Holiday Happenings Part Two

Tulips at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Lightscape. (J Jacobs photo)
Tulips at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape. (J Jacobs photo)

Chicago might as well be called Holiday Central given all the fun, light-filled events taking place across the city and suburbs. So, to make it easier to figure out the where and when, we are dividing up the what.

Part One listed some of the holiday shows and date specific events such as parades because shows need tickets and some events are only one day or weekend.

Part Two is about light shows in and around Chicago. Most go through Jan. 5, 2020. Lights typically are on from about 4:30 to 9 p.m. Check each event’s site for hours and dates either not on or by holiday limitations.


Appropriate music accompanies your walk through cathedral-style arch. (J Jacobs photo)
Appropriate music accompanies your walk through cathedral-style arch. (J Jacobs photo)

Chicago Botanic Garden Lightscape

Imagine walking through curtains of lights, spotting an Oriental landscape across a lake and watching a field of lights rolling towards your path. Those are just a few of the spectacular light experiences now at the Chicago botanic Garden through Jan. 5, 2020.

Called Lightscape, the holiday light show takes the place of Wonderland, the garden’s annual, mostly indoor, holiday display of trains, villages and Chicago landmarks.

The new show is a British export that was first used in London’s Kew Gardens.So expect the unexpected from a London-style fog and singing trees to snow-flake-patterned walkways and a cathedral-like archway. Different music accompanies each light display.

It’s possible some youngsters (and oldsters) will miss the trains and landmarks even though many of them are up in a different format in summer.

But judging by all the oohs and aahs heard as visitors strolled outdoors opening night (Nov. 22, 2019), the light show is attracting another generation of garden holiday visitors.   Click IMG_2291  for a nano-second of the rolling landscape that ends the Lightscape.

Entry is ticketed and by time and date so best plan is to buy tickets on line. The path is a mile-long but plan to spend an hour to gaze, snap unusual light displays and take selfies. Lightscape goes through Jan. 5, 2020.

Prices vary by category ranging from not busy to busy times. Parking is extra unless you are a garden member.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd. Glencoe, on the border with Highland Park, just east of Edens Expressway. For ticket and other information call  (847) 835-5440or visit Chicago Botanic Garden Lightscape.


Meadow Lake Magic during Morton Arboretum's Illumination. (Morton Arboretum photo)
Meadow Lake Magic during Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. (Morton Arboretum photo)

Morton Arboretum Illumination

Fall’s gold and amber hues changed to blues, purples and reds when “Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum” opened Nov. 23, 2019.

A new, mile-long path goes past interactive light displays that include Tree Fascination’s digital projection of color and pattern. Music adds to the magic felt when walking among the trees after dark.

Parking is free with Illumination tickets. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Hwy 53 west of Chicago in Lisle. For tickets and other information call 630) 968-0074 or visit MortonArb.


ZooLights is a fun time to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. (Lincoln Park Zoo photo)
ZooLights is a fun time to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. (Lincoln Park Zoo photo)


Visitors who enjoy Lincoln Park Zoo during the day will find the place transformed thanks to a  ComEd sponsorship when 2.5 million lights start twinkling and hundreds of luminous displays light up on Nov. 29, 2019 as part of ZooLights.

The annual holiday event includes ice sculpture carving on weekends, carolers on weekdays and lots of other activities.

Entry is free but ZooLights is not on daily so check the website for days off and events for member or family activities. In addition, some activities such as the Ferris Wheel, Carousel and Light Maze require tickets.

Lincoln Park Zoo is at 2001 N. Clark St. For other information call (312) 742-2000 or visit LPZoo/ZooLIghts.


Holiday Magic (East Mall) at Brookfield Zoo. (Brookfield Zoo photo)
Holiday Magic (East Mall) at Brookfield Zoo. (Brookfield Zoo photo)

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic

When Holiday Magic opens Nov. 30, among the favorite stops that veteran Brookfield Zoo’s annual visitors go is a 41-foot tall talking tree. However, the more than one million LED lights and the giant LED animal sculptures totally add a festive air to this visit to the zoo.

The event is weekends until the end of December when it goes from Thursday through Tuesday from Dec. 26 through Dec. 31, 2019.

There is a parking and entry fee if not a member.  Recommended parking is in the North Lot at 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street), Brookfield.

For ticket and other information call the Chicago Zoological Society Guest Line  at (708) 688-8000 or visit Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic.

Jodie Jacobs


Top holiday shows and shopping plus light sights

The Joffrey Ballet's Nutcraker at Aurditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
The Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcraker at Aurditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

If you don’t want to be saying “Oops” this holiday season then 1. Don’t wait to get tickets to the shows you or your family want to see and  2. Do put those holiday events you want to go to on the calendar.

The good news is that there are numerous great holiday shows and happenings in the Chicago area. The problem news is that the many places to go, things to do and see make it hard to narrow down the choices to what is doable.

Tip: Be realistic when weighing what is manageable with kids, tired feet and meal breaks.

The following suggestions offer three Chicago area choices in each category – shows, shopping and spectacular lights and sights:



A Christmas Carol At Goodman Theatre (2017 photo by Liz Lauren)
A Christmas Carol At Goodman Theatre (2017 photo by Liz Lauren)

What: Goodman Theatre’s “The Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 30, 2018

Where: In Goodman Theatre’s Albert Theatre at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago

Why: Goodman’s production of Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol” is  a Chicago tradition that never gets old with new staging often added. But the show is also a talking point for families on what is important.

