CHICAGO (CBS) — Saturday marks the 26th annual BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.
The festival is said by the Magnificent Mile Association’s to be “the country’s largest evening holiday celebration.”
The festival includes a parade led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse down Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, lighting 200 trees along the route. The parade concludes at the Chicago River, with a grand finale fireworks display. The event is anticipated to draw a crowd of 800,000 people.
Repeating last year, the event has an early kick off on Friday night in Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Avenue), with ‘Lights Festival Lane.’ Guests will be able to participate in a variety of family-friendly activities, plus live music and a visit with Santa Claus. Guests can also enjoy treats from Connie’s Pizza, Garrett Popcorn, Frango, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company and more.
Think you are ready to join in on the holiday celebration? Here is a Guide to the BMO Harris Bank’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival:
Live concerts return to the BMO Harris Bank stage this year. Catch your favorite artists starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, with meet-and-greets during the afternoon.
Schedule of Events:
Friday, Nov. 18
4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
– Lights Festival Lane, located in Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave:
The area opens early this year with more than a dozen family-friendly activities. Guests can listen to live music and have the chance to visit with Santa Claus. There will be an interactive wonderland filled with holiday-themed activities. There will also be food and snacks from Connie’s Pizza, Garrett Popcorn, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company and more.
-Enjoy holiday experiences and special offers at participating retailers, restaurants and attractions around The Magnificent Mile District!
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
-Lights Festival Lane, located in Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave:
Guests can listen to live music and have the chance to visit with Santa Claus. There will be an interactive wonderland filled with holiday-themed activities. There will also be food and snacks from Connie’s Pizza, Garrett Popcorn, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company and more.
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
-The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Tree-Lighting Parade:
The parade steps off onto North Michigan Avenue at Oak Street. Grand Marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and their friends from the Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida travel down North Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive, lighting one million lights along the way! The procession features spectacular floats, helium-filled balloons, marching bands and top musical performers. Look out for lively appearances made by Hubert the Lion, Benny the Bull and other well-known Chicago mascots from BMO Harris Bank.
Enjoy a fireworks display over the Chicago River at North Michigan Avenue.
Viewing: Standing along Wacker Drive or in Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, are the prime places to view. The Magnificent Mile reminds guests that The DuSable Bridge, formerly Michigan Avenue Bridge, closes as early as 3:30 p.m. If you want to get to your favorite spot for the lighting procession, be sure to make your way across the bridge before that time.
Tree-Lighting Parade Route:
The tree-lighting parade steps off at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Oak Street, heading south on Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive.
Viewing: The Magnificent Mile reminds guests that Michigan Avenue is less crowded on the east side of the street, especially at the north end of the procession route.
Live musical performances return to the BMO Harris Bank stage this year. Enjoy free concerts starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, plus meet-and-greets with your favorite artists.
11:30 a.m.: Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players perform on the BMO Harris Bank stage.
12:30 p.m.: Temecula Road performs on the BMO Harris Bank Stage, presented by Southwest Airlines.
1:00 p.m.: Temecula Road Meet-and-Greet, presented by Southwest Airlines, at the Southwest Airlines porch. Don’t forget to pick up your wristband at the Southwest Airlines porch. *While supplies last.
1:30 p.m.: Alec Joseph performs on the BMO Harris Bank stage.
2:00 p.m.: Alec Joseph meet-and-greet at the BMO Harris Kid’s Zone. Don’t forget to pick up your wristband at the BMO HArris Bank Helper Tent. *While supplies last.
-BMO Harris Bank
-The Blue Buffalo Co.
-Chicago Park District
-Garrett Popcorn Shops
-Gift of Hope
-Night Before Chritmas Float
-Texas de Brazil, Ronald McDonald House
-Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida
-Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.
-Calhoun County All Star Band
-Libertyville High School Band
-Greendale High School Band
-Bainbridge High School Band
-Jeffersonville High School Band
-Mosley High School Band
-Bonnie Lindholm Dance Company
-Center Stage Academy of Dance
-The Happiness Club
-In Motion Dance
-Trilogy of Dance
Helium-filled balloons brought to you by:
-BMO Harris Bank, Hubert the Lion
-Angelo’s Gelato, Nutcracker
-Chicago Flower & Garden Show, Bookworm
– 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
If You Are Driving from the:
-North: Go south on Lake Shore Drive, exit at Michigan Avenue.
-Northwest: Take I-90/94 to Ohio Street then east on Ohio Street to Michigan Avenue.
-South: Go north on Lake Shore Drive, exit Illinois Street/Grand Avenue, follow signs to Michigan Avenue.
-Southwest: Take I-55 to Lake Shore Drive north then exit on Illinois Street/Grand Avenue, follow signs to Michigan Avenue.
Consider taking public transportation:
Metra trains drop riders at various locations around the city. Metra will also operate additional trains the day of the event. Additional seating capacity will be added to scheduled service in anticipation of the large crowds for the festival.
The CTA will provide Saturday additional bus and train service for the 2016 Magnificent Mile Festival of Lights. The Blue, Brown, Orange and Pink Line trains will operate longer trains from approximately 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Red Line will run more frequently from approximately 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Magnificent Mile recommends reserving affordable parking in advance with SpotHero.
The Millennium Park Garage and Grant Park North Garage are closest to the south end of the Lights Festival parade route on Michigan Avenue. You can pre-purchase parking for the lowest rate.
Millennium Park Garage
5 S Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60601
Grant Park North Garage
25 N Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60602
InterPark parking garages also have multiple locations near the Lights Festival parade. You can also purchase parking in advance with one of their garages.
Several street closures will be in place to facilitate the parade, including:
-Michigan between Oak and Wacker from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.;
-Oak between State and Michigan from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.;
-Upper Wacker between Michigan and the east turnaround from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.;
-Upper Illinois between Michigan Avenue and the Hotel InterContinental from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.;
-Dearborn between Delaware and Maple from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
-Walton between State and Clark from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
-Oak between Clark and State from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
-Southbound Columbus between Wacker and Randolph from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and
-Northbound Columbus between Wacker and Randolph from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Parking restrictions and bus reroutes will also be in effect in the areas surrounding the parade route, OEMC said.