What once began as simple tree decorations fifty years ago to signal the start of the holiday season has since developed into something truly spectacular! The 2018 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, begins at 4 pm on Friday, November 16,. While the MM Lights Festival events and activities will only take place for the opening ceremonies on the 16th and 17th, the lights will remain up for everyone to enjoy throughout the holiday season! It’s a beloved Chicago tradition, and 2018 marks its twenty-seventh anniversary.


This year’s Lights Festival opening weekend is set to start with a bang. Not only will the lights go up, but the weekend will feature family-friendly activities, a tree-lighting parade down Michigan Avenue, some fantastic holiday shopping options from participating stores, and even a Fireworks Spectacular show over the Chicago River.


On Friday, November 16, the Lights Festival Lane will have fun activities for the whole family from 4 pm – 8 pm, including live music and even a visit from Santa Claus, himself. If you can’t make it on Friday, however, don’t fret! Saturday is sure to be a magical day full of holiday activities and live performances from artists like Cody Simpson, DCapella, and Cailee Rae, just to name a few. The Meet and Greet wristbands for these performers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. More information can be found on the day of at the BMO Harris Bank Helper Tent.


Alongside the holiday activities, the Lights Festival Lane will also be offering sample treats from classic Chicago establishments like Garrett Popcorn, Frango, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company, and lots more. There will be pop-up shops across the Magnificent Mile, with lots of activities and merchandise available for purchase. Chicago’s Christmas music station, 93.9 LITE-FM, will also have a tent where they’ll be broadcasting live throughout the event.   


Whatever you decide,  make sure to secure a spot for the tree-lighting parade on Saturday evening, when Grand Marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse light one million lights along their path. The procession will also feature floats, balloons, musical performances, and beloved Chicago mascots like Hubert the Lion and Benny the Bull. The parade starts at 5:30 pm, concluding with a breathtaking fireworks show just before 7:00 pm!


The parade will be broadcast live on ABC7 starting at 6:00 pm. Can’t make the event or want to relive the magic? The broadcast will be syndicated across more than 90% of the United States throughout the holiday season, so be sure to check your local listings!


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