The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is a can’t-miss holiday event in Chicago. It features a tree lighting ceremony on Michigan Avenue, a parade led by Mickey Mouse himself, and countless other activities to get into the holiday spirit. It’s also going to be crazy busy all day.
Here’s the main schedule of events:
11:00 AM: Lights Festival Lane, an interactive, fun-filled holiday wonderland, and the musical performances begin
5:30 PM: The Tree Lighting Parade sets off
6:55 PM: The Fireworks Spectacular begins at North Michigan Ave. and the Chicago River
This is the largest holiday celebration in the country. Do yourself a favor and consider these tips before you head downtown on November 21st.
1. Book Your Parking in Advance
We have created two pages for this event to help ease the process if you’re driving to the festival:
Planning on attending at a different time? No problem, just adjust the time you plan on parking and select your spot. If you’d like to avoid congestion, consider parking as far northwest as you can stand to walk in the River North neighborhood.
2. Arrive Early
Especially if you intend to park east of Michigan Ave, arriving early is crucial. The throngs of visitors, many of whom are unfamiliar with driving in the city, are surely going to cause traffic jams. Do yourself a favor and shoot to arrive an hour or so earlier than you otherwise would.
3. Street Closures
Even though the parade route is less than a mile, due to the volume of people that attend this event, there will be more extensive street closures than the Chicago Marathon. Street closures will be in effect from 3:30 until 10:00. If you’ve booked your parking for the Lights Festival with SpotHero we’ve ensured you’ll still have full access to your garage. This is also a perfect time to switch your navigation app to Waze (here’s how to do it if you have an iPhone) to avoid these road closures. You can also view the list of street closures below provided Magnificent Mile Association:
MAIN STREET CLOSURES:
- Closed 3:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 21
- Oak Street (State Street to Michigan Avenue)
- North Michigan Avenue (Oak Street to Wacker Drive)
- Upper Wacker Drive (Michigan Avenue to east turnaround)
ADDITIONAL STREET CLOSURES:
- Closed 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 21
- Upper Illinois Street (Michigan Avenue east to Hotel InterContinental side entrance)
- Closed 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 21
- Clark Street (East curb lane only Oak Street to Delaware Street)
- Delaware Street (Dearborn Street to Clark Street north curb lane only)
- Oak Street (Clark Street to State Street)
- Dearborn Street (Delaware Street to Maple Street)
- Walton Street (State Street to Clark Street)
- Closed 4:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Saturday, November 21
- Columbus Drive (Curb lanes from Wacker Drive to Randolph Street, with full street closure 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.)
4. Check Your Reservation Times
This is key. When booking your parking reservation, make sure to double (or triple) check your reservation time. Your spot is only saved for you during the times you specify. Otherwise you are subject to being ticketed or towed. With the high demand of this event, there will surely be others looking to park in your spot, so the tow trucks will likely be out.
5. How to Stay Longer
If you realized that you’d like to stay longer, not a problem!
If you have a SpotHero account, you can extend your reservation by going on the website or mobile web and going to “My Reservations” under the Account Settings on the top of the site. We will show you what the rate difference will be before the extension is processed. Unfortunately, this feature is not yet available on the mobile app. When in doubt, call the Heroes to make this change for you! You can reach us at 312-566-7768. If you do overstay your reservation, you are subject to paying the posted rates at the location for the remaining time, or could be ticketed or towed at outdoor spots.
6. Know the Public Restrooms
These 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
Be super-savvy and consider booking your parking spot near these locations.
7. Do Some Reading
There really is a lot to do at this event. The official site has provided a full schedule of things to do and see. Take some time and determine what you want to see beforehand so you’re not overwhelmed once you arrive. Also, consider following the event on social media to keep up with any important information. Their Facebook page is especially helpful.