Last weekend, we loaded everybody up and drove to Naperville, IL, to see my brother and his family. Our family, my parents, and my other brother, Paul (the Funcle) have headed down to Naperville almost every December to hang out with family and enjoy the Christmas season. This year, the 11 of us decided to try out the Illumination light show at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, a neighboring suburb to Naperville. My brother and his wife said that the arboretum is beautiful during the day but that during the Christmas season, Illumination takes the beauty to a whole new level.
What is Illumination at The Morton Arboretum?
We walked a mile long path through the arboretum that is filled with lights and music. The paved path is wide and easy to walk with strollers and wheelchairs. Illumination is open from mid November to January 1 and had over 150,000 visitors in 2017.
I wasn’t sure what to expect before we arrived, but my older brother, Bryan, told me that they light up the arboretum and that it was more than Christmas lights. I was thinking there would be trees and branches wrapped in lights along a path. Well, I was partially right. Right outside the entrance, there are many trees and branches wrapped in bright white, green and blue lights. To me, that would have been good enough.
However, once we entered through the building and started our tour of Illumination, my expectations were greatly exceeded. Unlike anything I have ever seen before, there were synchronized lights dancing to symphonic music. It felt as though I was in a dream. When I looked to the left, there were dancing lights in the water, to my right, a giant tree that looked as if its branches were moving all around.
It seemed as if we stopped every 20 to 30 yards to take in all of the details. Adelaide will be two in January, and she kept saying, “Wow!”
About half way through the path, there was a tent where you could warm up with some hot cider or hot cocoa. If you were feeling extra cold, you could order your hot cider with Captain Morgan or your hot cocoa with Baileys. They even sold smores kits and had different stations with bonfires that were attended by employees where you could make smores.
The smores were a cute idea, but if we bought one for Jude, we would have to buy one for Adelaide (monkey see, monkey do), and then I’d definitely need to buy some Baileys for my hot cocoa.
As we walked out of the tent, the kids spotted the tree hugging station right away, and they loved it. As they hugged the trees, the trees seemed to respond because the lights above them turned different colors. It was fun to have the interactive elements for the kids.
Then, the path took a slight incline and to our left was Ornament Hill. The entire hill was covered in lights and giant glowing orbs. As we walked up the hill, there was a small forest of trees with lit up chandeliers hanging from them.
After the chandelier display, there were trees that looked like they were being painted with brush strokes of different colors of light followed by very tall white rods sticking up out of the ground with dramatic lighting and music. The kids were engaged the whole time, and Jude kept asking questions about how the lights worked and who put them all up.
Purchase tickets in advance and bundle up
My brother purchased the tickets for us about a month in advance, and he had to purchase the tickets for a specific time on the Saturday night. He checked back a few days later to see if he could purchase additional tickets for the same day and time, and it was sold out. It cost about $30 total for 2 adult tickets and one child ticket; kids 2 years and under are free.
After we parked and walked into the park, it took us about two hours to walk through Illumination, and it was chilly. We had the kids dressed in layers, but it would have been a long evening had we not brought all of our winter gear.
Make a weekend out of it
We will definitely be going back to Illumination in the coming years. It’s a budget friendly Christmas activity that people of all ages and stages can enjoy, and it was fun to have the experience together as a family.
What holiday traditions does your family enjoy? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.