The 2019 Guide To BMO Harris Bank’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Shannon Blum
November 22, 2019 - 8:14 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The 28th annual BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicks off Friday and continues Saturday with the tree-lighting parade.

The festival is said to be “the country’s largest evening holiday celebration", according to the Magnificent Mile Association.

BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights 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. 22
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. 23
ALL DAY
-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. 23 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 Parade Route Performances:

  • 2XO
  • CeCe Peniston
  • Matt B
  • Parachute
  • Shelby 5
  • Skylar Stecker

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.: Echosmith, presented by BMO Harris Bank

12:30 p.m.: Parachute, presented Hornblower Cruises and Events

1:30 p.m.: Skylar Stecker, presented by Southwest Airlines

2:30 p.m.: Ryan Cabrera, 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.: Ryan Cabrera at the T-Mobile Flagship Store (700 N Michigan Avenue)

12 p.m.: Echosmith, presented by BMO Harris Bank

1 p.m.: Parachute, presnented by Hornblower Cruises and Events

2 p.m.: Skylar Stecker, presented by Southwest Airlines

Performances on ABC7 Chicago's Broadcast:

ABC7 Chicago will broadcast the tree-lighting parade on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. Be sure to catch some of your favorite performances.

  • Chicago Children's Choir
  • Echosmith
  • Ryan Cabrera
  • Teatro Zinzanni

Participants:

  • BMO Harris Bank
  • Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida
  • 93.9 LITE-FM
  • ABC7 Chicago
  • Canadian National Railway
  • Chicago Fire Soccer
  • Chicago Park District
  • Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
  • Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co
  • Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo
  • Choose Chicago
  • Constellation Energy
  • Frango
  • Garrett Popcorn Shops
  • Hiltons of Chicago
  • IlliniCare Health
  • Lifeway Kefir
  • MyEyeDr.
  • Northwestern Memorial Healthcare
  • Odyssey Cruises
  • Radio Disney
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Subaru
  • Texas de Brazil, Ronald McDonald House
  • Walgreens Co.

Musical Performers and Celebrity Appearances:

  • Cece Pensiton
  • Shelby 5
  • Skylar Stecker
  • 2XO
  • Matt B

Marching bands from around the country:

  • Lake Fenton High School Band
  • Southland College Prep Band
  • Crystal Lake Strikers Drumline
  • Petoskey Steel Drum Band
  • Greendale High School Band

Plus helium-filled balloons brought to you by:

  • Angelo's Gelato
  • Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital
  • Special Olympics Illinois
  • Thompson Coburn LLP

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 is also encouraged.  Exit the Red Line Train via Chicago Avenue or Grand Avenue and walk east.

Parking:

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.

Street Closures

Main Street Closures

Closed 4:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23

  • Oak Street (State Street to Michigan Avenue) 
  • North Michigan Avenue (Oak Street to Wacker Drive) 
  • Upper Wacker Drive (Michigan Avenue to east turnaround) 

Closed 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23

  • Upper Columbus, Southbound Lanes (Wacker Drive to Randolph) 

Closed 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23

  • Upper Columbus, Northbound Lanes (Wacker Drive to Randolph) 

Additional Street Closures

Closed 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23

  • 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, Nov. 23

  • Upper Columbus (Curb lanes from Wacker Drive to Randolph Street) 
  • Randolph Street (Curb lanes from Michigan to Columbus) 

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