I’m Dreaming of a Museum Christmas

C’mon Grinches it’s Christmas time!

I don’t know about you but literary the SECOND after I am done eating that Thanksgiving turkey I am in full on Christmas mode. I’m talking the NKOTB Christmas album, The John Denver and the Muppets Christmas Special, my favorite Mickey Mouse Christmas sweatshirt, and an absurd amount of Christmas decorations.

Full disclosure I have two Christmas trees.

So, it’s no surprise that when you marry my two favorite things, Christmas and museums, that I go a little berserk. So here are my two favorite museum holiday activities that you can enjoy the whole holiday through.

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

There aren’t words for how much I enjoy this event. What is so unique about the Tree Lights is that it actually isn’t a Christmas event at all. At its heart and soul, this event is a celebration of the beauty of wintertime. My initial thoughts walking into the arboretum was that it was going to be a pretty standard Holiday light display, a la Candy Cane Lane, I couldn’t be more WRONG.

This mile-long hike takes you through various displays each highlighting something beautiful about the forest during winter. But guess what, THIS EVENT IS INTERACTIVE! There are buttons you can push to change the colors of the lights. Dials to spin to makes the lights dance in time to music, Trees that BREATH. While each was great in its own unique way, there was one that was quickly my favorite.



The first thing I stumbled upon was a small grove of trees plainly lit with signs that said: “Hug Me” wrapped around their trunk. Never being one to NOT play with an interactive, I promptly waited in line with all the children to hug a tree. This was where the magic started because when you hug the tree, it went from a dull white light to a colorful light, but wait, there’s more. If you got a group together to hug the tree the tree threw itself a light disco party. I mean that tree lit up red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ocher and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and you get the picture.


  • Dress for the weather: While there are firepits along the route and warm beverages, it’s still outside. The trail is about a mile long so anticipate being outside for about an hour.
  • Weekdays are your friends: This is a VERY popular event. If you insist on going on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday anticipate large crowds. They have been known to have upwards of 4,000 guests in one night. If you are able to go on a Wednesday, you should.

Christmas Around the World at Museum of Science and Industry

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) to see their tree display. What’s not to love about 54 trees decorated to represent different countries from all around the world. What does this display have to do with Science, absolutely nothing. What does this display have to do with industry, not a damn thing. This is an event that is what museums are really all about: bringing families and communities together by sharing knowledge and culture. Get into all those museum feelz cause this is going to give you that mooshy holiday spirit.

The Christmas trees at MSI started in 1942 at the onset of America’s involvement in World War II. With the country at war, the museum decided to celebrate and educate Chicagoans about our allies. What better way to unite us than with a Christmas Tree.


The museum set up one tree in the museum that volunteers would decorate using traditional ornaments from one of our allies. At the end of the day, the tree was undone, and another group of volunteers would redecorate the tree in the style of another ally. It quickly grew from just one to over 50 trees and additional displays recognizing different cultures and seasonal religions celebrations. This year MSI is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the trees, and there is no time like the present to see this beloved holiday tradition.


  • Stay for the show: There is so much more to do at this event than just the trees. Check the schedule as there are often musical and dance performances from various Chicago cultural groups. There are also crafts and snow in the lobby.
  • Ice Cream: To complete the holiday festivities don’t forget to stop by the museum’s oldie timey Ice Cream parlor and grab a sweet treat. Also, you can stop in on select days to get a photo with Santa!
  • MOLD-O-RAMA: Are you sitting down…good. There is a special Christmas Tree Mold-O-Rama for this display. I mean come on!

Got any tips on other great museums that know how to do Christmas?

Leave them in the comments below.