The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival officially kicks off the holiday season in Chicago. Each year, more than 1 million people bundle up and enjoy a night of family-friendly entertainment. This year, the celebration takes place Friday, November 17, and Saturday, November 18. Here are seven reasons why you'll want to attend the 2017 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

The Lights

The Magnificent Mile

For over 50 years, the trees along North Michigan Avenue have been illuminated to at the start of the holiday season, welcoming shoppers from Chicago and beyond. The tradition started back in 1949 when members of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association set a 50-foot tall Christmas tree in Water Tower Park. Today over 200 trees are dressed up in over a million twinkling lights, welcoming the season with joy.

Holiday Characters Galore

Anyone who's anyone in the holiday world makes their way downtown for this festive, two-day extravaganza. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse even venture out from their home base, Walt Disney World, to lead the magical tree-lighting procession. Rudolph and Frosty consider the Mag Mile Lights Festival a don't-miss annual event, while beloved Chicago mascots Hubert the Lion and Benny the Bull will be roaming the Mag Mile, on the lookout for their biggest fans. But perhaps the biggest guest of honor is The Man in Red: Santa Claus always makes a pit stop in Chicago before heading back to the North Pole to wrap up his toy-making for the year: you'll find him both on a grand parade float and at Lights Festival Lane.

Lights Festival Lane

Lights Festival Lane, located at 401 N. Michigan Avenue, near the historic Tribune Tower, features more than a dozen family-friendly activities from Chicago favorites and popular brands. Kids can take a photo with Santa, decorate a slice of Eli's Cheesecake, and try a free slice of deep dish pizza. Lights Festival Lane will be welcoming visitors on Friday, November 17, from 4 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Parade


Grand marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse will lead a holiday parade of more than 40 floats, helium-filled balloons and marching bands. Along the way, they'll use their magic wands to light up the trees along the Mag Mile. Expect lots of live music—country trio Temecula Road and award-winning crooners Billy Gilman and Alec Jospeh will both be singing on special parade floats this year—and plenty of colorful characters on festive floats. The parade begins at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street at 5:30 p.m. and travels down the Mag Mile to the Chicago River.

The Fireworks

The festival culminates in a grand fireworks display over the Chicago River. Head toward the Chicago River and stand along Wacker Drive or in Pioneer Court well before Mickey Mouse arrives for prime fireworks viewing—they set off at 6:57 p.m.

The Old Water Tower

Holiday Shopping

The Old Water Tower is one of the oldest attractions in the city of Chicago. Built in 1869, the 182-foot tall tower was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire and remains a symbol of the city's strength. During the Lights Festival, the tower and its surrounding park are positively aglow. While you're there, take a moment to check out the Old Water Tower's very own art gallery.

Special Shopping, Dining and Hotel Offers

Many area hotels offer special rates and packages this special weekend: Check out the holiday Mag Mile hotel offers a awesome stay-cation deals. Dining deals abound, too, from a festive breakfast with Santa at Texas de Brazil's Mag Mile location to complimentary #16 biscuits at the Copper Fox Chicago gastropub. You'll also be able to snap up bargains galore as many of the shops that line the Mag Mile offer Lights Festival discounts and special offers during the event.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival 2017 takes place on Friday, November 17, and Saturday, November 18. For a complete schedule of events and holiday offers, visit