Lit at Morton Arboretum: Tree hugging & “Illumination–The Experience”

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“Illumination--The Experience’’ is a lit night experience at Morton Arboretum.
Credit: Dale Bowman

A knot of kids brushed past us, pointing to the side, saying, “There it is.’’


It was the most popular stop along the mile of the “Illimination–The Experience” at Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

“Illumination,’’ an innovative mix of light (blue, green, purple, magenta) and sound (a symphony and more) in the natural setting of the Arboretum, runs evenings through Jan. 1.

The intersection of technology and the natural world fascinate me; that was one draw of “Illumination.’’ The other was personal. I was about to disappear for five days with my dad on what might be his last hunting trip and I needed couple time with my wife.

The second reason was most important.

By the looks of the parking lots, many others did what we did and arrived early enough to walk and hike beforehand. My wife wanted to see the Four Season Garden, a favorite of her’s. I found my water’s edge by Lake Marmo.

When my wife and I lived in the southwest suburbs, we visited the Arboretum regularly. It was good to come back and remember being there when the two oldest kids, now adults, were little.

When night fell, we began our leisurely mile hike around “Illumination’’ with a surprising crush of others.

As kids, our oldest two kids would have enjoyed Hug-a-Tree.

I relish how the Arboretum unabashedly made Hug-a-Tree, a slap down of the pejorative tree-hugger term, one of the stops. Frankly, that is what the Arboretum is about, loving the place of trees and plants in our lives. It is a tree museum.

“Hug-a-Tree is the most popular feature at “Illumination” at Morton Arboretum.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

“Hug-a-Tree is the most popular feature at “Illumination” at Morton Arboretum.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Symphony Woods, where a light display is synchronized to music by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra doing selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,’’ was the favorite display of both myself and my wife. She also liked Crystal Promenade, where chandeliers hung from trees. That was too hokey for me.

I enjoyed the word play of Artistrees, well, and the associated light display.

My wife was drawn to Tinsel Harmony, where you can sing to the trees to be rewarded with dazzling displays.

She is a helluva singer, a soloist at church, and she sang along with the recording of “Angels We Have Heard on High.’’ But her renditions of “Gloria, in excelsis Deo/Gloria, in excelsis Deo,’’ made her wonder, “I didn’t see if the singing made it any more.’’

I couldn’t tell either, but loved the idea of the possibility and I know I enjoyed the overall technological/natural world intersect of “Illumination.’’

New this year are timed admission tickets, even so it was jammed last Saturday; and “Illumedallions!– seemingly magical lights, worn on a lanyard, that change color, intensity, and pulse in response to the features throughout Illumination.’’

There are three concession tents along the trail and Ginkgo Restaurant offers a full dinner menu every night of the Illumination.

Tickets cost $18 to $22 for adults and $12 to $14 for children. Speaking of children, while my wife and I made it a couple’s night, we noticed many young families hiking it.

For information, click here.

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