Although I may criticize the houses that have mismatched lights (half blinking color lights, regular white lights, and purple rope lights all at once? Seriously?!?), one of my absolute FAVORITE Christmas activities is to drive around looking at all of the Christmas Lights in Chicagoland. So put on some matching jammies, warm up some hot cocoa, and hit the road with this list to find the BEST Christmas Lights in Chicagoland.
NOTE: This list is updated every year although the original “publish” date is from years past. Last updated 12.8.2019.
Many of the displays we go to are ones that my Dad used to take me when I was a little girl, and there are also some secret spots that I learned about after reading Mary Edsey’s “The Best Christmas Decorations in Chicagoland.” This great guide to twinkling winter wonderlands not only gives directions on where to find them, but also provides some background on the light displays and adds some of Edsey’s favorite anecdotes. And before you ask, she is no way sponsored this post…she is simply the sister of my beloved aunt and I know first hand of Edsey’s remarkable research going into this wonderful Christmas book.
BEST CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN CHICAGOLAND–PARKS
North School Park, Arlington Heights
This is a great spot where you and your kids can run around and interact with the light exhibits. In other seasons this is our favorite local park because of the ornate water fountain, and in the winter it is covered by a giant Christmas tree. There are many different lighted structures throughout the park, including some Hannukah dreidels, which makes my multi-faith family very happy.
Donald E. Stephens Park, Rosemont
Located just off of Higgins Road, this amazing light display is a feast for the eyes. The majority of the display is located within the gated community, so simply tell the gatekeeper located and Higgins and Scott Street that you are there to look at the lights. Similar to North School Park, there are many different light exhibits to look at, so it is best to dress warmly and get out of the car to check these out. On certain weekends (typically the one before Christmas), you can visit Santa in some of the Christmas huts and not have to wait in a long line. This park also has a petting zoo, which is a fun “extra” that you just can’t find at different Christmas light displays.
Philips Park Festival of Lights, Aurora
This free mile long stretch of roadway has tons of illuminated magic to enjoy. The whimsical displays make you feel like you have been transported straight into Santa’s workshop with 20 feet tall dancing trees and singing reindeer. Just remember to visit before Santa heads back to the North Pole for good; the light display ends on December 26th, much earlier than the other displays in this list. You can also donate to the local charities supported by the Philips Park Festival of Lights.
BEST CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN CHICAGOLAND–PRIVATE HOMES
First off….the bad news. The famous home on the corner of Engel and Bell Plaine in Park Ridge is staying dark this year. Follow their Park Ridge Lights Facebook page to see when their display will be back.
There is also another fun display located at 2112 Birch Street that is orchestrated to holiday music.
Arlington Heights has a few great houses decked out to celebrate the season. There is also an adorable display set to music located at 311 North Haddow Avenue. It is a very cute 5 minute long display set to music.
Magnolia Drive in Rolling Meadows has an amazing stretch of houses decorated and synchronized to favorite Christmas songs. They are also collecting donations for some local charities to spread cheer and joy this holiday season. To learn more about this display of over a MILLION lights, check out their popular Facebook page.
Des Plaines has a “candy cane” lane near Westfield Gardens (between Mount Prospect, Wolf, and Dempster). It is really tricky to find, so just google “Westfield Gardens” and pick just one street to send your GPS to locate. Some streets are better than others, but we got a kick out of all of the illuminated candy canes!
Another Des Plaines gem a fun set of houses on Wicke Road (enter 1773 Wicke, Des Plaines into your GPS). Two houses across the street from one another are set to music (the station is posted on a sign outside the homes). If you are lucky, you might even get a candy cane from one of the home owners (tell her that I sent you and your chances will be greatly improved!).
Christmas on Cleveland (1200 Cleveland Avenue) in Willmette has a dazzling, music synchronized display that would make Clark Griswold jealous. Bring a donation to add to their collection being raised for Ann and Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Just a short drive to an adjacent town, Christmas on Evergreen will run through 1/5/20. You can support their charitable drive benefiting Make-A-Wish when you head to 145 Evergreen Lane in Winnetka.
City and Nearby Suburbs
And I saved my absolute FAVORITE for last…I love, love, love the Sauganash/Lincolnwood Towers area. It has the coolest house that I have ever seen…their Christmas tree goes through the roof! A little tricky to find, these homes are located within a geographical square. When looking at a map, use the following streets to draw your square: Central Avenue, Cicero Avenue, Pratt Avenue, and Devon Avenue. The address of the house with the tree emerging from the roof is 6601 North Leroy (intersection of Leroy and Albion).
2656 West Logan Boulevard is one of the most impressive lights displays in Logan Square. While the lights might not be synchronized to music, they are still spellbinding!
While quite a bit of a drive, it is definitely worth it if you make the trek to the Larsen Christmas Lights Show (42W891 Beith Road in Elburn). Check their Facebook page for updates and the option to purchase glow bracelets and necklaces that synchronize to the light display! Runs through January 5th.
BEST CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN CHICAGOLAND–SPECIAL EVENTS
Chicago Botanic Gardens, Glencoe
While driving to see the Chicago Botanic Gardens lights display, you will undoubtedly enjoy seeing the gorgeous homes near it decked out in their festive glory. But once you make it past the gate house, you will be impressed by the simple artistic beauty throughout the entire gardens. The artists decorate in such a unique way that highlights the preexisting fountains and beautiful landscaping both inside and outside.
New this year is the stunning Lightscape exhibit. It is interactive, expansive, and breathtakingly beautiful (I mean–there’s a FIRE GARDEN!!!) You can check out my review and tips for visiting here.
Holiday Light Show, Randhurst Village
Starting December 7th and continuing every night until December 14th, there is a 3D holiday display complete with elves, snowflakes, and other fun holiday details projected onto the Hampton Inn hotel, all coordinated to Christmas music. Admission is free and shows run every half hour between 6 and 8 p.m. Pre show featuring adorable little elves at 5:30 p.m.
Illumination, Morton Arboretum
While it might be chilly to walk the grounds of the Morton Arboretum to see their famous “Illumination” Tree Lights, it is definitely worth it! Kids of all ages (even thirty six year olds!) can get up close to interactive light displays (trees that talk!) and warm up at fire pits set up along the path. Stretch your holiday dollar by getting discounted tickets from ComEd!
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry’s popular holiday exhibit showcases more than 50 trees representing countries, cultures and various holiday traditions celebrated around the globe. This year you can also enjoy the “snow” falls, Santa visits, and performances from various Chicagoland based cultural groups.
Zoo Lights, Lincoln Park Zoo
This FREE light show at Chicago’s zoo is the perfect way to brighten up your holiday season. Take advantage of the seasonal drinks and treats, as well as strolling carolers, ice sculpting displays, holiday markets, and more!
Festival of Lights Show, Promenade at Bolingbrook
Want to take a festive break from all the shopping? Then enjoy the nightly (on the hour) shows of over 250,000 LED lights dancing to holiday music through December 31st.
Holiday Magic, Brookfield Zoo
Light displays, animal encounters, ice skating rinks, ice sculpting, carolers…does it get any better than Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic? I really don’t think so. The only thing is that SO MANY PEOPLE love Brookfield’s Holiday Magic that the traffic is a NIGHTMARE. My tip? Head to the zoo in the early afternoon, check out the animals and warm up in the indoor exhibits, and wait for the lights to begin!
Art on the Mart, Merchandise Mart Chicago
This public art display runs 10 months a year, but has added new holiday themed images to run during the first 20 minutes and throughout the two hour long display. The digital art projection display starts at 7:05 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Where is your go-to for the Best Christmas Lights in Chicagoland? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS.
Looking for more winter fun? Check out my ideas on how to celebrate Christmas in Chicago!
Don’t miss a post…follow me on Blog Lovin’.