Folks in the Midwest take their holiday lights displays seriously. Many of the more impressive illuminations across the region are family traditions. From Illinois to Ohio, Wisconsin to South Dakota, Michigan to Missouri, here are the best Midwest holiday lights displays to see this year.
East Peoria: Following its 30th annual Parade of Lights Nov. 21, the Winter Wonderland drive-through light display opens for the season. Follow along with the guided radio tour. Nov. 24-Dec. 31
Alton: More than 3 million lights adorn the trees in Rock Spring Park for “Christmas Wonderland.” Visit with Santa in the enchanted forest, or go for horse-drawn carriage rides available on weekends. Nov. 25-Dec. 27.
Chicago: Chicago’s fabulous BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival returns on Nov. 19 with a parade down Michigan Avenue. See Chicago’s holiday lights on a 30-minute helicopter ride along the lakefront or via the Chicago Holiday Lights Trolley tour. The trolley tour includes a Sprinkles cupcake and a stop to walk through the free Zoo Lights displays at Lincoln Park Zoo,” filled with animal-themed light displays. See the real animals, too, get a photo with Santa, ride the carousel or ice skate. Friday-Sunday only until Dec. 13, and then nightly Dec. 13-23.
Lisle: Trees are the stars of the awesome light displays at Illumination at The Morton Arboretum, in Chicago’s west suburbs. No Rudolph or Santa, just colorful, creative, laser light displays along a mile-long forested walking path dotted with warming bonfires.
Galena: Old Fashioned Christmas in Galena, Night of the Luminaria on Dec 10. Get transported to another century when you stroll through charming Galena from Main Street to the hills overlooking the park – and everything will be glowing. You will see nearly 5,000 candle-lit luminaries on the streets, steps and sidewalks of Galena. You can take a carriage, trolley, or just walk and enjoy this unforgettable holiday event. Stores along Main Street will be open for Luminaria festivities – offering refreshments, Santa visits and more.
Indianapolis: Start your engines! New in 2016 is “Lights at the Brickyard,” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Drive past 400 light displays on a 1.7-mile path that crosses the famous “Yard of Bricks.” Indi also has the nation’s tallest holiday light display at “Circle of Lights,” a 53-year tradition in downtown Indianapolis’ Monument Circle. The iconic Soldiers and Sailors Monument is transformed into a 242-foot tall Christmas tree, with carriage rides, live reindeer, symphony performances and old-fashioned candy. Nov. 25-Jan. 7.
Santa Claus: This Christmas-themed town goes all-out, with everything from elaborate residential light displays at Christmas Lake Village‘s “Festival of Lights” to a choreographed light show at Kringle Place Shopping Center). Try the 1.2-mile “Santa Claus Land of Lights,” a driving journey that tells the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer through huge LED displays. Nightly Dec. 16-31. Closed Christmas Eve and Day.
Fishers: Lights create a 50-foot Abominable Snowman, tractors, trains and more in the 10-acre drive-through display at Reynolds Farm Equipment. Free admission. Nov. 22-Jan. 1, from dusk till dawn.
Fort Wayne: Thanksgiving Eve’s “The Night of Lights” on Nov. 23 is a big celebration in Fort Wayne, as visitors walk along downtown and watch the displays light up one by one. A fireworks show follows.
Dearborn: Lantern-lit paths illuminate the old-fashioned Christmas performances and displays at the charming “Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village.” Ice skating and fireworks, too. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in December.
Grand Rapids: For over 20 years, the Christmas Lite Show at Fifth Third Ballpark has showed off almost two miles (over a million lights!) of animated displays, lighted tunnels and more. Nightly in December with a $17/car fee. Get a $2 off coupon on their website.
Duluth: The Bentleyville Tour of Lights claims to be America’s largest walk-through holiday light display. It’s located along Lake Superior, in the 20-acre Bayfront Festival Park. Displays feature Duluth and Christmas-themed icons. Nov. 19-Dec. 26.
St. Paul: The $10/car fee to drive by these 60 elaborate light displays in the St. Paul Police Foundation’s “Holiday Lights in the Park,” goes to help needy families in the Twin Cities area. A special CD of music also can be purchased. Nov. 22-Jan. 1.
Kansas City: Country Club Plaza continues a nearly century-old tradition on Nov. 24 with fireworks and a live concert. Views are available from plaza hotels, such as the upscale Hotel Sorella or the family-friendly Holiday Inn. Its Holidays on the Plaza displays are up until Jan. 1.
Lake of the Ozarks: Twenty-seven acres of light displays, some as tall as 30 feet, fill “The Enchanted Village of Lights” at the Laurie Fairgrounds, Nov. 18-Jan. 1. The Shrine of St. Patrick on Hwy 5 offers a religious-themed “Festival of Lights” Nov. 24-Jan. 1, and the Unity Circle of Lights in Versailles celebrates cooperation among community members with 40 glowing, animated holiday scenes. Nov. 28-Jan. 1.
Branson: Broadway-style productions, a 5-story special effects Christmas tree, and 1,000 additional decorated trees make Branson’s one of the top holiday light displays in the Midwest. Among its most popular features are the Trail of Lights, a drive-thru trail with millions of holidays lights and a 23-foot Christmas tree. The Travel Channel ranks it as one of the best places drive-thru Christmas lights displays in the U.S. Nov. 5-Dec. 30.
Hamilton: Drive through the rolling hills of Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park to see its outdoor art sculptures decorated with more than 2 million lights at its annual “Holiday Lights on the Hill.” Nov. 18-Jan. 1.
Huron: Drive through the “Firelands Festival of Lights” at the Sawmill Creek Resort, and then stop in the Candy Cane House to visit with Santa. Free admission. Nov. 27-Dec. 31.
Pierre: “Christmas at the Capitol” fills the state capitol building with nearly decorated trees from individuals and local organizations. Activities include music and kids’ story times. Nov. 23-Dec. 26.
Lake Geneva: The beautiful Grand Geneva
Resort & Spa hosts its Christmas in the Country celebration from Nov. 20-Dec. 31. More than two million lights illuminate the resort’s 1,300 acres of rolling countryside, and new in 2016, they’ll have indoor displays as well. The Lodge at Grand Geneva features dozens of holiday displays, daily holiday teas, gingerbread house building contests, breakfast with Santa, and live holiday performances.
Milwaukee: Thousands of lights create animated scenes and dancing luminaries in Pere Marquette Park for the annual Holiday Lights Festival. Nov. 17-Dec. 27.
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