Illumination – Get in the Holiday Spirit

Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum. Illuminations 2020.
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In Chicago and surrounding areas, the usual holiday festivities are looking a bit different for the 2020 season. While some events may have been canceled, others have adapted for social distancing and for us to enjoy. This includes the eighth annual Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle which started on November 20.

Morton Arboretum Illuminations Gateway.

A popular event, this year’s Illumination is re-imagined as a driving experience. Featuring new displays, and a customized music soundtrack, you, your friends and family can enjoy it from the comfort of your vehicle.

Rather than a one mile walking path, guests will drive though what is about a roughly two-mile route to view 11 light displays. Guests may bring their own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to this event as no concessions are available. And to fully immerse yourself in the experience, make sure you tune your radio to the station given at the start of the route. The displays will go along to the music. Driving at 5 mile per hour, car passengers will be able to ooh and ahh at the lights and colors. For your safety, DO NOT get out of the car or stop traffic.

“Decisions about how to ensure staff and guest safety during Illumination had to be made earlier this year, when the status of the pandemic in winter was unknown,” said Preston Bautista, Ph.D., Vice President of Learning and Engagement at the Morton Arboretum. “Transforming it into a driving experience also gave us the opportunity to create an innovative, new and expanded exhibition that can’t be seen anywhere else.”

NEW Displays in 2020 include:
Gateway to Illumination begins the experience with a drive through an awe-inspiring tunnel of light.
Frost Hill Fantasy meanders through a grove of LED reeds woven into the landscape, creating a dynamic vista.
Crabapple Lake Magic reimagines the previous Meadow Lake Magic by showcasing the natural beauty of the new location.
Winter Brilliance turns Crowley Marsh into the first of two laser light experiences.
Enchanted Grove provides a second spectacular array of laser planes of light beaming into the night sky.
Radiant Wonder is a grove of trees silhouetted by brilliant up-lighting, providing the final view of Illumination before exiting the exhibition.

While different this year, Illumination is still a great way to get in the holiday spirit and something to do with the whole family. Each light display is different and will hopefully bring you joy and wonderment as the Crystal Promenade with its beautiful chandeliers did for me.


Ticket prices range from $29 to $49 per vehicle; a 15-person passenger van ranges from $54 to $64. Timed tickets for Illumination must be purchased in advance online on the website or in person at the Arboretum Visitor Center in advance of arrival at Illumination. Tickets will not be sold on-site during the event. The exhibition will stay open later, until 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas, in addition to New Years Eve and New Years Day as in previous years.

Illumination is built in partnership with noteworthy experiential lighting designers, Lightswitch, and production company Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC), and features energy-efficient, eco-friendly LED lighting.

All photos courtesy of Morton Arboretum