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VISIT & explore

Illumination: The experience

The Morton Arboretum is the winner of the 2016 CODA 'Award of Merit' for Illumination! CODA Awards celebrate the most successful integration of commissioned art into public spaces.



Watch our Illumination video

New Features for 2016

This year’s event features two brand-new experiences to dazzle and wow. Projections of abstract designs will splash across the Arboretum’s hemlock trees in Treemagination. One effect will make it seem as though the trees are gently breathing. This experience not only showcases the conifers’ elegance, but reinforces to visitors that the trees surrounding them are living things.

In Illumination’s new dramatic grand finale, Fantasy Forest, the Arboretum’s hedge garden provides a backdrop for pencil-thin pillars of light, stretching skyward and synchronized to music.


Best Time to Arrive

We welcome guests between 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., with lights out on the exhibit at 9:30 p.m. On some days, we offer tickets for admission at different times of the evening, allowing you to enter either at 5:00 p.m. (and any time later) or 7:00 p.m. (and any time later). The earliest you will be admitted is the time on your ticket, and you may have to wait outside until you can enter.

On all days, we have noticed a rush of visitors in the first hour of the evening. You may benefit from postponing your entrance until a bit later. 


Illumination is a popular event, so plan for extra time to park and walk to the entrance.

If you need handicap parking, simply let the parking attendants see your parking placard. Also, you can drop off any member of your party in our Welcome Circle, and then proceed to the parking lots.

Prepare for the Outdoors

Dress for the season and for walking. When it is cold, layer your clothing so you can add or remove layers to maintain your comfort level. A hat and gloves are highly recommended.

How Much Time Does Illumination Require?

Illumination includes stops along a mile-long pathway through the forest, over hills, and around a small lake. Some people enjoy it at a brisk pace. Others stop at each interactive elements, read the signs, take in the environment, warm up at one of the many fire pits,  and listen to the music at Symphony Woods.

Just like at any other museum exhibit, you will find the pace that pleases your group. (The weather will impact your preferences, too!)

Our advice is to resist the urge to rush. There are surprises scattered throughout the landscape, and one of the pleasures of any walk through the Arboretum is slowing down and sharing the stillness of our trees.

At a comfortable pace, and allowing time to sample the interactive stations, we recommend giving yourself between an hour and 90 minutes on the Illumination path. Of course, with food, shopping, and activities in the Visitor Center, you will find reasons to visit with us even longer. 


Illumination ConcessionsConcessions provide food, beverages, and glowing gifts.

Warming areas

Enjoy a cozy fire, a snack, or rest at one of the warming areas along the Illumination path.

Food and beverages

Menu varies by food service location.

App tour

Make your walk through Illumination even more rich with additional information about each experiences. Download the free Morton Arboretum app for iPhone or Android and launch the Illumination Tour. It's also a great way to revisit the experience.

Glowing gifts

Illuminating treasures can be purchased at concessions areas and within The Arboretum Store.   

Live Music Entertainment Schedule

Enjoy live musical performances in the Ginkgo Room from 5:45 p.m.-9:00 p.m. and roaming carolers along the trail from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on select nights.

In January

Enchanted Railroad

Enjoy an intricate model railroad winding through a four-season display. January 13-February 19, 2017. Learn more

Illumination Photos

Rope lights on Meadow LakeMeadow Lake Magic


Crystal PromenadeCrystal Colonnade

Brightly colors orbs on Frost HillOrnament Hill at Illumination

Illumination in Arbor CourtIllumination snowflakes alight Arbor Court.


Illumination sponsors, Powershare QQQ and ComEd