The holiday season in Chicago is always an exciting time. With countless events across multiple neighborhoods, there are so many ways to celebrate. One event I look forward to every year is The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. It’s two days of free, family-friendly activities that lead up to the famous tree-lighting parade on Michigan Avenue. Many Chicagoans, my family included, consider this event the official kick-off to the holidays.
Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about this classic Chicago celebration.
What is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival?
The annual winter celebration marks the beginning of the holiday season in Chicago. The festivities kick off on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 with a tree lighting ceremony with musical entertainment at the iconic Wrigley Building.
The weekend also includes an outdoor festival where families can explore an interactive wonderland of holiday-themed activities at Lights Festival Lane. The free-admission fest is held during the day on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. It includes photos with Santa Claus, family-friendly activities, festive booths, and more.
The festival is followed by the grand tree-lighting parade on Saturday evening that turns on all the lights along North Michigan Avenue and finishes with a fireworks display.
When is The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival?
The Magnificent Miles Lights Festival will be held Nov. 18 and 19, 2022.
The festival kicks off with a tree lighting ceremony at the Wrigley Building at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18. Lights Festival Lane will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. The weekend caps off with with the evening tree-lighting parade at 5:30 p.m. and fireworks display at 6:55 p.m. on Saturday.
Where is The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival?
Lights Festival Lane is located in Pioneer Court at 401 N. Michigan Ave.
The parade travels south on North Michigan Avenue, starting at Oak Street and ending at Wacker Drive.
Can’t see it in person? The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival airs on ABC 7 Chicago at 6 p.m. on Sunday, November 21, with two additional broadcasts in December.
Wait, is it a parade or a festival?
Both! The free holiday festival leads up to the spectacular parade and fireworks show on Saturday evening. The parade is the final event of The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.
What’s at the parade?
During the parade, over one million lights will illuminate more than 200 trees lining North Michigan Avenue (also known as The Magnificent Mile, one of Chicago’s most famous streets).
And that’s not all. The procession is led by grand marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse, followed by Santa on his sleigh, spectacular floats, giant helium-filled balloons, marching bands, celebrity appearances, and live musical performances. The grand finale is a spectacular fireworks show.
What restaurants are close to the parade route?
Looking to grab a bite to eat before or after The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival? Here are a few family-friendly favorites near the parade route:
- Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – Michigan Avenue
- SafeHouse Chicago
- Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap
- Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch
- Sweetwater Tavern & Grille
- Grand Lux Cafe
- M Burger
- Portillo’s Hot Dogs
How can I get to and from the festival?
You can take a car or ride share, but keep in mind that there may be traffic and limited parking. If you’re driving to the festival, note that North Michigan Avenue closes to traffic between Oak Street and Wacker Drive as early as 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
You can also take the CTA Red Line train to the festivities. The Grand and Lake stops are both close to the festival and the parade route, and the Chicago stop is just a few blocks from the parade. There are also several CTA bus lines that can get you close to the action — Google Maps should be able to help you find a good route. Keep in mind that buses are also affected by road closures.