The Ultimate Guide to the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

The Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is here! Featuring  countless activities to get you into the holiday spirit, a parade led by Mickey Mouse himself, and a tree lighting ceremony on Michigan Avenue, this festival has become a can’t-miss holiday event in Chicago. Over 1.2 million people attend the festival annually, and if you’re hitting the Mag Mile this weekend, it pays to be prepared. SpotHero is here to help with everything you need to know to have a safe and fun-filled day!

Schedule of Events:

The Lights Festival takes place Saturday, November 18 Along N. Michigan Avenue. Before the parade begins you can expect a lot of activity along the parade route! Click here for details or view the schedule below:

11 a.m.-4 p.m.: Lights Festival Lane takes over 401 N. Michigan Avenue. Attendees can expect an interactive, fun-filled holiday wonderland, complete with family-friendly activities and live performances.

5:30 p.m.: The Tree Lighting Parade sets off! The parade begins at the intersection of N. Michigan Avenue & E. Oak Street, and runs south on Michigan to the Chicago River. 

7 p.m.: The Fireworks Spectacular begins at N. Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River

Parking and Road Closures:

While the parade route is less than a mile, extensive street closures will go into effect due to the volume of people that attend this event. Street closures are scheduled to go into effect beginning at 3 p.m. These times are subject to change as events like this one can lead to unexpected road closures to accommodate the increase in pedestrian traffic. You can find a full list of closures here as well as directions and transit suggestions, courtesy of the Magnificent Mile association!

Please note that the DuSable Bridge will be raised at 3 p.m. Be sure you have crossed to the north side of the Chicago River by that time!

Free and street parking will be extremely limited. If you are driving to the festival, we recommend booking a spot in advance, and plan on arriving early!

Looking to avoid some of the traffic? Consider booking parking away from downtown, then taking public transit to the festival. Parking will be less restricted and may be less expensive too! You can find maps of CTA stops here

Recommended Apps & Must-Know Info:

Before heading out, be sure to dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. Seating is not available along the parade route, and outside chairs are not allowed. While there are no bag restrictions for the festival or parade, we recommend limiting your personal items; only bring what you need and be prepared to carry as long as you’re there!

Once there, expect heavy pedestrian traffic throughout the day. If you find yourself in a hurry, we recommend leaving the main activities along Michigan Avenue and traveling along parallel streets; Rush Street and Wabash Avenue west of Michigan Avenue will be less busy as the parade start time approaches, as well as St. Clair Street a block to the east. 

If you are looking to find a spot to watch the festivities sitting down, check here for a list of recommended viewing locations, but expect crowds and additional fees! 

Before hitting the road, consider downloading an app with live traffic updates. Waze offers user-reported updates on road closures and traffic, so you can stay ahead of the big jams!

It’s also good to have a public transit tracking app so you can check transit schedules and maps. Transit app offers live updates and works in cities worldwide, the Chicago Transit Authority also offers the Ventra app to keep track of transit schedules and fares!

If you find yourself in need of first aid, call 911 or visit Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 251 E. Huron Street.

Looking for a bathroom? While many businesses along the Mag Mile will be open for business, be aware that restrooms will be restricted to paying customers at many of them! Public restrooms can be found at the following locations during the festival: 

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

Peace, love, and parking!