Illumination at the Morton Arboretum is the ultimate holiday light display

We ventured to the Morton Arboretum to see Illumination, the Arboretum's first-ever holiday light display. Calling it a light display, though, doesn't do it justice. It's a mile-long walk along a paved trail and the path is like an odyssey, featuring amazing interactive light displays along the way. They were unlike anything we had ever seen.

Illumination would be great for tweens and teens who have done Zoo Lights and similar displays several times. My tween still loves the holidays, but wants to celebrate in ways that are a bit more grown-up. This was perfect because while the displays were more sophisticated than we'd seen, they were still interactive. My tween's favorite part was at Meadow Lake, where she could control projection technology that create moving patterns on evergreen across a lake with just a wave of her hand.

It appealed to all ages. Both my tween and the adults got in to changing the lights by holding up different numbers of fingers at the Island of Light area - a tree island on which visitors control the projection of color and brightness of lights. And the older lady in the group behind us couldn't have been more delighted to see her face projected on to the trees.


* Dress warmly.

* The walk is a little more than a mile, so wear comfy shoes. Also, don't be afraid to stop. The fires and benches along the way make for lovely respite areas. Plan on an hour to an hour and a half.

* The volunteers were very friendly and helpful. Definitely talk to them about the different interactive displays. We didn't really understand what hugging did for the different trees and I wish we had asked.

* Go on a week night if you can. It's less crowded. Also, it opens at 4:30 so you can go early and not completely blow the school night routine.

* Unless you're really good with your camera at night, don't try to take too many pictures. You'll want to, because the scenery is breathtakingly pretty. There are a few areas identified as good photo areas (with the suggestion to "Say Trees!" which cracked me up) so try those out but most of the photos of the lights did not turn out as I'd hoped, and it's worth just being in the moment with your family and not trying to figure out your camera's nighttime settings that aren't going to help you anyway.


Illumination opens each night at the Morton Arboretum 4:30 p.m.with the last entry at 8:30 p.m. now through Jan. 4. It is closed on December 9, 16, 24 and 25.

Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $10 for children 2 to 17 years old. For Arboretum members, prices are $10 for adults and $5 for children 2 to 17 years old.  The event is free for children under 2. We got a Groupon and when this was published, there were some available for week nights in December.

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