Twinkling lights and holidays go hand-in-hand. In the dark cold of winter, would holidays be holidays without their color and their cheer?
Several speculator new displays make their debut in the region this year and favorites continue to expand and improve.
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If you goIllumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
What: Interactive light experience with trees along one-mile paved path
Where: The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle
When: 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, to Saturday, Jan. 4; closed Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, 9, 16, 24 and 25
Cost: $15 adults, $10 ages 2 to 17; $5 discount for members
What: Theatrical characters, including 12-foot Old Man Winter and Snow Maiden; Santa Claus in new Glass Pavilion; candy sculptor and crafts for adults and kids; Illuminated Lantern Night Processional at 7:15 p.m. with performers wearing paper lanterns suspended 9 feet above the ground; jingling reindeer characters; a live reindeer; fire organ that releases flames; pyrotechnics show
When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22
Where: Oakbrook Center, 22nd Street and Route 83, Oak Brook; event takes place at Village Green, near Crate & Barrel and Macy's
What: Walk-through event with three large animated displays including Santa and reindeer, ice-skating bear and penguins; decorated light posts and trees; lighted gazebo offering hot chocolate and popcorn
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, Nov. 29 to Jan. 1
Where: Central Park, Washington Street and Benton Avenue in downtown Naperville
Cost: Free; donations accepted
Aurora Festival of Lights
What: Drive-through light display more than a mile long; five new displays this year include a larger train, leaping reindeer, Santa on a motorcycle, peeking elves, and 50 new Christmas trees created by students in the Lake Land College welding class at Sheridan Correctional Center
When 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Nov. 29 to Dec. 26
Where: Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive, Aurora
Cost: Free: donations accepted
Cosley Zoo Festival of Lights
What: 20,000 lights and displays; also Christmas tree and wreath sales, and hot chocolate for sale
When: 3 to 9 p.m. daily for lights; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. zoo hours; Nov. 29 to Dec. 30 (closed Christmas and afternoon Christmas Eve)
Where: Cosley Zoo, 1356 N. Gary Ave., Wheaton
Cost: Free admission
Info: (630) 665-5534
The Morton Arboretum in Lisle promises a show such as visitors have never seen when it opens "Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum" on Friday, Nov. 22. Visitors will experience dazzling displays during a 1-mile walk along a paved trail that will let them hug a tree and make it grow brighter, sing to a tree and watch it change color, and create their own light show.
The experience uses cutting-edge light technology to let visitors see trees in a new way, said Anamari Dorgan, the arboretum's director of education.
"This is definitely not your grandmother's light experience," Dorgan said. "You will find surprises of light at every turn around the path."
The Morton Arboretum is not the only place dazzling this year. Oakbrook Center is putting on a "Holiday Spectacular" to celebrate the completion of its two-year renovation project. The event from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, includes theatrical characters, an Illuminated Lantern Night Processional, a "Fire Organ" that releases flames 15 feet high and a pyrotechnics show. The processional starts in the newly opened Village Green lawn area and proceeds around the Vortex Fountain to the new Glass Pavilion, where Santa Claus will hold court.
"We're really looking forward to this event. We're very excited to showcase our new atmosphere," said Suzanne Cook-Beres, senior marketing manager for Oakbrook Center.
Following suit of what other Rotary clubs have done, the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise is putting on its own light display this year in Naperville's Central Park. John Colucci, co-chairman of Naper Lights, said the walk-through show will include three large animated light displays; decorated light poles and trees; and a lighted, arched entry way. Colucci said he got the idea for the light display after visiting Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo last year.
"I was thinking, 'Why can't we do this in Naperville?'" he said. "Hopefully, we can grow it and every year add more displays."
The Rotary Club of Aurora began its Festival of Lights in Phillips Park seven years ago and it's double the size it was then, said Mary Dougherty, festival manager. This year's drive-through exhibit of more than a mile includes five new displays, including 50 new lighted holiday trees. The light festival is free, but donations are accepted. The festival has brought in more than $150,000 in donations over the past six years to benefit charities the Rotary supports, Dougherty said.
"This event is our gift to the community. We are so pleased to see how it has grown over the past seven years," she said.
Cosley Zoo in Wheaton doesn't have much room to expand on the Festival of Lights it began in 1984, but is gradually switching over to LED lights, said Susan Wahlgren, zoo director. The fanciful light displays, Christmas tree sales and live trees decorated by local organizations make the zoo a place where the holiday spirit glows.
"It really makes a great destination and a great place to be for the holidays," Wahlgren said.