Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

Illumination is an amazing light display at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle for the holidays. Illumination will be open until January 1, 2019. This is an outdoor attraction so dress for the weather.

Our experience below is based on our 2017 visit, but other information has been updated for 2018. 


Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle




Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

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Illumination will be on display until January 1, 2019. Lights are on display beginning at 4:30 pm, and tickets are required for entry. Admission ends at 8:30 pm and lights go out at 9:30 pm. 


Tickets are $18-$23 for adults and $12-$15 for children ages 2-17. Members of the Morton Arboretum received discounted tickets. Tickets can sell out, so reserving your tickets before you go is strongly encouraged. Tickets are sold for a specific date and time, beginning at 4:30 pm in half-hour intervals.

A limited number of discounted tickets are available on weeknights for EBT card-holders under the Museums for All program. These tickets are also available online.

New for 2019

This year’s exhibit offers several unique new displays and added entertainment on weeknights.

Created exclusively for The Morton Arboretum by Smithsonian-featured arts collective HYBYCOZO, the five sculptures in the Crown of Light experience evoke a crown of trees. Each of these giant sculptures—measuring between nine and 12 feet tall—feature intricate, laser-cut patterns calling to mind nature, harmony and trees. Visitors can look on as vivid light from within the pieces simultaneously beams skyward and spills through the patterns that adorn the sides, creating shadows on the ground below.

The new Woodland Wonder experience takes visitors through a grove of trees, surrounding them in pinpoint laser lights that dance to ethereal music.

We paid

We received complimentary media passes to visit Illumination in 2017. 


Hot chocolate, s’mores, and other concessions are available for purchase along the trail.

Additional entertainment is always scheduled for many weeknights. See the full entertainment schedule online. 

Our experience at Illumination

The evening we planned to attend Illumination did not start out well. We all left the house crabby, the kids argued a lot in the car, and we had trouble finding a place to eat dinner before we visited the Morton Arboretum. Food helped a bit, but everyone was still a bit grumpy. I was particularly excited about experiencing Illumination, but I was getting pretty annoyed that everyone else was bad-tempered and ruining the night.

We arrived at the Morton Arboretum, parked, and bundled up. The evening we visited wasn’t particularly cold, but we all had sweatshirts, coats, hats, and gloves. The last thing I wanted was complaints about the cold!

Before we entered the Illumination path everyone had already cheered up a great deal. All the trees near the Visitors Center are lit up, and you can see colored lights in the distance. John and I knew a little bit of what to expect, but the kids just knew there would be lots of lights. Somehow, particularly during the holiday season, sparkling lights in the night seem to be enough to cheer up even the grinchiest kids (and adults).

There’s a map of the Illumination trail and exhibits along the way, but we didn’t need to use it. The entrance to the path is marked and you just follow along to the end. We looked a time or two to see what displays were coming up, but it was more fun not knowing what we’d happen upon.

The path begins behind the Visitors Center and circles around the lake, which is covered in floating lights that light up in different colors and patterns.

Along the path there are several opportunities to interact with the trees and the lights, including this “hug a tree” display where the lights respond to you hugging the tree.

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The trees make the lights especially impressive, with lots of the displays including lights shining very high into the treetops and lighting the trees in a variety of colors and patterns.

Illumination at the Morton Arboretum - pink trees

We spotted bonfires along the trail, and s’mores ingredients were available. There were also several spots that included sound or music. One area incorporated tubes for visitors to sing into; the lights in the trees responded by flashing or lighting to coordinate with the song. There where also areas where music played over speakers and the lights coordinated with it.

Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

This display reminded me of Harry Potter for some reason; it may be because it looks like floating chandeliers, similar to the floating candles in the movie.

Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

And here are some happy faces!

Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

I think my favorite display was at the very end.

We spent about an hour on the Illumination trail. We could have walked it faster to finish sooner, or taken our time and spent longer. By the time we explored all of Illumination and got ready to go home, everyone was smiling and laughing. The kids were getting along with each other and were all genuinely happier.

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