Growing up in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, the highlight of my holiday season was always the magical Christmas lights that adorned our neighborhoods. Driving around town to see these Chicago lights was a tradition that began in my childhood. With that, it seamlessly continued into my college years and beyond, evolving into an even more special experience as a parent. Now, as a mom with three kids, seeing the lights through their eyes is truly the best thing ever! *This post was updated in December 2023.
Chicago Lights Adventure with the Kids
In this post, I’ll guide you through some of the best Christmas light displays in the North Shore area and beyond! All of which are perfect for a fun and unique family outing. We’ve been going to see the lights for years, and not only does it never get old, but it only keeps getting better! So, grab your family, have everyone put on their pajamas, bring along some peppermint hot chocolate for the little ones (or go through the Starbucks drive-thru to get it!), and let’s hit the road.
Christmas-Lit Houses with Lights Synced to Music
These are my absolute favorite kinds of light shows to take the kids to see! They are free + so fun and magical to see the lights dance to the music from your car!
- Christmas on Cleveland in Wilmette, IL.
Address: 1200 Cleveland Street // Syncs up to channel 101.5 FM on your radio.
- Jahn Christmas in Buffalo Grove, IL.
Address: 5 Ashford Court // Syncs up to channel 94.5 FM on your radio.
Neighborhoods with Great Lights
- LINCOLNWOOD, IL: Nestled between the Edens Expressway and Central Avenue (east to west) and Pratt and Ionia Avenues (north to south), this area is picture perfect! It’s renowned for its breathtaking Christmas lights. Plus, it has a long-standing reputation that captures the festive spirit of the season. While it may not be as grand as in the past, it still offers a delightful experience. Pro tip: Use Waze or Google Maps with the cross streets Pratt Ave and Laporte Ave in Lincolnwood.
- LIBERTYVILLE, IL.: One of my followers shared about the “Milk Jug Neighborhood” with me. It is located on Dymond Road and Dover Road, just south of Golf Road in Libertyville. It turns out that all 28 houses in this neighborhood are adorned with milk carton luminaries. It’s supposed to be gorgeous, festive, and a very cool destination to visit during the holiday season. They are lit every night from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas and look the most beautiful during or after a snowfall.
- THE ROSCOE VILLAGE NEIGHBORHOOD IN CHICAGO, IL.: This Chicago neighborhood is worth noting. Every year, Roscoe Village invites their residents to participate in a holiday house decorating contest. They encourage creativity and the use of lights, “go big or go home” decorations, and music. Because of this, many houses in the Roscoe Village neighborhood are beautifully decorated and fun to pass by! So, if you’re close to the area and have some time to seek them out, you should go for it!
Ticketed Drive-Thru Light Show Experiences
- Willow Hill Lights in Northbrook, IL.: Willow Hill Lights is a drive-thru holiday lights show featuring a 2.5 mile route with over one million lights!! There are three drive through tunnels and a 30 foot Christmas tree. You pay one price per car and it’s truly spectacular!
Ticketed Walk-Thru Light Show Experiences
- The Botanic Gardens Lightscape Event in Glencoe, IL.: Take a stroll through the illuminated garden at night and enjoy the beautiful light displays. There are sparkling tunnels, singing trees, and more. It’s a truly awesome experience if you are eager to get out of your car. Don’t forget to dress warm to walk and take in the beauty!
- Sparkle Light Festival at Impact Field in Rosemont, IL.: Experience millions of lights in an open concept field. Visitors are invited to make magical memories while enjoying breathtaking displays of millions of holiday lights alongside a variety of activities. There is ice skating, you can ride on the “Holly Trolly” train, tubing down the Alpine Slide, and so much more. Our family has gone a few times now and it’s absolutely amazing!
- Jack Frost Fulton Market Pop-Up in Chicago, IL.: This is new for 2023 and sounds VERY cool. They describe it as an amazing outdoor experience set on 2 acres of land. They have ice skating, pop-up holiday shops, axe throwing, bumper cars, and beautiful lights upon lights upon lights to see! Make sure you buy your tickets in advance!! There is timed entry windows, however, you can stay as long as you’d like!
Tips for Enjoying The Chicago Lights:
- Plan your route: If you’re going to some of the houses / neighborhoods listed, map out a route that’s convenient for your family, considering your starting point and the locations of the light displays.
- Pack snacks and drinks: If hot chocolate isn’t your thing (or even if it is but you think your kids will need more during the ride), keep your family happy by bringing along festive snacks like milk and cookies and making sure there are water bottles available to everyone in the car.
- Play Christmas music during the entire car ride: This one speaks for itself! If you’re heading to one of the light show destinations where you park your car and walk around, make sure to listen on your way there and home!
- Bring jackets in the car: Just in case you want to have your kids get out for a photo moment, they can put their jackets on over their pjs to make sure they stay warm in the cold fresh air!
- Capture the moments: Capture the magical moments with photos and videos to cherish for years to come. Don’t be afraid to have your kids get out of the car and pose for a photo-op in front of some of the really impressive Chicago lights!
- Split the adventure into multiple nights for added fun: There is no rule that says this has to be a one-night affair. Split it into two or three outings, creating lasting Chicago lights memories for your little ones for years to come!
Final Thoughts About These Chicago Lights!
As you embark on your Chicago Lights adventure, remember to savor the simple joys of the season. The twinkling lights, the laughter of your kiddos, and the warmth of shared moments will undoubtedly create lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come. This is truly the most magical time of the year, so enjoy every second of it!
PS if you know of any other spectacular Chicago Lights the North Shore and beyond, that you feel need to be added to this list, either comment right on the post or DM me on Insta! Thanks!!!
WINTER PLAYDATE IDEAS ARE HERE!
I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s time to embrace the cooler temps and indoor vibes. I’ve put together a list of 10 exciting and unique indoor playdate ideas that will have your kids laughing, learning, and having the time of their lives with their friends – or simply with each other!
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