Chicago’s BEST Holiday Lights 2022

by Amanda on November 18, 2022

As temperatures and leaves continue to drop, it’s a tell-tale sign that the season is upon us!  That’s right ladies and gentlemen… ‘Tis the season for LIGHTS!!!

Whether Griswold or Scrooge, there’s something magical about seeing thousands, (and sometimes hundreds of thousands!), of lights glowing, blinking and twinkling in the crisp Chicago air.  The way the city glistens at night is truly one of my favorite things about this time of year. 

This isn’t just another “Top 10 List”, mind you.  This is a scientific study based on years of diligent research of Chicagoland’s best, high-powered holiday wattage! 

Starting in late November and running through the beginning of the new year, the city and suburbs duke it out for our prized ranking.  Lucky for you, we’ve simplified this into a condensed list with personal insight and links to maximize your holiday cheer!

10). Sparkle Light Festival

November 23rd – January 1st

Newcomer, Sparkle Lights Festival might lose points on name creativity, but from what we can tell, this event might crack into the top 5 next year. Hosted at Impact Field, home to the Chicago Dogs baseball team, the festival houses millions of lights, train rides, themed mazes, tubing and other wintry attractions. Sounds like Great America for the holidays – which means we’re TOTALLY checking it out!

9). Shine Light Show

November 18th – January 1st

For those of you who don’t want to give up your heated seats, we bring you the Shine Light Show! This pandemic-era innovation allows visitors to drive through gleaming tunnels of more than one million LED lights synchronized to holiday music. With locations in both Northbrook and Schaumburg – this sounds like a great way to cross “lights” off your bucket list without too much effort!

8). Amaze Light Festival

November 20th – January 8th

After its debut in Rosemont last year, only to be replaced by the Sparkle Lights Festival above, Amaze headed South in search of more space. They found it Tinley Park and offer up five themed light-up exhibits, photo ops, a holiday market and more. Part county fair, part holiday festival, Amaze also offers an all-ages tubing hill, Arctic Express train and is proudly sponsored by Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey 🤣🤣

7). City of Chicago Christmas Tree / Millenium Park

November 18th – March 5th

Every year, Chicago adorns Millennium Park with, what just possibly may be, the largest Christmas tree that you’ve ever seen. This year is the 109th annual tree for our fair city – gratefully donated each year by a Chicagoland family. The official lighting is Nov. 18th, but the fun doesn’t stop there!!!

Bring your skates (or rent them), and rip up the ice at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink or try out the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley park next door. You’ll also want to check out the Millenium Park Art Market and Holiday Sing Along. (Pro-Tip – make a reservation at The Gage before hand for some epic food and drink!)

6). Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

November 25th – December 31st

Ok… so we’re all about LPZ, but we have to give credit to the “other” Zoo for their efforts over the last 41 seasons. Brookfield Zoo is AMAZING with over one MILLION lights strung across trees, fences, giraffes and other slow moving structures. They also feature a skating rink, really really solid food and illuminated animal sculptures.

For hyperactive kiddos hopped up on Churros and Hot Chocolate, there’s also the “Game of Gnomes” where you can chase your turbocharged little ones across the Zoo. (Tip – here’s the location map if it’s really cold!)

5). Light Up the Lake

November 25th – January 7th

The annual winter festival at Navy Pier comes equipped with not only 500 decorated trees, but an indoor ice rink, inflatable slides and more.  Part holiday festival, part carnival, (minus the carnies), this is a great choice for those with kids or in-town relatives who have overstayed their welcome.

4). MSI Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

November 19th – January 8th

Forty-five foot tall Christmas tree… need I say more?  Ok, this IS the MSI, so on top of a towering pine and 30,000 lights, there are 50 smaller trees throughout the museum decorated to represent Chicago’s beautiful various cultures and holiday traditions. 

3). Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

November 18 – January 8th

Got relatives on the North Shore?  Check.  Need an excuse to go for a walk after the 5,000 calorie holiday meal?  Check.  Welcome to Lightscape, a mile-long meandering path through Highland Parks’ botanical gem.  100,000 lights, music and fire-filled sculptures will make you the messiah of your family.

2). ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

November 18th – January 1st

As someone who lives in the city… I WANT to love Zoolights and everything Lincoln Park Zoo.  But… getting there is tough to say the least.  Carpool, jump out of a plane or walk… but don’t drive!  The lights are amazing though with huge animal designs, awesome food and attractions for all ages.

1).  Illumination:  Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

November 19th – January 7th

Bite the bullet, buy your tickets and enter the Valhalla of holiday lights.  Breathing trees set to music, laser shows, digital projections on pines and even analog holiday treats like warming fires and more.  Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind event, sure to delight everyone.

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