Get in the holiday spirit by walking, riding and driving your way through the magical light displays all over Chicago! Here are our top 5 favorite spots to light up your holiday spirit:
1. Lincoln Park Zoo Lights
Free Mondays and Tuesdays. $5 Wednesday – Sunday.
Stroll through the glow of the luminous LED displays at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Featuring millions of lights, seasonal experiences, and an amazing new light show on the South Lawn, you’ll love this event in the heart of Chicago. Due to Covid protocols, attendance is limited, so even on the free days, you’ll need to get entry tickets for everyone in your group. You can get your entry tickets here.
If you arrive early, you might find a free parking spot along Cannon drive; otherwise, be prepared to pay for parking in the zoo lot at Fullerton and Cannon Drive. Alternate options are to take a CTA train to the Armitage or Fullerton stations or take the bus via the 22, 36, 151, and 156 routes.
2. Allstate CTA Holiday Train
Another fun Chicago holiday tradition is the CTA Holiday train! Hop on the illuminated train covered in thousands of lights and wrapped with holiday images. Santa is also along for the ride on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees.
The train has two purposes: to deliver joy to the riders and deliver food baskets to charitable agencies throughout Chicago. The history of the train dates back to 1992 when someone posted a “Season’s Greetings from the CTA” sign on an out-of-service train used to deliver food to charities. Over the years, this holiday tradition evolved to light up the CTA train and bus lines and the holiday spirit of the riders. Transit times can be found here.
3. Magnificent Mile and Millennium Park
Whether by foot, bus or car, the downtown Chicago lights are not to be missed! Starting at Oak Street, you can enjoy the holiday decorations all the way to Millennium Park. Highlights include the enormous lighted tree in the John Hancock Plaza as well as the Millennium Park Christmas tree. Enjoy ice skating? Once you are at Millennium Park, you can glide along the Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon while images of the work of Van Gogh are projected on the climbing walls. Please note that due to Covid, reservations are required at the Ice Skating Ribbon.
4. State Street & Daley Plaza
It wouldn’t be the holidays without the imaginative windows at Macy’s! Start walking at Wacker and State by the iconic Chicago Theater to enjoy the illuminated State Street decorations and soon you will come across the 2021 Macy’s holiday windows. The theme this year is the reindeer who was too shy to fly.
From State Street, you can walk west down Washington Street to get a photo in front of the iconic Chicago Christmas tree at Daley Plaza. While you are there, enjoy a glass of glogg at the authentic traditional Christkindlmarket and maybe get a little shopping in!
5. Shop Small & Enjoy the Sparkle in Lincoln Square
Starting at Lawrence and Lincoln Avenue, you can stroll among the white lights in Lincoln Square. The Giddings Plaza Christmas tree adorns the center of the gathering area where kids run free while their parents often sip a warm beverage from nearby Café Selmarie or Oroma Café. In addition to the ambiance, Lincoln Square is full of treasured local shops such as Timeless Toys, Enjoy, An Urban General Store, Merz Apothecary and The Chopping Block. Check for store hours before you go. Stores have extended hours during Shop Late Lincoln on December 16th.
Enjoy the lights! Happy Holidays!