Spectacular holiday light displays are spread all over central Illinois
Drive past Champaign-Urbana for some great light shows this holiday season
Are you ready to drive all over Central Illinois to see good holiday light shows? Don’t worry, we do this every year! We’ve put together a shortlist of the best Christmas light shows in the greater central Illinois area, including Peoria, Mattoon, Shelbyville, Urbana, Chatham, and more.
Most of these listed are permanent annual fixtures in their respective communities. These shows are more or less a 90-minute drive from Champaign-Urbana in each direction.
(Wondering which holiday lights are closer to home? Stunning Christmas lights around Champaign-Urbana Local tour, featuring shows in Champaign, Urbana, Paxton, Monticello, Mahomet, and more, coming soon.)
Candlestick Lane, Urbana
what: A community tradition in Champaign-Urbana for more than 50 years, this is what happens when a select group of neighbors create magic for the area’s children—and never let it go. This adorable collection of humble homes will amaze you with the holiday spirit and creativity.
When: Opening night is usually the second Saturday night in December, i.e. December 10 of this year. The parade is lit every evening during Christmas, or some years, until 1 January.
where: It is located at Grant Place in Urbana. Candlestick Lane isn’t a real street. Take Washington Street to Cottage Grove (south), turn onto Eastern Avenue, then onto Grant Place. Go slowly, some people are walking down this street.
A winter wonderland in eastern Peoria Follow Favorite
what: Known to locals as “Folepi,” the festival lights display at Winter Wonderland in East Peoria has been a staple for more than 30 years. Tuned to Music – Tune your car radio to 88.1 for holiday music to accompany your drive – and make sure to keep your eyes peeled the whole time.It’s a popular flying ski feature. Displays include light-up arches and circus animals, Western Town, Space Land, Candy Cane Factory, Prehistoric Land and more. The festival’s mascot is the wooden soldier Vollipi, whose name is an acronym for “Festival of Lights, East Peoria, Illinois”.
When: Open November 24 (Thanksgiving) through January 2; 5-9pm, Sunday through Thursday; from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; As Christmas Eve begins, all nights are from 5-9pm. For traffic updates, check the Festival of Lights Facebook page. It is highly recommended that you avoid Friday and Saturday, if possible.
where: About 1.5 hours from Champaign-Urbana. I-74 west to East Peoria, Exit 96. For more information including directions, go to the Folepi website.
cost?: Most vehicles are $10, except for minibuses ($30), and full-size charter buses which are $150 (cash, debit, and credit cards accepted).
Light Up McFerrin Park
what: Drive around McFerrin Park and see gracefully jumping reindeer, candy canes, Santa and the manger.
When: It will open November 26 and run through January 2
where: It is located in McFerren Park in Hoopeston, about an hour northeast of Champaign-Urbana. Anyone coming into the park will have to enter and exit through the south entrance from Alam Street.
Chatham lights up the park
what: Drive through more than a mile of gorgeous holiday lights at Chatham Community Park. Includes over 100,000 lights, sculptures, bows, Santas, and more.
When: Open from Thursday to Sunday from November 25th to December 25th.
where: Chatham is a suburb of Springfield, located south of the Capitol City. About 90 minutes from Champaign. The event takes place at Chatham Community Park.
cost? $5 per car suggested donation.
Celebration of lights
what: A drive-in holiday lights experience located in LaSalle, near Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks.
When: November 11 through January 1, 5-9 PM, Sunday through Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
where: LaSalle City, 90 minutes from CU
cost?: Viewing is free but donations are always welcome.
Holiday Lights – Central Illinois South Loop
Start in Champaign-Urbana, stop in Mattoon, then head to Effingham, next to Shelbyville and back to CU.
Total driving time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Effingham Wonderland in the limelight
what: Drive through Community Park in Effingham for a magic show that lights up the start of Thanksgiving night. Look for all types of larger-than-life displays. This year, there will be one special night on November 23rd.
When: November 24 (Thanksgiving Eve) through January 1, 5-9 PM, Sunday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
where: Community garden in Effingham. Effingham is located just over an hour from Champaign-Urbana on I-57.
what: Drive through beautiful Peterson Park in Mattoon to see a wide selection of standard and moving light displays. In recent years, new displays and LED lights have been added. Like Effingham, Mattoon Lightworks will be holding a special one-night event before the official opening, this year on November 17th.
When: Open Nov 18 – Dec. 26; hours soon.
where: Peterson Park, Mattoon. About an hour south of Champaign-Urbana. Take I-57 South, Exit 190 B.
cost?: Free admission with donations accepted.
Shelbyville Festival of Lights
what: The display includes more than 500 illuminated scenes with several illuminated arcs. It includes traditional performances such as manger scenes and Santa with reindeer, and some non-traditional performances such as a large lighted Menorah, and Santa riding a motorcycle. Watch this video before you go.
When: open November 18 through January 1; 5-9pm, Sunday through Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
where: Forest Park, Shelbyville. About 1 hour, 20 minutes southwest of Champaign-Urbana.
cost?: Entrance is free with donations accepted at the end.
Did we miss your favorite Central Illinois community lights show? Email us at – [email protected]
Looking for more? Sign up on the home page for our holiday newsletter. Want more ideas for holiday (or everyday) fun? Check out our calendar of events.
It’s all about the holiday season in and around Champaign-Urbana