Mag Mile Lights Festival: Tips to Make Your Trip Memorable

The popular festival returns to downtown Chicago this Saturday, Nov. 17.


Nothing is more thrilling than to see Mickey and Minnie turn on the thousands of lights on Michigan Avenue, just ask the million or so people who attended last year's Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

The 21st annual festival is scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 17 and heralds the Christmas season.

If you are one of the brave souls heading out to the Mag Mile, here are some helpful tips to make the trip memorable for your family:

Getting there

Public transportation is highly recommended due to the crowds, estimated at 1.2 million last year. Metra will have weekend passes available for purchase and special entertainment at its Ogilvie Transportation Center. Schedules are available here. If you are brave enough to drive, check out the Chicago Parking Map Be prepared to leave early to stake out your spot because the city of Chicago closes off a number of streets for the event.

BMO Harris Stage

Plan out your day with this schedule. There will be events up and down Michigan Avenue. If you can't make it through the crowds consider going to Reindeer on the River, a complimentary event at the Riverwalk at Trump Chicago. There will be two reindeer and Santa. There will also be hot cider and cocoa and treats available for purchase. It begins at 3:30 p.m.

Special offers

Michigan Avenue hotels and business will have special offers throughout the weekend, from sales to free gifts to free hot chocolate. Here's a list of offers from businesses and hotels.

Viewing the parade

The parade kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Michigan Avenue and Oak Street then continues to Wacker Drive. According to sponsors, Michigan Avenue is less crowded on the east side of the street especially at the north end of the route.

Try a different view of the parade, 1,000 feet up in the air at the John Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan Ave. The cost is $17.50 for adults and $11.50 for children.

Fireworks viewing

The parade ends with a fireworks display over the Chicago River at 6:55 p.m. A good place to view the show is along Wacker Drive or in the Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave. Another good spot is the Riverwalk at Trump Chicago but beware, there are no elevators available so be prepared if you are taking a stroller.

Where is there a bathroom?

Public Restrooms can be found at

  • Lights Festival Lane, Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue
  • 900 North Michigan Shops, 900 N. Michigan Avenue
  • Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Avenue
  • The Shops at North Bridge, 520 N. Michigan Avenue

Crowds not your cup of tea?

If you are not up to facing the crowds, another good view is from your living room. ABC 7 Chicago will broadcast the parade live at 6 p.m. It will be shown throughout the holidays all over the country.

Be sure to send your Magnificent Mile Lights Festival photos to your hometown Patch.


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