gold Coast — Center for Jewish Life

Celebrate the start of Hanukkah with menorah lighting ceremonies across the city. The largest will be downtown at Menorah Lighting in Daley Plaza near Christkindlmarket. Check out one of many neighborhood gatherings hosted by local groups, such as the annual menorah lighting in Mary Bartelme Park.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Chicagoland’s largest and longest-running lights festival, the 41st annual Holiday Magic features more than two million twinkling lights throughout the sprawling, 216-acre suburban Brookfield Zoo. Walk through a 600-foot-long light tunnel set to music, and enjoy the 41-foot-tall tree, larger-than-life LED animal sculptures, and festive food and beverages. Advance tickets are required.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

Each year, the Museum of Science and Industry celebrates the most magical time of the year with its Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibits.

The centerpiece of the Christmas Around the World exhibit is the four-story Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees decorated to represent holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. Plus, abundant glittering lights and the occasional snow shower add to the festive feel.

In Holiday of Lights, the museum honors the traditions of Lunar New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day, and St. Lucia Day. Buy your tickets online.

CTA Holiday Train

CTA Holiday Train
CTA Holiday Train

There’s no better way to get around the city than on the CTA Holiday Train. The ‘L’ train is elaborately decorated with lights, bows, and candy-cane stripes, complete with Santa and his elves handing out candy to passengers. You can catch a ride from late November through December on various ‘L’ lines. Check the CTA schedule for details.