Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Bucket List: Experiencing the Beauty of the Holidays in Chicago, Part Two

Each year, my family aims to experience and enjoy life together during the holidays, placing less emphasis on the gift aspect and more on togetherness. This is part two of a series detailing some of our favorite Chicagoland destinations during the Christmas season. Be sure to scroll down to the end; one of our favorite places is giving one family a set of tickets!

Morton Arboretum's Illumination

"Mommy! It looks like it's raining purple!"

Along the one-mile path of beautifully glowing trees, our family discovered a new Holiday Bucket List adventure this year: Morton Arboretum's Illumination.

Aside from trees that looked like they were raining colors, we also encountered parts of the path where we could sing to the trees and watch them change color according to our song as well as hug trees and watch them glow brighter beneath the dark cover of night.

As the boys gulped the last of their hot cocoa and hot cider and ran ahead of John and I on the path, John remarked about how visiting Illumination almost felt like a date night the kids were so enthralled with the scenery and enchanted by the portions along the path where the lights and trees seemed to come to life.

Our youngest son especially liked watching his image be projected onto the trees and then watching movies of snowflakes falling dance across the branches, an almost movie of snow. We'll most definitely go back for another round. Bonus? If you have active younger ones with lots of energy, then entire event is outdoors with space for little ones to run around and enjoy the show.

Ultra bonus? The lights against the tress are spectacularly beautiful and if your kids run far enough ahead, it almost feels like a date night for 2.5 seconds. ;-)

When: November 22, 2013 - January 4, 2014
Time: Open daily from 4:30 until 8:30 p.m. with few exceptions
Where: Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL
More Information: Illumination

Tree Lighting Ceremony

Each year, we head to our community's quaint downtown and watch in splendor as the entire span of the street lights up for the first time during the holiday season. Normally, before festivities begin, we stop at the small coffee shop and grab something warm to drink, which is necessary, because it's almost always quite cold, and if we're going to make it through a sleigh ride around town, we need to drink our warmth. Also, marshmallows, according to the boys.

Soon after the lights brighten the downtown and the tree is lit, Santa and his sleigh come down the street, greeting all of the children and the sleigh rides begin. Each year, our boys look forward to this tradition, and I look forward to seeing their cute little faces light up when Santa arrives and the all the lights go ablaze!

Want a list of Tree Lighting Ceremony events in Lake County? Head over to Little Lake County and take a peek!

Christmas Eve Services at Immanuel Church

Perhaps it's not so much event as it is tradition, but singing Christmas Carols and celebrating Jesus' birth  at our church is probably my personal highlight on the holiday bucket list.

We sign carols by candlelight on Christmas Eve, and the whole family participates; even the boys, who were 3 and 5 last year, attended the Christmas Eve service. While they loved the singing portion, they were mostly smitten by holding burning candles. And for a little slice of peace on Earth this Christma, I'll take it!

When: Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Time: 4 - 5 p.m., 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Where: Immanuel Church, Gurnee
More Information: Immanuel Church

Want to cross something off your Holiday Bucket List? The generous folks at the Morton Arboretum have offered a family four pack of tickets to one reader! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Full disclosure: I only work with organizations I love. The Morton Arboretum invited my family to experience opening night of Illumination so I could share the experience with my friends. Simply, we loved it. So I'm sharing. Also, I work in online communications at Immanuel Church. But before I worked there, I attended there. All of my opinions are my own, and I only share about great organizations. :-) You must be 18 years old to win this giveaway. 


  1. Pick me, pick meeee! I hope I win!!!! :-) Thanks for doing this Hy!

  2. I can't wait to sing to the trees!

  3. I'd love to check out the lights at Morton Arboretum this year

  4. LOVE driving around to see the lights in local neighborhoods. We used to do as a kid and love to still do it now that am married with a lil guy! lol-

  5. We haven't done lights other than driving around a neighborhood last year to check out the decorations on Christmas day. This would be a great change to that.

  6. I had zero idea this even existed until your blog post - thanks for sharing! Sounds beautiful! And fun! :)

  7. I have never been there! I am so ready for some pretty lights!

  8. Well that's a great idea, a family outing instead of gifts.


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