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- Christmas Lights in the Midwest
- Christmas Lights in Illinois
- Christmas Lights in Indiana
- Christmas Lights in Michigan
- Christmas Lights in Minnesota
- Christmas Lights in Missouri
- Christmas Lights in Ohio
- Christmas Lights in Oklahoma
- Christmas Lights in South Dakota
- Christmas Lights in Wisconsin
- More Ways to Celebrate Christmas
If you are looking to get into the Christmas spirit, few places shine as bright as the Midwest of the USA. Christmas lights and displays are a serious business here, and many of the Midwest’s illuminations are family traditions. If you are looking for the best Christmas lights displays to drive your family sleigh through, you have come to the right place! From Illinois to Ohio, Wisconsin to South Dakota, Michigan to Missouri, here are the best Midwest holiday and Christmas lights displays to see, with updates and COVID-19-related changes.
Christmas Lights in the Midwest
My teenagers always grumble about going to see Christmas light displays. “Why do we need to go see a bunch of lights?” they groan.
Yet, without fail, they enjoy themselves and the whole family ends up in a happy, holiday mood. I’m not sure exactly how the magic happens, but it’s a worthwhile and fun holiday tradition for families, teens, grandparents and anyone else who needs a dose of holiday spirit.
We often call it a “sleigh ride” as we go dashing through the snow, in our family car, taking in the Christmas light show spectaculars in our area. With a cup of hot chocolate in hand, it is a great way to ring in the season.
Here are some of the biggest and best Christmas lights displays in the Midwest.
Read More: How to Ring in the New Year, Family Style
Christmas Lights in Illinois
Northbrook: Let It Shine converts the Northbrook Court mall parking lot into a fun, drive-through musical light display. Tune your car radio to a certain station and drive along the winding path and watch the lights move to the music on towering trees, lighted tunnels and flashing candy canes. The mouths of the illuminated characters move to sing along with the mood-lifting music – everything from the “Frozen” soundtrack to old-school Christmas tunes.
Limited spots are available, so advanced purchase is required. Including taxes and fees, tickets are $29.99 per car on weekdays and $39.99 per car on weekends and holidays. Fast passes are available for an additional $15. Tickets can be used for discounts at nearby restaurants and shops. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the NorthShore University HealthSystem Kellogg Cancer Center. Runs Nov. 15-Jan. 9, nightly, from 4:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.but closed Christmas Day.
TravelingMom Tip: Let the kids stand up through the sunroof as you go through the lighted tunnels. It makes a cool video!
East Peoria: The East Peoria Festival of Lights is set to be even bigger this year. The town was a 2020 contender for Season 8 of The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC. How did the town do? It was the CHAMPION of the Heavy Weights Division on the show! The East Peoria Parade of Lights is set for November 21. The 36th annual East Peoria Festival of Lights holiday light show will be open from November 25, 2021, through January 3, 2022. Admission to the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through festival costs $10 per vehicle.
Alton: The “grandpa gang” hangs up 4 million lights on the trees in Rock Spring Park for “Christmas Wonderland” from November 26 through late December 2021. The suggested donation is $7 per car. (Note: There won’t be Santa visits this year.)
Bethalto: Just nine miles east of Alton is the Bethalto Christmas Village. It’s a walk-through festival in the Arboretum. Expect to see the cottages, giving trees, wire art and lit trees throughout the half-mile path. The committee is still looking for creative ways to include the Clauses and the nativity. The event opens on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving).
Brookfield: Brookfield Zoo’s 40th annual Holiday Magic event will feature a 600-foot-long tunnel with thousands of colored lights all synchronized to music; a giant 20-foot-lit orb ideal for Instagram selfies or holiday photos; a 41-foot-tall holiday tree; larger-than-life LED animal sculptures of a bison, a bear, and a giraffe; and 660 LED-lit trees decorated with ornaments. New in 2021, is the Sea of Lights, a display of over 2 miles of lights!
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There will also be a Game of Gnomes family-friendly scavenger hunt, seasonal treats and beverages, and a life-size cut out Santa Claus photo frame. Dress warmly; buildings will not be open. Dates are November 26-28, and December 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, and 26-31. Admission is by timed ticket and must be purchased in advance here.
Chicago: The big Magnificent Mile Lights Festival returns Saturday, November 20, 2021, beginning with the tree lighting on Friday, November 19, 2021, at 4 p.m. at the Wrigley Building Centennial Plaza. If you can’t see it live, the parade will air on ABC 7 Chicago on Nov. 21, 2021, at 6 p.m., with two additional broadcasts on Saturday, December 11 at 6 p.m. and on Saturday, December 25 at 12 p.m.
