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The Best Holiday Light Displays in Chicago

a pink and blue lit tree at Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Gardens

Nothing says the holidays like a great light display. It’s the darkest part of the year, and the lights bring a special kind of joy. I love cozying up by the light of my Yule tree, and making special trips to see grand light displays has been a highlight of my holiday celebrations for as long as I can remember.

If you happen to find yourself in the Chicago area in the last few months of the year, there are several amazing displays for you to check out. Here are my two favorites, and what makes each one special!

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo

For me, ZooLights is the light display most synonymous with Chicago during the holidays. The Lincoln Park Zoo is a city institution, and one of the largest free zoos in the country. (Click Here for a full guide to the zoo when it isn’t decked out in lights!) 

ZooLights does come with a price tag, but a very reasonable one. A ticket to ZooLights will run you $7-$10 depending on the day of the week. Monday nights are free, but expect massive crowds if you decide to go those evenings.

Once you’re inside, you’re free to wander the zoo grounds and admire the displays! There will be lights everywhere. Some of them will be animal-shaped to honor the zoo environment! Some of them will be animated and set to music!

Most of the zoo’s animals will be indoors or asleep during a ZooLights visit. It’ll be well after nightfall and the air temperature will probably be quite chilly. But if you do want to see some animals, most of the zoo buildings will still be open for you! You can check out all the snoozing monkeys in the primate house, and any nocturnal animals in the small mammals building might actually be up and moving! The dining options will also be open. I highly recommend getting a spiked hot chocolate to sip as you explore.

Overall, ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is exactly the homey, cozy holiday display that the season’s best memories are made of. It’s my favorite display in the Chicago area, hands down.

Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden

If your holiday light tastes skew a little more luxurious and curated, then Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden is for you!

Lightscape is a stunning journey through one of the most gorgeous places in Chicago. You’ll follow a guided path through the garden, with each section decorated in its own distinct style. Think beautifully lit water features, trees wrapped in color-coordinated lights, elegant moving displays set to music, lighted tunnels, and an entire garden full of candles. Every display is unique and gorgeous, and with a designated path to follow, you’ll be sure not to miss a thing.

Lightscape is a little pricier. Tickets start at $30 per person, and that doesn’t include parking. Book early! The tickets tend to sell out every season, and parking is cheaper if you book it in advance on their website. But if you’re looking for a truly one-of-a-kind holiday display, Lightscape is worth the splurge!

What's your Chicago Holiday Lights Style?

Which display sounds right for your holiday season? No matter your style or your budget, there’s a display for you in the Chicago area. Happy Holidays, and enjoy the lights!

Love and Shenanigans,


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