Looking to see some great free Christmas lighting displays around Chicago in December 2011? (CLICK HERE FOR 2013 CHRISTMAS LIGHT SHOWS IN CHICAGO AREA) Chicago is dazzling with lights and decorations during the Christmas season! From special holiday exhibitions at Chicago museums to popular annual traditions like the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and the Daley Plaza Christmas Tree to celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, there is no better place to experience the joy and magic of the holiday season than Chicago. Visitors to the city are invited to make their first stop the Chicago Office of Tourism’s Visitor Information Center in the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 East Washington Street. Start your own holiday viewing tradition with this list (although not all are free):
Magnificent Mile Lights For 50 years, the trees along North Michigan Avenue have been illuminated to signal the official kick-off of the holiday season in Chicago and around the nation. With the help of over 800 volunteers, The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival® presented by Harris encourages everyone to join in the spirit of the holiday season and enjoy a host of festive experiences along The Magnificent Mile®.You can start your tour on Lake Shore drive. There are beautiful alleys of trees decorated for the Christmas. Go past Navy Pier to see the big wheel all in colors. You can make a stop there and go inside to get a caramel apple and take pictures. Later, go west to catch Michigan Avenue to see all the lights and trees on it. Great place to stop and take pictures is a distance between Magnificent Mile Hotel to Randolph Street and Wacker Street intersection. Don’t forget to drive past Chicago’s famous Grant Park and take a look at the beautiful Buckingham fountain.
Museum of Science and Industry has a display of Christmas Trees Decorated from Around the World. The Museum halls are decked, holiday singers and dancers fuel the festivities, and the sparkle of dozens of decorated trees greets you at the 69th annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light. The Museum’s 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the Rotunda with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments, and it is surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees—beautifully decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. Stroll through the trees, enjoy intermittent falling “snow” and savor the performances of various dance and choral groups on the Holiday Stage. Paid admission required
Cuneo Museum Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show in Vernon Hills, IL The grounds of the Cuneo Estate are covered brightly lit figures of animals, elves and characters from children’s stories. The holiday display is a delightful family outing or romantic date. The drive through show is open 6 pm to 10 pm. We will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Cost is $10/car on weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and $5/car on week nights (Monday through Thursday). We have also decorated the mansion for the holidays and will have a holiday open house on Dec 16th with Santa, crafts, movies and more from 6:30PM – 9:00PM. The price for the open house is $5/person, kids under 10 years of age are free (you do have to pay the Holiday Light Show fee to enter the grounds for the mansion tours).
Lincoln Park Zoo ZooLights in Chicago. This Free light show at Chicago’s free Lincoln Park Zoo is a favorite. One of the brightest parts of Chicago’s winter – ZooLights – returns in late November and runs to Jan 1 (closed Dec 24-25). ZooLights is free and open to all so come by for ice carving demonstrations, visits with Santa, warm drinks, cool crafts and more than one million beautiful lights. There are huge lighted animal sculptures that cast a magical holiday glow at the Lincoln Park Zoo during the annual Zoolights Festival. The Zoolights Festival is a delightful holiday event for the entire family. Over one million lights and ice carvings create a`magical holiday display. The illuminated animal sculptures will be displayed on varied dates in November and December. . Admission to the Lincoln Park Zoo is free.
Wonderland of Lights at Chicago Botanical Gardens in Glencoe, Illinois The outdoor garden grounds are illuminated with over 750,000 festive lights in a magnificent holiday display. Take a magical adventure to a winter wonderland of twinkling lights and holiday beauty at the Chicago Botanic Garden when we kick off the holiday season! Outside, 750,000 lights sparkle and welcome you and your family to the Garden’s wonderland. Inside the Regenstein Center, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition of miniature trains winds over bridges, under trestles, past waterfalls, and through more than 80 mini-replicas of Chicago’s favorite landmarks. This unique blend of artistic wizardry, fanciful design, magnificent horticulture, and of course, the whizzing, whistling miniature trains, continues to delight children, parents, and grandparents, providing all with a superb pride-of-place Chicago experience. Paul Busse, designer of the Model Railroad Garden, created this amazing exhibition exclusively for the Garden’s holiday celebration. It’s time for family fun near Chicago that includes a festival of lights, Christmas trees, winter wonders, and holiday activities for kids at one of the world’s loveliest botanical gardens. Family entertainment and fun indoor and outdoor adventures for kids of all ages are available weekends or weekdays. Wonderland Express welcomes you! Ticket prices: Adults: $10 nonmembers, $8 members ; Children ages 3 to 12 and seniors over age 62: $8 nonmembers, $6 members Children 2 and under: Free
Navy Pier – Winter Wonderfest takes place on Chicago’s famous and historic Navy Pier, and during the Christmas season , there is a wonderland of Christmas lights. The pier is lit up with over 750,000 lights, 25,000 ornaments, and over one hundred fully decorated trees. A walk on the pier and through the array of lights is a perfect free Christmas activity in Chicago. As always, admission to Winter WonderFest is free. Activity Wristband purchase is required to participate in rides and attractions.
Christkindlmarket – The City of Chicago features spectacular lights displays at the Daley Plaza German Christmas Market called Christkindlmarket. The outdoor market in the Chicago Loop has become so popular and loved by everyone that any Chicagoan will tell you that they could not imagine the city without it. The free Christkindlmarket Chicago is no longer just a German tradition, it has become a Chicago institution with its unique shopping experience, typical German food and drinks, as well as diverse holiday entertainment. Admission is free. Bring the family to this traditional German winter holiday market features holiday decorations, vendors in stalls and cottages selling German gift items and foods, entertainment and activities for all ages.
Macy’s Chicago – Visiting Macy’s Holiday Happenings is one of Chicago’s favorite Christmas activities. During November and December, Be sure to take in a delicious meal in the world famous Walnut Room under the Great Tree. The historic Great Tree, featuring 15,000 LED sparkling lights and 1200 ornaments, stands 45 feet tall and has been a centerpiece of the holiday dining tradition for more than a century. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this cherished Chicago event.
Lincolnwood: area bounded by Devon, Pratt, Edens Expressway (94) and Central.
Rosemont: Inside the entire gated community located off of Higgins at I-90 near Devon
Park Ridge: north of Uptown along Prospect Ave., turn right coming off of NW Highway or Touhy and head north towards Oakton. There’s mansions and the golf course all lit up.