How:: See ticket and other information at Goodman Theatre/Carol


What:  Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” Dec. 1-30, 2018

Where: Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr. (50 E. Congress Pkwy) at Michigan Ave.

Why: Going to the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” is also a Chicago holiday tradition. It was beautifully re-imagined  last year by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon as a visit by Marie and her mother to the 1893 World’s Fair. The mysterious Great Impresario turns the visit into an adventure. And it is all set to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music.

How: Find tickets and information at Joffrey Nutcracker


What: Lookingglass Theatre’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” Nov. 7, 2018 through Jan. 13, 2019.

Where: Lookingglass theatre is in the Chicago Water Works at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago.

Why: Lookingglass productions are highly innovative, well acted and engrossing. This tale based on a Hans Christian Andersen story is being staged as an exciting spectable by ttalented, creative Mary Zimmerman.

How: Tickets and information are at Lookingglass Theatre.



Good gift shopping at the Field Museum (J Jacobs photo)
Good gift shopping at the Field Museum (J Jacobs photo)

What: The Field Museum Store, anytime

Where: The Field is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, the furthest west building on the Museum Campus.

Why: The museum has a fantastic gift shop with items that would appeal to all ages.

How: For hours and admission visit Field Museum or shop on line


What: Christkindlmarket Chicago, daily Nov. 16-Dec. 24, 2018 and Naperville Thursday through Sunday Nov. 23-Dec. 24 2018.

Where: In Chicago at Daley Plaza on Washington Street between Dearborn and Clark Streets and in Naperville  at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St.

Why: It’s fun to see, buy and taste the type of Bavarian gifts and treats popular at holiday markets in Germany.

How: More information is at Christkindlmarket


What: Art Institute of Chicago Gift Shop, anytime

Where:  On line and at the museum, front entrance at 111 S. Michigan Ave. and the Modern Wing entrance at 159 E. Monroe St.

Why: Gift shop entrances do not need admission fees or tickets. The shops carry one-of-a kind gifts that won’t bust the budget. The Modern Wing has good glass items and the main gift shop has excellent jewelry and ties. Both  shops have Frank Lloyd Wright  items and gifts inspired by other artists. Also visitors like to take holiday  photos with the wreathed lions in front.

How: For hours visit the museum at artic.

Spectacular lights and sights

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

What: Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Nov. 23-Jan.6

Where: In Lincoln Park at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago

Why: See the animals while strolling among 2,5 million lights thanks to Com Ed and Invesco. Also visit Santa, watch ice carving, sip warm spiced wine, snack on holiday treats and watch a 3D light show.

How: Find hours and admission at LPZoo Zoolights.


What: Chicago Botanic Garden Lights and Wonderland Express Nov. 23-Dec. 21,2018

Where: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Why: the Garden’s event is called Wonderland Express but before going into the building that has trains zipping through Chicago landmarks, see trees and walkways lit by thouands of lights and visit the greenhouses’ topiaries and poinsettias. Then don’t worry about the “snow” falling on shoulders inside the exhibit building. It’s all about fun and winter wonders.

How: For hours and admission visit Chicago Botanic/Wonderland


What: Morton Arboretum Illumination Nov. 17, 2018-Jan 1, 2019

Where: The grounds of the Morton Aroboretum at 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle.

Why: These lights don’t stay still. They change color, they move to music, they’re interactive and Illumination, supported by Com Ed and Invesco, is fun.

How:: See hours and admission at MortonArb/Lights


Jodie Jacobs




See holiday lights festivals at the zoos and by trolley


Holiday Lights Tour

You know that Chicago celebrates the holidays with sparkling lights but if you don’t want to have to walk or drive all over to see them then check out the Holiday Lights Tour that takes folks to them on a double-decker trolley.

The tour starts its rounds from the John Hancock Plaza Tree at 875 N. Michigan Ave. It continues for 2 hours, 30 minutes with a stop at nearby Sprinkles Cupcakes, then over to the Christkindlmarket followed by a stop at Lincoln Park for ZooLights before ending back at the Hancock Center.

Lincoln Park ZooLights. Todd Rosenberg Photo
Lincoln Park ZooLights. Todd Rosenberg Photo
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

The Holiday Lights Tour goes from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23. For tickets, tour dates and hours visit Chicago Trolley.


ZooLights Festival

ZoolLights at Lincoln Park is more than a walk on the wild side. Along with visiting the animals and strolling among glowing, color-changing lights, there is a Light Maze labyrinth ($3), rides on the Endangered Species Carousel and a Lionel Train Adventure.

ZooLights entry is free but on Family Nights of Dec. 11, 18 and Jan. 1, the rides are also free.

ZooLights is Nov. 24-26 and Dec. 1-3  and then every night from Dec. 8 through Jan. 7 except Dec. 24-25. Hours are from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Lincoln Park Zoo is at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. For ticket and other information call (312) 742-2000 and visit Lincoln Park Zoo/events.


Holiday Magic 

The Talking Tree at Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic draws young and old visitors. Brookfield Zoo photo
The Talking Tree at Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic draws young and old visitors. Brookfield Zoo photo


Brookfield Zoo glows with more than a million LED lights during Holiday Magic, weekends Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17 and during the week Dec. 26-31. Don’t miss the events 41-foot high talking Tree, other trees that seem to dance to music and large light-shaped animals. Lights go on at 4 p.m.

Brookfield Zoo’s main parking lot is at First Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield, IL. For more date, hours and specific holiday events call (708) 688-8000 and visit Holiday Magic.