Spectacular holiday lights shows are prevalent across Central Illinois
Are you willing to drive all over Central Illinois for good holiday lights shows? Don’t worry, so are we! We’ve put together a short list of the top Christmas light shows across the greater Central Illinois region, including Peoria, Mattoon, Shelbyville, Urbana, Chatham and more.
Most of these listed are permanent, annual fixtures in their communities. These shows are within a 90-minute drive (roughly) of Champaign-Urbana, in every direction.
(Wondering about our Amazing Christmas Lights around Champaign-Urbana local roundup? This annual favorite post features displays in Champaign, Urbana, Paxton, Monticello, Mahomet and more.)
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East Peoria’s Winter Wonderland (FOLEPI)
What: Known as “Folepi” to locals, the Festival of Lights in East Peoria’s Winter Wonderland lights display has been a staple for more than 30 years. Set to music, (tune your vehicle’s radio to 107.3 for holiday music to accompany your drive), make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the the popular ski jumper feature. Displays include lighted arches and circus animals, the Western town, Space Land, the Candy Cane Factory, Prehistoric Land and more. The Festival’s mascot is the wooden soldier Folepi, whose name serves as an acronym for “Festival of Lights, East Peoria, Illinois.”
When: Open Nov. 26 through Jan. 3; 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For traffic updates, check the Festival of Lights Facebook page. It’s highly recommended to 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 small buses ($30), and full-size charter buses which are $150 (cash, debit and credit cards accepted).
Candlestick Lane, Urbana
What: A community tradition for more than 50 years, this is what happens when a determined group of neighbors create magic for area children – and never let it go. This amazing collection of modest homes will wow you with their holiday spirit and creativity. Thank you Candlestick Lane!
When: Opening night is traditionally the second Saturday night in December, or December 12 this year. The display is lit every evening through Christmas, or some years, through January 1. (Note that 2020 will skip the traditional opening ceremony.)
Where: Located at Grant Place in Urbana. Candlestick Lane is not a real street. Take Washington Street to Cottage Grove (south), turn onto Eastern Avenue, then to Grant Place. Go slow, some people walk this street.
Downs Dooley Park Holiday Wonderland
What: A park in Downs turns into a holiday wonderland. Built by dedicated town volunteers, this is not nearly as elaborate as some of the others on this list, but fun nonetheless; an easy place to stop off Interstate 74.
When: Dec. 1 – Jan. 10. On at dusk daily.
Where: Dooley Park, Downs. Downs is located about 50 minutes from Champaign-Urbana, right off of I-74 just southeast of Bloomington-Normal.
Effingham Wonderland in Lights
What: Drive through Community Park in Effingham for a magical display that lights up beginning Thanksgiving night. Look for reindeer flight school, a nativity scene and more.
When: Thanksgiving night through the New Year, 5-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Community Park in Effingham. Effingham is located just over an hour from Champaign-Urbana down I-57. Make a loop with the Shelbyville Festival of Lights and Mattoon Lightworks to really max out your evening.
What: Drive through Mattoon’s beautiful Peterson Park to see a vast array of standard and animated holiday light displays. In recent years, new displays and LED lights have been added.
When: Open Nov. 20-Dec. 27; hours coming soon.
Where: About an hour south of Champaign-Urbana. Take I-57 South, exit 190 B. Peterson Park, Mattoon.
Cost?: Free admission with donations accepted.
Shelbyville Festival of Lights
What: The display includes more than 500 lighted scenes with several lighted arches. Includes traditional displays like manger scenes and Santa with his reindeer, and some not so traditional such as a large lighted Menorah, and Santa riding a motorcycle. Watch this video before you go.
When: Open Nov. 20 through Dec. 29; hours coming soon.
Where: About 1 hour, 20 minutes southwest of Champaign-Urbana. Not far from Mattoon, so a good loop. Located in Forest Park, Shelbyville.
Cost?: Free admission with donations accepted at the end.
Light Up McFerren Park, Hoopeston
What: The Hoopeston lights are coming on one full week early for 2020! Drive around the park and see graceful jumping reindeer, candy canes, Santa and a manger.
When: Open Nov. 21 through Jan. 2 (closing date subject to change)
Where: Located at McFerren Park in Hoopeston, about an hour northeast of Champaign-Urbana. As of this date, anyone coming into the park will have to enter and exit through the south entrance off of Elm Street.
Chatham Light up the Park
What: Drive through more than a mile of brilliant holiday lights in Chatham Community Park. Includes more than 100,000 lights, sculptures, arches, Santa, and more.
When: Open Thursdays through Sundays from Nov. 27 through Dec. 27. We found dates but no more detailed info on this event at this point.
Where: Chatham is a suburb of Springfield, located just south of the capitol city. About 90 minutes from Champaign. The event takes place in the Chatham Community Park.
Cost? $5/carload suggested donation. Proceeds benefit Chatham green spaces.
Decatur Trees on the Tees
What: Aboard a golf cart after dark and drive through a path of lit trees.
When: December 10-13 and 17-20, 5-6 p.m. (walkers) and 6-9 p.m. (riders)
Where: Hickory Point Golf Course
Cost? $3 per walker or $6 per rider (under 2 is free, no ticket required)
Did we miss your favorite community lights display in Central Illinois? Email us – email@example.com.
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