Likewise, the Christkrindl Market will be online only. Christkindl.live will launch on November 15, and run through December 31. A booth assistant will live stream daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To experience Chicago Christmas lights in person, drive up Michigan Avenue or head to Lincoln Park for the ZooLights displays at Lincoln Park Zoo. ZooLights runs from November 19 to January 2, 2021. It costs $5, and is free admission Mondays and Tuesdays. Tickets are available online and will be limited capacity again this year. In addition, anyone visiting from states listed in the city’s Emergency Travel Order are required to quarantine for 14 days before visiting the zoo.
TravelingMom Tip: Dress warmly to visit ZooLights! The animal buildings will be closed and the wind whipping in from Lake Michigan can be frigid in a Chicago winter! And check out all of the ways to celebrate Christmas in Chicago.
Rosemont: The newest Chicago area Christmas lights show, Amaze Light Festival at Impact Field, is a magical experience. There are timed light shows, seven theme-based illuminated worlds and a ridiculously fun tubing hill with single and double tubes so even little kids can get the thrill of sliding down the icy hill with an adult. Runs from Nov. 19, 2021, through January 2, 2022. Tickets start at $23 for adults and $18 for children ages 2-12. Tubing hill tickets are an additional $20 per person. Visits to Santa’s Workshop, which includes lighted seesaws, giant light brights and a special activation where children can write letters to Santa, must be reserved in advance when purchasing tickets online.
Lisle: Trees are the stars of the awesome lights display at Illumination at The Morton Arboretum, in Chicago’s west suburbs. No Rudolph or Santa here, just colorful, creative, laser holiday-themed light displays. This year, it returns to the 1-mile walk of previous years. Dates are November 20, 2021 -January 2, 2022. Tickets must be purchased online for a timed entry. Tickets will not be sold at the door. Prices range from $7-19 for members, and $13-$24 for guests.
Aurora: Aurora’s Festival of Lights is one of the largest drive through Christmas lights shows in Illinois. Expect to see Santa’s Toy Factory, Old Man Winter, elves and reindeer, holiday trains, gigantic snowflakes and beautiful lighted swags on the fence line surrounding the zoo, Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive. November 26-December 26, 2021. The Rotary Club of Aurora sponsors the light show. Admission is free (even for buses!), but donations are being accepted online. The money is used to support local area organizations.
Christmas Lights in Indiana
Indianapolis: Indy has the nation’s tallest holiday light display at “Circle of Lights” in downtown Indianapolis’ Monument Circle. About 100,000 people have shown up in the past to watch the lights turn on. That will happen November 26, 2021, when the iconic Soldiers and Sailors Monument is transformed into a 242-foot tall Christmas tree. In addition, the Indianapolis Zoo’s Christmas at the Zoo is set for 5-9pm from November 20-December 30, 2021. Winterlights returns to Newfields November 22, 2021, through January 2, 2022. The “Lights at the Brickyard” celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not been updated for 2021.
Santa Claus: As you can imagine, this Christmas-themed town goes all-out for the holidays. A highlight is 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. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Thanksgiving to December 5 and nightly from December 10-27, the cost is $15/car, but you can get a $4 off coupon at local McDonald’s restaurants.
Conner Prairie: Reynolds Farm Equipment has ended its annual Christmas lights display, but you can still get in the holiday spirit at Conner Prairie. The Reynolds family donated their light display to the Merry Prairie Holiday Festival, hosted at Conner Prairie. The festival will run from 5:30-9:30pm Friday-Sunday November 26- December 19, 2021, Tuesday and Wednesday, December 21 and 22. Tickets for members are $11 and nonmembers cost $22 in advance; tickets will not be sold at the gate. Admission is free for children under 2. Masks are required.
Valparaiso: Winter Lights Drive Thru features unique displays, many custom-made by park maintenance staff. Look for farm scenes, a roller coaster and Santa taking off into the sky. Open nightly from 6-9pm November 28, 2021 to January 3, 2022, at Sunset Hill Park. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.
Kokomo: Highland Park’s City of Lights is a drive-through attraction with more than 50 light displays. Open nightly from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Driving through is free, but for a special treat, book a carriage ride through the park. It’s $70 for up to 6 adults and 3-5 children, provided children can sit on adults’ laps.
Christmas Lights in Michigan
Dearborn: Lantern-lit paths illuminate the old-fashioned Christmas performances and light displays at the charming “Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village.” Horse and carriage and Model-T car rides, ice skating, caroling and fireworks, too. Dates will be December 3-5, 9-12, 16-23, 26-28, 2021, from 6:30 – 10:00 p.m. (members can arrive at 6:00 p.m.)
Grand Rapids: The Christmas Lite Show at Fifth Third Ballpark has almost two miles (more than a million lights!) of animated displays, lighted tunnels and more. November 24, 2021-January 1, 2022, 5:30-9:00pm Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-10pm Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $25/car.
