It’s a family tradition: These three magical locations fill the holidays with lights and wonder

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Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden includes an outdoor display of 750,000 LED lights adding holiday cheer to the Esplanade, Heritage Garden and other locations.

Make sweet wintertime memories and spend quality time with family and friends by visiting one of these spectacular places.

Morton Arboretum

Located in Lisle, the Morton Arboretum is going out on a proverbial limb by hosting Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum for the first time this year.

“The Morton Arboretum has developed Illumination to showcase trees in a unique way, unlike anything that’s been done in Chicagoland,” said Sue Wagner, vice president of education and information at The Morton Arboretum. “We are inviting visitors to see trees in a different light with elements that let people interact with nature, like trees that respond to hugging or the sound of voices. Illumination is not a typical twinkling lights event; the Arboretum is using cutting-edge lighting technology to create a multi-sensory experience, illuminating trees and making them virtually come to life.”

Additionally, train enthusiasts will be able to experience the 12th annual Enchanted Railroad, a model train display that is fun for the whole family.


Cuneo Mansion and Gardens

Seasonal festivities abound at Loyola University Chicago’s Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, a 100-acre estate in Vernon Hills that exhibits an impressive collection of fine art and furnishings.

“We are very excited about our upcoming holiday events,” said Kevin Ginty, general manager, Loyola University Chicago at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens. “It all kicks off with the Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show. We also have the Velveteen Rabbit performances in our Great Hall, which is a wonderful play for the holidays. In addition to evening tours of the mansion, all decorated for the holidays, we also have our Breakfast with Santa and our Holiday Open House.”


Chicago Botanic Garden

Glencoe is home to the Chicago Botanic Garden, a living-plant museum that focuses on conservation and education. For the holidays, inside the garden’s Regenstein Center, the Wonderland Express, an indoor model railway, winds past miniature replicas of Chicago landmarks staged among verdant holiday plantings.

“Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden has become a great family tradition,” said Jim Boudreau, vice president of marketing and development for the Chicago Botanic Garden. “Young families come and children are enamored with the magic of trains, lights and flowers. Grandparents love to bring their grandchildren and watch them follow the trains through the landmarks of Chicago.”

Visitors will also enjoy the outdoor display of 750,000 LED lights, which adds holiday merriment to the Esplanade and Heritage Garden. The 40-foot tree adorned with multi-colored lights is an ideal spot for a family photograph.

Purchase handmade wreaths in the Greenhouse Gallery or participate in drop-in family activities at the Burnstein Hall. Other special events include a Hanukkah Concert in the Alsdorf Auditorium, seasonal wine tasting, Breakfast with Santa and Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus.