A Little Time and a Keyboard: Exploring Illumination at The Morton Arboretum

Exploring Illumination at The Morton Arboretum

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Exploring the Illumination Light Display at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois

Illumination at The Morton Arboretum was the perfect holiday experience to start our season! Festive lights, lights dancing to music, hot cocoa, campfires and merry families discovering the interactive display certainly help put us in the mood. One of my favorite parts of Illumination is right at the beginning where lights change and appear to glide over the water. What a way to start exploring!

Lights dancing across the water at Illumination at Morton Arboretum

Not too far from the entrance is the first warming area where you can step inside a tent to warm up, buy some snacks and even buy some hot chocolate. We also found a KIND Bar station handing out free KIND bars. Nice!

Picking up KIND bars at Illumination
Picking up KIND Bars.

This section is also where you can hug a tree. When you hug, the tree turns different colors. How can you resist?

Hug a Tree at Illumination

I also LOVE the tinsel trees. The lights truly give the tinsel effect. Visitors can sing in this section and the lights will respond.

Tinsel trees a-glittering at Morton Arboretum
Tinsel trees a-glittering!
When walking from the tinsel trees, be sure to pause and look at the island lit up in transforming hues. Beautiful. If you pause for a moment, you will see striking color changes.

This is our fifth year incorporating Illumination into our holiday plans. I have photographed the chandeliers in the trees several times and this is the first year that I have been pretty happy with the result!

Right after the chandeliers is another warming area. Be sure to stop a little. 

Illumination does also incorporate educational information within the displays. This is another element that sets Illumination apart from other displays! The particular display above is in one of the warming tents.

Threaded throughout are various activities for children -- well, adults too! You can press buttons to illuminate trees in different ways, hug trees and see lights respond to your voice.

Press a button!

In the picture below, you can see that my daughter is wearing a medallion. This is a new feature this year. You can purchase medallions that change colors throughout the displays. The medallions can be used in future Illumination exhibits.

The last display is my favorite. The pipes dramatically change colors to music. Plus, they shine beams up into the sky. Cool!

There are some special themed nights throughout the week during Illumination. Also, check the schedule for musical entertainment.

All in all a fun evening and a sparkly launch into the holidays!


  • Dress for the weather.
  • Stow some extra gloves, hats and scarves in a little backpack just in case.
  • Bring some hot chocolate, coffee, tee etc. to the display in a thermos so that it will be an ok temperature to drink when you get there. When you purchase hot chocolate on the spot, it may be a little bit before it is cool enough to drink.
  • Be sure to shop in the gift shop. The shop has quite a collection of Christmas and gift items. Quite a few items are made in the USA!
  • Spend some time sitting and listening to live music indoors
  • Plan to arrive about 30 minutes before your entrance time to park. Sometimes you have to walk a bit from the further parking lot. There are shuttles too.
  • Purchase tickets ahead of time.
  • Have fun!

Friday, November 17, 2017 through Monday, January 1, 2018​.  
NOTE:  Illumination is closed on Mondays, except for January 1. It is also closed on the following holidays: Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23), Christmas Eve (Sunday, December 24), and Christmas Day (Monday, December 25).

Music entertainment is featured on certain evenings. Check website for more info.

Ticket Information:

**Tickets are good for a specific time and date. Once admitted, you may stay until 9:30PM when that evening's show is done.**

Member Tickets 
Discounted member tickets are one of the rewards of membership. Not a member?JOIN NOW
Weekend (Friday/Saturday/Sunday)
Adult: $17
Child (2 to 17 years old): $9
Weekday (Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday)
Adult: $13
Child (2 to 17 years old): $7


Weekend (Friday/Saturday/Sunday)
Adult: $22
Child (2 to 17 years old): $14
Weekday (Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday)
Adult: $18
Child (2 to 17 years old): $12
Children under the age of two are admitted to Illumination for free. No ticket is necessary.

**Disclosure: I will be receiving complimentary tickets in order to bring you a review of Illumination. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.


  1. I love the "hug a tree" feature that changes the tree's light color! What a fun way to celebrate winter! :)

    1. It is fun! Who doesn't love to hug a tree especially when it changes colors?

  2. Oh I love this time of year for all the beautiful lights outside in the dark (since it gets dark SOOO early!) Last year our arboretum had a great illumination event as well and I loved it. Wish I lived closer so I could go and check this one out too!

    1. I think it is such a great way to get people out in the winter. I wish they had it go through all of January which tends to be one of the longer months.......

  3. I probably would have hugged the tree without the sign telling me to do it! Looks like a fun exhibit!

  4. We love seeing the lights from the freeway. The necklaces are a great new feature!

  5. How cool! I love the way that they've got the interactive elements and music, as well as the lights! Great for all of the senses!