Festival of Lights Chicago 2023


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The holiday season is an exciting and momentous time in Chicago. There are lots of ways on how to celebrate during the holiday season. One of the most awaiting events in Chicago which you can personally experience is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

Festival of Lights Chicago
Festival highlights

This is a 1-day activity for families and friends, which leads up to the prominent tree-lighting parade located in Michigan Avenue. Most of the residents in this place consider this spectacular event as an official kickout celebration for the holidays.

This magnificent festival of lights in Chicago is an event that is celebrated every year on Saturday before Thanksgiving. There are an estimated 1 million lights on the 200 trees that brighten up Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

It is considered the 6th largest parade in the United States based on the festival chair. Annually , ABC 7 conducts an hour of Disney surprises, stimulating performances, and some magical moments covered with stunning illumination of trees that line the Magnificent Mile of Chicago, broadcasting the event for those who can’t make it to the actual location.

Magnificent Miles Lights Festival – What To Expect

The annual celebration during winter marks the commencement of the holiday season in the city of Chicago. There are some free admission activities that you can do, such as visits from Santa Claus, live music, BMO Harris Zone for kids, and even treats from the country’s favorites, which include Eli’s Cheesecake Company and Garrett Popcorn.

On the same day of the activity comes the parade for the final event of the Festival of Lights Chicago. During the parade, lots of lights will illuminate the lining of trees in the streets of Chicago. The whole procession is led by Minnie, and Mickey Mouse, then followed by Santa Claus on his sleigh.

There are also some spectacular floats, marching bands, helium-filled balloons, and live musical types of performances by some artists. In addition to that, there are some appearances by Benny the Bull and some other well-prominent mascots in Chicago.

The parade will end with some remarkable fireworks, which can be witnessed at the Chicago River, North Michigan Avenue.

How to Get There to the Lights Festival?

If you want to personally witness and experience the beauty of this festival, then you can take a ride by car to go to the place. However, you can expect that there might be a traffic and will only have limited parking space.

So, if you are driving to visit and attend the festival, take note that the street of North Michigan Avenue closes between Wacker Drive and Oak Street around 4:00 pm on Saturday. You may also opt to take the CTA Red Line train to go to the venue.

There are also some CTA bus lines which you can choose as your mode of transportation to get to the festival. If you’re not familiar with the place, then you may also use Google Maps to help you find the best route to the place.

or you can get a taxi:

Also, you need to bear in mind that buses and some other land transportation are affected because of road closures. So, you need to know the best possible routes to the festival.

While you’re in Illinois, you can also check out these amazing festivals:

Fox Lake Festival of Lights

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

The Lights Fest Chicago – Hours

The kick-off for the festival lights is usually before Thanksgiving. This year, the lights festival starts from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. The weekend will end with an evening parade and tree-lighting from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm on the same day. You may also check the schedule of some events online so that you’ll be guided accordingly.

If you wish the visit the city and you are just from the neighboring place, then you don’t need to spend a big amount of money. But of course, it should be good enough to buy some tickets for your holiday lights tour, especially if you are with your family or loved ones. If your place is quite far from Chicago and you wish to stay there for 2 days until the festival is ended, then you need to bring extra cash with you for hotel accommodation and for your food.

Since this an annual winter event, you can expect that it is quite colder than the previous days because of the fluctuations in the weather. So, it is advisable to wear some clothes that would keep you warm. You may prefer to wear jackets or some thick clothes which would provide more comfort during your holiday tour of the city.

Hotel Accommodations Near the Festival

There are numerous hotels where you can book during your stay at the festival of lights Chicago. If you wish to know the best hotel accommodations for you and for your family, then you may consider the top-rated hotels based on the customer reviews:

1. The Peninsula Chicago – This hotel sits along the Magnificent Mile. It offers some remarkable services for spas, restaurants and well-lit and spacious guest rooms, where you can view the whole city. This could be a perfect place if you would like to stay for the festival of lights in the city.

2. Conrad Chicago – Another hotel which you can choose for your holiday trip is the Conrad Chicago. This is just a 4-minute walk from Michigan Avenue. This is a perfect hotel accommodation for you since it provides private parking, bar, fitness center and best restaurants in the place. Since this is just adjacent to the venue of the festival lights in the city, then you can easily experience every activity of the festival.

3. The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel – This place is one of the luxurious hotels situated in the center of downtown. It offers remarkable services and amenities, which include two restaurants on the site, a fitness center, and a fully equipped business center that is available 24 hours. You can book this hotel for your accommodation during your stay in the holiday season.

Where to eat Near the Festival

Aside from the best hotel where you can stay during the festival in Chicago, it is also important to know the best places where you can eat your favorite foods. In this way, you will have a delightful experience while staying in the city. Here are the best places where you can eat some delicious foods:

• Aster Hall – This is situated on the 5th and 6th floors of 900 North Michigan Shops. The restaurant has different stalls, and each of these stalls features a wide array of cuisines. So, you can choose any food you want according to your preferences and tastes.

• Eataly – This is an Italian food restaurant that offers different types of dishes, microbrewery, gelato, Nutella bar, and many more. You can have a guarantee that you can find the best foods in this place since they provide quality and incomparable foods for everyone.

• Labriola Chicago – This is also an Italian restaurant that offers a wide option of your favorite menus. Some of their specialties are chicken Vesuvio, baked ziti, and pizza. Most people believe that pizza is the best food that can be found in the city.

So, you may also give it a try if you want to taste it. Experiencing the festival of lights Chicago is one of the most momentous activities that you can do with your family. With this simple guide, you can have a full blast in the city as you attend this festival in Chicago.

More Things to Do In the Area

Navy Pier: The Hub of Entertainment

Location: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Description: Navy Pier is Chicago’s iconic lakefront destination. With a wide range of attractions, it’s an all-in-one entertainment hub that has been drawing people for years.
Activities to Explore:

  • Take a ride on the Centennial Wheel for an unparalleled view of the cityscape.
  • Visit the Chicago Children’s Museum with the young ones.
  • Indulge in some retail therapy at the shopping arcades.
  • Don’t miss the seasonal festivals—especially the festival of lights during the holiday season.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Get Close to Nature

Location: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Description: Situated in the heart of the city, Lincoln Park Zoo offers a natural escape with over 200 animal species. It’s perfect for families and nature enthusiasts.
Activities to Explore:

  • Meet and greet exotic animals ranging from lions to penguins.
  • Walk through the lush gardens filled with fairy lights after sundown.
  • During the holiday season, the zoo transforms into a blinking Christmas light show.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Location: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
Description: One of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, the Art Institute of Chicago houses a diverse collection of artworks from around the globe.
Activities to Explore:

  • Marvel at iconic pieces like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” or Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.”
  • Attend various art workshops and lectures to deepen your understanding of the arts.
  • During special events, the museum often features light displays and installations, adding a modern touch to the classical setting.

Here are a few more light festivals that you might want to see:
Watkins Park Lights
Wild Waves Festival of Lights
Gold Coast Light Festival

While this article aims to answer questions and concerns about the festival, it is always best to visit the festival’s official website for up-to-date information.



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