Manistee: Sparkle in the Park, features more than 100,000 lights in holiday displays in Hopkins Park and throughout the village of Bear Lake, including angels, Christmas trees, Santa and reindeer, a salute to troops, snowmen, animals and Christmas scenes. Free, though donations are accepted. Nov. 27 through Dec. 31, 5 – 10 p.m. nightly, Hopkins Park, Bear Lake.
Christmas Lights in Minnesota
Duluth: The Bentleyville Tour of Lights, located along Lake Superior, is a drive-through event in the 20-acre Bayfront Festival Park. Kids 10 and under get a free knit hat. Displays feature Duluth and Christmas-themed icons illuminated by more than 5 million lights. November 20 -December 27, 2021. The entrance is free but parking is $10 at the gate. No vehicles longer than 20 feet or taller than 8 feet allowed.
Christmas Lights in Missouri
Kansas City: Country Club Plaza continues a nearly century-old tradition on Thanksgiving eve, when the mayor’s Christmas tree lights are turned on. Views are available from plaza hotels, such as the upscale Hotel Sorella or the family-friendly Holiday Inn. Best views are from the rooftops, or the second floor of Barnes & Noble. The displays stay up through mid-January. City Lights also includes the front façade of the 22-story Marriott Kansas City Downtown, which features a synchronized display of 30,000 bulbs.
Branson: Branson, which bills itself as “America’s Christmas Tree City,” does it up big during the holidays. There are several impressive drive-through light displays, including Let There Be Lights! at the Promised Land Zoo, Branson’s Gift of Lights and the Trail of Lights at the 160-acre Shepherd of the Hill Homestead. There is a cost for each event.
St. Louis: Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden features more than 1 million dazzling lights. The 2020 event will include fun new experiences, and traditional favorites such as s’mores, festive drinks, and fantastic family photo opportunities. Garden Glow is open every evening from November 13, 2021-January 8, 2022 except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Doors open at 5 p.m. Nonmember tickets are $18-$20 for adults; $3-$10for children ages 3-12. Children ages 2 and under are free. On Family Nights (November 7, 25, and December 1 and 8) children’s tickets are only $3. All tickets are dated and timed. Capacity will be limited due to COVID restrictions. Masks are required.
TravelingMom Tip: We’ve got lots more ideas for celebrating Christmas in St. Louis!
Also in St. Louis: Beer, of course, is served at the different Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights display. But you can sip it under more than 1 million twinkling lights. Ice skating, a Kid Zone play area with a Bevo Express Train, live music and a Soup Bar are part of the festivities. We are waiting to hear details of the 2021 event.
Christmas Lights in Ohio
Hamilton: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum’ Journey Borealis integrates monumental sculptures, inventive lighting displays, and a custom soundtrack from the Cincinnati Boychoir and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in a drive-through display. November 19, 2021 to January 2, 2022. Monday-Thursday 6-9PM and Friday-Sunday 6-10PM. Tickets are $20 per carload Monday through Thursday, $25 Friday through Sunday, and $15 per member carload.
Middletown: Light Up Middletown is entirely designed and installed by a group of volunteers called the “Grandpa Gang.” Drive through the display to see animated lights that feature all kinds of holiday cheer from the North Pole to snowflakes to winter animals. Open 6-10pm nightly from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.Admission is by cash donation.
Christmas Lights in Oklahoma
Muskogee: This small city of 40,000 does Christmas big with the annual Garden of Lights in Honor Heights Park. More than 1 million LED lights grace thousands of azalea bushes, line fountains, spiral upwards to the treetops and cascade down a hillside waterfall. The Garden of Lights is a drive-through event, but guests can park and stroll among the displays. Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, 5:30-10pm. Cost is $5 per car and $10 for buses. Mondays are free.
Christmas Lights in South Dakota
Brooking: Garden Glow at McCrory Gardens Education & Visitor Center is a winter wonderland of holiday spirit. The newest addition is “Reindeer Meadow” and holiday tunes throughout the walk. We are waiting for 2021 information.
Rapid City: Storybook Island in Rapid City gets turned into a winter wonderland during Christmas Nights of Light. Storybook characters are all dressed up in lights for the holiday season. Dates are November 26, 27 and 28, 2021 and December 3, 4, 5, and December 10-23 and December 26-31, 2021. Hours are 5:30-8:30 p.m. Admission: $3 per person.
Christmas Lights in Wisconsin
Lake Geneva: The beautiful Grand Geneva Resort & Spa hosts its Christmas in the Country celebration. More than two million lights illuminate the resort’s 1,300 acres of rolling countryside, including the family-favorite “12 days of Christmas” drive-through light show. This year, indoor displays and events are open only to resort guests.
Milwaukee: Thousands of lights create animated scenes and dancing luminaries in Pere Marquette Park for the annual Holiday Lights Festival. November 18, 2021 through January 1, 2022.