Chicago is ready to flip the switch. You’ll hear oohs and aahs when streets, shopping centers and parks light up for the holidays — and you can be there when it happens. If you can’t make the kick-off ceremonies, don’t worry: these hotspots will stay brilliantly lit through the end of December. Click through our guide to the best and brightest.

Evanston Tree Lighting

Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Mayor Tisdahl will light up downtown Evanston's tree with musical performances. Hang out after the tree is lit to visit with Santa, enjoy hot cocoa, and write letters to the North Pole. If you miss the tree lighting, there is still plenty of fun to be had on Small Business Saturday, November 28. Free trolleys will run from Central St. to downtown from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The theme of the day will be “Shop. Eat. Repeat.” and many local businesses are offering discounts as part of a Cookie Crawl. While you shop, kids can enjoy the window decorations for the Evanston-wide store decoration contest that kicks off Nov. 28. Or drop the kids off at Gather from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., who has partnered with Urban Sitter to provide childcare for $6 in addition to the cost of regular admission. Call 847-859-2312 to register your little ones.

Tree lighting, Nov. 20
Musical performances at 5 p.m.; tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.
Fountain Square
On Davis St., at Sherman & Orrington Avenues

Where will you go to see holiday lights this year? Let us know in the Comments section!

— Lisa Snart & Kelly Aiglon