This year, make seeing the holiday lights in Chicago a new winter tradition for you and your family. While you likely know to check out the magnificent light displays in Chicago’s Loop, there’s more to see throughout the city, and even in the suburbs. From the resplendent holiday lights downtown to special displays in zoos and gardens, you won’t lack options. Bundle up, grab a cup of hot cocoa and celebrate the season by checking out these holiday lights in the Chicago area with family and friends.
(Photo Credit: Chicago Botanic Garden's Facebook)

(Photo Credit:
Chicago Botanic Garden’s Facebook)

A Walk Through Wonderland Express
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-5440

With its mix of indoor and outdoor displays, A Walk Through Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden will be a must-see show this season. The show features an outdoor path to Wonderland Express, guiding visitors along with miniature lights. Once inside, guests can see a miniature train, complete with a display of Chicago landmarks. Wonderland Express is also held in the garden’s Regenstein Center, giving visitors an opportunity to see the plants that call the center home. Tickets can be purchased in advance for the special exhibit. The show is open through Jan. 3, but will be closed Dec. 25.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Daley Plaza
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 494-2175

Experience holiday lights while shopping or snacking on a hot pretzel when you visit Christkindlmarket Chicago. Held at Daley Plaza, the annual event is in its 20th year in Chicago and features an assortment of vendors from around the world so you can find the perfect gift for everyone on your shopping list. While you can stop in at the market during the day on your lunch break (it opens at 11 a.m. every day), you should stick around to grab dinner and do some shopping in the evening, too. The market is held on Daley Plaza through Dec. 24, where you can also take a picture in front of this year’s Christmas tree.

Christmas Around The World And Holidays Of Light
Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637

There are Christmas trees, and then there are Christmas trees. When you visit the Museum of Science and Industry’s special annual exhibit “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light,” you’ll get a chance to take a look at trees decorated with special ornaments from around the world. For a special photo opp, consider taking a picture with your family in front of the museum’s Grand Tree. Clocking in at 45 feet, the exhibit’s centerpiece is not to be missed. While you’re at the museum, make time for exhibits that include “Numbers in Nature” and “Farm Tech.” The special exhibit will be on display through Jan. 3.

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Holiday Magic
Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513
(708) 688-8000

Sure, the weather might be frightful, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay indoors. Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic includes plenty lights (the zoo notes it has more than one million LED lights for the event), carols, music and more. Holiday Magic will be held Dec. 12-13, 19-20, and 26-31, and the festivities get started at 4 p.m. on each day. Don’t arrive just for the event, though. Plan to arrive a few hours early and spend time exploring the zoo’s exhibits and attractions.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000

See Lincoln Park Zoo in a new light when you visit during ZooLights. The annual event, a long-standing tradition for many Chicagoans, includes thousands of lights on display throughout the famed Chicago landmark. The free event also includes arts and crafts, gift shopping, live ice carving, musical light shows and plenty of animal encounters. Dinner and beverages will also be available for purchase. ZooLights will be on display from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11-23 and 26-31, as well as January 1-3. If you’re looking for plans for New Year’s Eve, then you’re in luck; the zoo will host a special event on New Year’s Eve in honor of the occasion.

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Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at