Family Visiting Red TreesDescribing Morton Arboretum’s Illumination as a light display is like calling the Mall on Washington a backyard lawn. It just doesn’t compare and doesn’t do it justice.

Illumination is a pleasant, nighttime walk through a mile of artistic themes cast with LED and stage lights across a canvas of large trees. Every bend in the path brings new ideas and new sights. Make sure to stop and look around. Be certain to look back as each installation changes over time. It’s impossible to have the same experience twice.. even in the same night.

red white and green lights on trees

these are the tree trees in the entrance to Morton Arboretum’s parking lot

Your experience starts as soon as you enter the grounds as many of the trees are expertly lit with LED lights across all but the smallest of branches. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many lights! Once out of the visitor center, start your easy stroll along the lake. Ahead of you is a big slash of color changing light emerging from a tight group of old trees. “Treeflections” as it’s known, creates a canopy of color with dozens of lights shining on all the branches and trunks. Emanating from the top of area are colored, synchronized searchlights which both welcome you to the area but also help anchor you throughout the rest of the walk. I stood for some time in that area feeling like I was in a tent of colors as I looked across the lake where they projected patterns on the island in the distance. When I turned to leave, it looked like there was falling snow in the distance making a very bright, very colorful storm in their “Tinsel Colonnade.” I captured a bit of video of it but it looses quite a bit without a tripod. You just have to see it.

father and son looking at a large train

I’m not sure who the bigger kids is

The walk goes uphill to several other sections including “Island of Light,” “Personalitrees,” “Hug a Tree” and several more great interactive installations. Along the way, there are several refreshment stands with warm cider, snacks, and a variety of adult beverages. The path is entirely paved but does include some hill which might be tricky for some as the winter weather makes things a bit slick. For those that need a bit more warmth, there were several activities going on in the visitor center including costumed carolers just outside the cafeteria. Finally the LGB Model Railroad Club of Chicago has set up a lovely display inside the area on the other side of the breezeway from the Visitor Center. Kids of all ages marveled at the large number of huge trains.

Illumination runs most every night until January 4th, 2014. Be sure to start your journey at home by visiting for both details & tickets. If you are going to drive all the way to Lisle, do yourself a favor and buy your tickets online. We visited 7pm on a Saturday night and there were at least seventy people in line for tickets. We, however, just walked right to the entrance since we bought and printed our tickets earlier in the day. Their site says same day tickets must be bought at the Arboretum, but we got our online a few hours before arriving. Your mileage may vary. Regardless, you will have to register if you don’t have an account. Costs:

Member: $10 Adult / $5 Child (2-17)
General Admission: $15 Adult / $10 Child (2-17)
A $5 transaction fee will apply to all phone orders.
General Admission: Daytime Arboretum admission for the same day as your Illumination ticket is included with your ticket price.

To see all of my photos from Illumination, please visit my Flickr stream:

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