Mag Mile Lights Festival

While the rest of the country waits to digest Thanksgiving feasts before officially starting holiday celebrations, Christmas in Chicago kicks off the week before Thanksgiving with the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The iconic stretch of north Michigan Avenue sparkles with a million (literally) lights on 200 trees and a Tree-Lighting Parade with Mickey and Minnie Mouse as grand marshalls.

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Add musical performances, interactive holiday activities, fireworks and food to the events and you have the ultimate Chicago holiday experience. From 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, November 21, the Magnificent Mile will be the place to be.

It sounds like kiddie holiday heaven but the fest also boasts lots of adult appeal. Here are a few tips on how to have some grown up fun during the fest:

 

Enjoy Spiked Hot Beverages & Hot Cocoa Warmups

NoMI Kitchen

Leave the hot chocolate to the babies and sip an array of  toasty cocktails at few Gold Coast bars to warm up before the parade. Head to faves like Waldorf Astoria's Bernard's Bar, Le Bar in the Sofitel or the Drake's legendary Coq D'Or for elegant thirst quenchers. And if you must have hot chocolate, visit Leonidas Chocolate Café for sinfully rich cups, or the Hot Chocolate Bar at NoMI Lounge for cocoa with a view of Michigan Avenue from seven floors above.

 

Sample Gourmet Goodies

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Candy canes and frosted cookies are great but more refined palates deserve treats a tad more sophisticated. Take advantage of the fest's extended Gold Coast shopping hours and check out Vosges Haut Chocolat for exotic bars and truffles with ingredients like Black Salt Caramel or Matcha Green Tea, Ghiradelli Chocolate for giftwrapped bags of intense dark chocolate and More Cupcakes for flavors like Pomegranate Mojito.

 

Grab Great Views

Spiaggia Chicago

If you want to avoid the crush but still see the lights and fireworks, cozy up at a skyhigh bar. The ultimate is the Signature Room at the 95th for stunning vistas just below the 360CHICAGO observatory, or the undercover stunner Sophie's, an intimate dining room tucked within Saks Fifth Avenue that boasts floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Mag Mile. You'll find 4-star food and 4-star views from Spiaggia, on its second floor perch right at the start of the parade. There's also Drumbar and 52Eighty for rooftop viewing with cozy interior lounges. And if all else fails, hole up in your hotel room with a hot toddy and watch the festivities on TV on ABC7, from 6-7 p.m. on Saturday.

 

For more things to see and do to celebrate the season, visit choosechicago.com/holidays.