It was only four years ago the Chicago Botanic Garden first displayed a gorgeous gallery of gourds on its grounds for Night of 1000 Jack o’ Lanterns. We were on scene back in October 2016, and have been every year since to get a healthy dose of chilly October air, maybe a glass of cider or beer, and admire the handiwork of the talented carving artists.
Really, though, it’s all about the pumpkins. There are actually 1000 pumpkins or more at each year’s event, all hand carved and expertly lit, spread out among the main paths of the central part of the garden. The themed pumpkins are larger–some weighing in at over 150 pounds, and provide the squashy canvas for artists to etch, gouge, carve and otherwise sculpt into the massively artistic works that you’ll see along the trails.
Each year brings new themes, all tailored to Chicago and the Botanic Gardens themselves, along with live entertainers, carving demonstrations by the artists, food and drink on the Esplanade and at the gardens’ Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. This year’s themes were some of our all time favorites, and felt the most tailored to the area and the gardens themselves than in any previous years.
Themes ran from Fantasy, Magic and Monsters and Vintage Halloween to Pollinators, something the gardens focused on in their public education outreaches this summer, and the Railroad Garden’s upcoming anniversary, but our favorite take was super local and incredibly unique, inspiring us to take a whole new journey. Grotesques of Chicago and Where to Find Them, which featured the various grotesques atop the beautiful architecture we’re surrounded by here in Chicago, and while some, like the Tribune Tower’s, were obvious, others were not, and in all cases the pumpkin renditions had us wanting to wander and see them all in person.
Night of 1000 Jack O’ Lanterns was hugely popular from the get-go, with 2016’s event so overwhelmingly well received that it caused an hours long backup on I-94 that, had we left just a little later, would’ve caused us to miss out on the event entirely. The Botanic Gardens have since expanded the event, to allow for several entry times and adding extra nights, but the event continues to sell out every year.
When it was announced back in September that Night of 1,000 Jack O’ Lanterns would be expanded to 10 nights, we thought for sure there’d be a chance for everyone who wanted to get in the Halloween spirit to make the trip, but by opening night, nearly every time slot was entirely sold out, with very limited availability for weeknights after 8 pm.
So what’s all the fuss about? Is it worth it to try and get in to see? Our vote is yes. Night of 1000 Jack O’ Lanterns is a family friendly, unique nighttime treat that’s just as good to wow the kids as it is for a romantic . Between the available food and drink, the chance to be outside in the autumn air, the live entertainment and the amazingly detailed pumpkins, it’s a night to remember, sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.
Whether you make it out to Glencoe this Halloween or not, we hope you enjoy our gallery of gorgeous gourds, and make plans to come out and see them in person! Happy Halloween!
Editor’s Note: As of press time, tickets were in fact still available for Wednesday and Thursday after 9pm and 9:30 pm on Sunday, but they will not last long. Reserve them online now to make sure you get one.