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Ask Chicagoist: Where Can I See the Best Christmas Lights in the City?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Dec 14, 2007 3:29PM


I want to know the best places to go look at Christmas lights!

It can be in the burbs or whatever, but aren't there streets that are well known for all the houses doing lights? Or whole neighborhoods that do it?

Hi there,

Chicagoist has to admit, sometimes Christmas makes us a little grouchy. But even when we're feeling our most cynical, we are completely mesmerized and enchanted by Christmas light displays. Perhaps it's just an innate inclination to be drawn to pretty, sparkly, shiny things, but even (perhaps especially) the most gaudy, overblown and extravagant displays can break through our cold, Grinch-like hearts. But not the blinking ones. We still hate the blinking lights. And the weird giant blow-up snowmen.

Most of the leg work has been done for us over at Chicagoland Christmas Lights. They have created a Google map of the area indicating where light displays can be found, broken down by places you have to pay, where you can just drive or walk by, and which displays are animated. It's from 2005 and 2006, but let's be honest, if someone put up a singing Santa in 2005, they likely did this year too. It's a pretty cool idea, we'll be keeping an eye on it for updates near us.

Another resource is the book The Best Christmas Decorations in Chicagoland, which posts updates on their website. The book includes pictures and is apparently going to be updated for 2008. We think the most useful parts, however, are the Amazon Customer Reviews, where people bring up their favorite light displays in the region.

The neighborhood of Sauganash in the far northwest corner of the city, extending into the suburb of Lincolnwood, has been well known for memorable Christmas light displays for years, including a "three story Christmas tree coming out of the roof of a house and [a] tree house of singing elves." Going to look at Sauganash lights has been a Chicago tradition for decades.

The city has some good displays too. We like just walking around downtown, on State Street or Michigan Avenue, and taking in the intoxicating combination of city lights and holiday lights, perhaps with a stop at Christkindlmarket. Also, the Lincoln Park Zoo has a fantastic ZooLights display, apparently complete with 3-D glasses.

Not to be outdone by its free city-dwelling counterpart, the Brookfield Zoo also has a spectacular Holiday Magic event, which includes choreographed dancing Christmas tree lights. Admission to the Holiday Magic event is free.

Now, you know a family is serious about their Christmas lights when they have a website dedicated to their holiday decorations. The Parcell family of 813 Cheever Ave. in Geneva (west of the city) really hopes you decide to visit them and their 50,000 computerized lights on your holiday light-viewing quest. But if you can't make it all the way out to Geneva, they do have a webcam. Of course they do. Bonus: they're eco-friendly this year since they switched to more LED lights.

Cool lights can crop up on the most random street, though, so let us know if you've seen a not-to-be-missed display in your neighborhood. Where do you think the best Christmas light viewing is in the city?

Image via zesmerelda.

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