Holiday Light Show Essentials

Let’s face it, outings have been few and far between this holiday season thanks to the global pandemic. So when we have gone out to celebrate the holidays, we have gone ALL OUT. The perfect example of this is how we prepare for going to look at Christmas light displays throughout Chicagoland. From where to go and what to bring, check out this list of Holiday Light Show Essentials.

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Make a List & Check It Twice

Before you pile into the car, let’s talk about how to sniff out the absolute BEST holiday light shows in Chicagoland. Did you know that the reason my blog exploded many years ago was due to an article that rounded up the best holiday light displays in Chicagoland?

While every year there are changes (and this year there are so many great private homes that I honestly can’t keep up with the updates), I always recommend Candy Cane Lane in Saguanash, Lights on Magnolia, the stunning display at North School Park, and some of these other private homes. My list of the Best Holiday Light Shows Across Chicagoland is most definitely one of my TOP Holiday Light Show Essentials.

My tip is to try to avoid the MASSIVE holiday light shows that EVERYONE is talking about. Or, if you really want to see those displays, visit during the week right at sundown. That way you won’t get stuck in traffic and you can avoid crowds as much as possible. Super cold and rainy day? That might be a great one to enjoy a light display while everyone is staying warm and cozy on the couch.

To avoid rolling up to a display to find an endlessly long line and have no solution but to return home, scout out 3-5 different displays in a similar geographic area (within 15 or 25 minutes of each other) so that you can pivot your plans. If this year isn’t all about pivoting, I don’t know what is!

Invest in Light Show Tickets

One of the best parts about this crazy year is that so many holiday light displays have been altered to be DRIVE THRU light shows. That means you stay warm, you don’t have to carry kids who refuse to sit in strollers, and you have the conveniences of your car (heeeey, snack bag) to enjoy while enjoying light displays.

The only problem is that these drive-thru light show tickets are in HIGH DEMAND so here are some insider tips. Let It Shine at Northbrook Court was one of our favorite displays, and we were able to scoop up tickets by purchasing tickets for the EARLIEST time slot. While it might not have been completely dark by the time our ticket window began, we stalled a bit before getting in a VERY short line and enjoying the light show.

The Morton Arborteum’s absolutely GORGEOUS Illumination is currently sold out, but on Mondays around noon they release a small handful of tickets. So mark your calendar (and your watch) to log on Monday at noon to try to scoop up some tickets.

Lastly, be on the lookout for people who have changed their plans and can no longer use their tickets. Many families have been re-selling or simply gifting away tickets within Facebook groups and on neighborhood websites, so turn on notifications for your chance to take advantage of someone else’s change of plans. Clearly patience and determination are Holiday Light Show Essentials.

Deck the Halls

Yes, I know that the light displays you are visiting are epically decorated, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t add a bit of festivity to your own car! Weather you attach battery-operated lights to the inside of your car, hang garland around the seats, put a wreath on the grill of your car, or TURN YOUR CAR INTO A REINDEER, these are all fun and festive Holiday Light Show Essentials.

You can also simply deck your kids with Santa hats, light-up necklaces, and other fun holiday décor if you plan to leave your car untouched (or because it is so covered with goldfish crumbs you don’t want to add any light to see the mess!).

Get a Great View

Looking for the best seat in the house at a drive-thru light show? It’s through the SUN ROOF of your car. Yes, I swear, it’s amazing. But it’s also REALLY, REALLY cold so break out one of your many masks (balaclavas are GREAT) and wear one while checking out the dazzling light displays. Don’t have a sun roof? Then open all of the windows to enjoy and try out these fun 3D glasses to make the colored lights REALLY dance.

If you are like me and wanted to get a great video of holiday light shows to make an Instagram reel (or simply share with those who weren’t able to attend with you), invest in a selfie stick and a weatherproof phone case so your arm doesn’t go numb trying to take a video during your experience. Just make sure that a passenger, not the driver, is responsible for the video and picture taking.

Stay Warm and Cozy

You might get a bit chilled while trying to get the best view of the holiday light displays, so be sure to wear your coziest holiday pajamas (bonus points if you have family matching ones) and slippers, pack the softest blankets to keep warm with all of the windows open, and of course bring some decadent hot cocoa to enjoy while driving around.

For more holiday-themed fun, check out this list.

Enjoy the Lights!


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