The 2018 Guide To BMO Harris Bank’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Shannon Blum
November 16, 2018 - 7:00 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The 27th annual BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicks off Friday and continues Saturday with the tree-lighting parade

The festival is said, by the Magnificent Mile Association, 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 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:

What’s New:

Look out for musical performances and special appearances in the tree-lighting parade. Plus, live concerts return to the BMO Harris Bank stage. Catch your favorite artists starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, with meet-and-greets during the afternoon.

Schedule of Events:

Friday, Nov. 16
4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
– Lights Festival Lane, located in Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave:
The area opens the evening before the parade 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 Garrett Popcorn, Frango, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company and more.

Saturday, Nov. 17
-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, including the BMO Harris Kid's Zone. 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.

6:55 p.m.
-Fireworks Spectacular:
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.

*Wheelchair Viewing: Wheelchair viewing is available by the Plaza of the Americas for the tree-lighting parade and fireworks show. Drop-off area for guests is at the corner of Hubbard Street and Wabash Avenue.

Tree-Lighting Parade Route:

The tree-lighting parade steps off at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 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 Performances:
-Cody Simpson & The Tide
-Alex Aiono
-Cailee Rae
-Cozi Zuehlsdorff
-Louis York
-YaDonna West

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.: Cailee Rae, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank

12:30 p.m.: DCappella performs, sponsored by Entertainment Cruises

1:30 p.m.: Cozi Zuehlsdorff performs, sponsored by Southwest Airlines

2:30 p.m.: Cody Simpson + The Tide performs, presented by T-Mobile

Don't miss your chance to meet your favorite performers in person on Saturday. Meet & Greets require wristbands, first come first serve while supplies last. Please visit the BMO Harris Bank Helper Tent at Lights Festival Lane for more information.

11 a.m.: Cody Simpson + The Tide at the T-Mobile Signature Store (700 N. Michigan Avenue) *Photos Only - No Autographs

12 p.m.: Cailee Rae in the BMO Kids Zone (Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue)

1 p.m.: DCapella in the Meet & Greet Tent sponsored by Entertainment Cruises (Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue)

2 p.m.: Cozi Zuehlsdorff in the Southwest Airlines tent (Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue)


  • BMO Harris Bank
  • Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida
  • 93.9 LITE-FM
  • ABC7 Chicago
  • AT&T
  • The Blue Buffalo Co.
  • Brookfield Zoo
  • Chicago Park District
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. 
  • Choose Chicago
  • Constellation Energy
  • Entertainment Cruises
  • Frango
  • Garrett Popcorn Shops
  • Greeley and Hansen LLC
  • Hilton Hotels Chicago
  • Illinois Lottery
  • Illinois Office of Tourism
  • The Ogden International School of Chicago
  • Northwestern Medicine
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Subaru 
  • Texas de Brazil, Ronald McDonald House
  • Walgreens Co. 

Featuring special guests:

  • Cailee Rae on the BMO Harris Bank Float
  • Cozi Zuehlsdorff on the Southwest Airlines Float
  • Alex Aiono on the AT&T Float
  • Louis York on the Hilton Hotels Holiday Train
  • Michael J. Woodard on the Blue Buffalo Float
  • YaDonna West on the Walgreens Float

Marching bands from around the country:

  • Crystal Lake Strikers
  • Firestone High School Band
  • Greendale High School Band
  • Hartselle High School Band
  • Palmetto Ridge High School Band
  • Sylvania Northview High School

Dance cast:

  • 3rd Street Dance & Theatre Company
  • Bonnie Lindholm School of Dance
  • Dance Factory INC
  • In Motion Dance
  • Ovation Academy
  • The Happiness Club
  • Trilogy School of Performing Arts

Plus helium-filled balloons brought to you by:

  • BMO Harris Bank, Hubert the Lion
  • Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
  • Angelo's Gelato, Nutcracker
  • Special Olympics Illinois, Champ the Penguin
  • Snickerdoodle the Reindeer

Public Restrooms:
– 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

Getting There:

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 2018 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. There will also be extra service on the # 3 King, #J14 Jeffery Jump, # 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express, # 147 outer Drive Express and # 151 Sheridan


The Magnificent Mile recommends reserving affordable parking in advance with SpotHero. To reserve your parking spot, visit the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival SpotHero Parking Page and book a spot with rates up to 50 percent off drive-up.

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 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Oak between State and Michigan from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Upper Wacker between Michigan and the east turnaround from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Upper Columbus southbound lanes between Wacker Drive and Randolph Street, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Upper Columbus northbound lanes between Wacker Drive and Randolph Street, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Clark Street, east curb lane only between Oak Street and Delaware Street from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Delaware Street between Dearborn Street and Clark Street, north curb lane only, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Oak between Clark and State from 8 a.m. to 6 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.
  • Upper Columbus between Wacker Drive and Randolph Street, curb lanes only, from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Randolph Street between Michigan Avenue and Columbus, curb lanes only, from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Parking restrictions and bus reroutes will also be in effect in the areas surrounding the parade route, OEMC said.