Following last year’s pivot to a drive-through experience, visitors can once again walk the paths of Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum. Running November 20 to January 2, the exhibit features tens of thousands of lights across 50 acres. By brightening trees bare of leaves, the arboretum is both trying to wow the crowds, and get them to appreciate the beauty of winter.
The thrill of the experience is the syncing of all those blinking lights with more than 20 tracks of music. This feat resulted from the collaboration of 30 technicians from the arboretum and the experiential lighting design companies Lightswitch and Intelligent Lighting Creations. Work began in February and went full-tilt until November, when the teams worked nights to build the exhibition.
This year, everyone is really powering up their skills. “We’re coming back in big and surprising ways,” says Preston Bautista, the arboretum’s vice president of learning and engagement. “For the first time, there will be continuous music. Not just holiday music, but festive songs from around the world.”
Bring your Fitbit, because you’ll log around 2,500 steps on Illumination’s one-mile path. Here are a few things that will stop you in your tracks. mortonarb.org
1. Meadow Lake
Floating LED fixtures fan out into the lake. The water temperature and the wind’s speed and direction determine how the lights glow.
2. The Champion Tree
A beautiful honey locust serves as the visual center of the experience. It’s silhouetted by brilliant up-lighting.
3. Festival of Lanterns
Past visitors may recall chandeliers hanging from trees on the top of Frost Hill. This year, there are a whopping 150.
4. Golden Glade
This usually empty meadow at the top of Conifer Trail is transformed into a sea of radiance with rods of light resembling golden grasses.
5. Enchanted Forest
An interactive element is back. Visitors can push buttons to make light and colors skip from tree to tree.
6. Arbor Court
The entrance is a photo moment in the making. A huge Illumination logo and lighted trees provide the festive background your Instagram feed needs.