The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in Chicago is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited holiday events in the Midwest. For over 25 years, this festival has marked the start of the holiday season in Chicago, bringing together residents and visitors to enjoy dazzling lights displays, festive family activities, live music performances, and the iconic Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade.
If you’re planning to attend the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade 2023, this comprehensive guide will provide key details and tips to help you make the most of this magical event. We’ll cover parade basics like the date, time, location and route, plus insider information on the best viewing spots, transportation and parking options, parade participants, and more. Read on for your ultimate 2023 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade guide!
When is The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade 2023?
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade 2023 will take place on Saturday, November 19 in downtown Chicago. This annual event is held every year in mid-November, so the 2023 date follows tradition.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 19, 2023 if you want to catch all the spectacular floats, giant balloons, festive music, and holiday magic at this year’s parade!
What Time Does the Parade Start?
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade will kick off at 5:30 PM on Saturday, November 19, 2023.
You’ll want to arrive downtown earlier to claim your ideal viewing spot and take in the pre-parade excitement and lights displays along Michigan Avenue. But the parade itself will officially step off at 5:30 PM from the corner of Oak Street and Michigan Avenue.
The full parade runs approximately 45 minutes to an hour, so you can expect it to wrap up between 6:15-6:45 PM.
Where is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade? Route and Map
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade takes place on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. The parade route runs along Michigan Avenue from Oak Street on the north end to Wacker Drive on the south end.
The official street closures for the parade route will be in place from 3 PM to approximately 6:45 PM on the day of the event.
Here are the key spots along the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade route:
- Start: Oak Street and Michigan Avenue (northern endpoint)
- Finish: Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive (southern endpoint)
- Key Viewing Spots: Michigan Avenue from Oak to Ohio Street; Michigan Avenue Bridge; Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive
Consult a Magnificent Mile Parade route map to visualize the complete path and plan where you want to post up to enjoy the parade. Prime spots fill up quickly, so arrive early if you want to secure a front row view!
Where are the Best Places to Watch the Parade?
With so many excellent viewing spots along the parade route, where are the very best places to watch the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade? Here are our top recommendations for securing a phenomenal parade viewing experience:
- The Michigan Avenue Bridge: This area offers an elevated perspective and the iconic Chicago River as a backdrop. Arrive early to stake out a good position.
- Oak Street and Michigan Avenue: This is the official parade start, so the energy is palpable. Watch the floats and balloons round the first turn.
- Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street: A great front-row view as parade elements travel straight down Michigan.
- The Intersection of Michigan and Wacker: Where parade lines up for its dramatic finish. See the grand finale up close!
- 360 CHICAGO at John Hancock Building: Watch from an incredible vantage point on floors 94 and 95 and stay toasty warm inside!
- Foodlife on Michigan Avenue: Huge second and third floor windows offer bird’s eye parade views while you dine.
- Public Parking Garages: Many downtown garages like Millennium Park Garage and Grant Park North offer rooftop viewing.
Arrive at least 1-2 hours early to get a prime, front-row spot for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade!
How to Get There: Parade Transportation and Parking
If you’re heading downtown for the Mag Mile Lights Parade, navigating transportation and parking is key. Here are some tips for getting there:
Take the CTA Red, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink or Blue Line trains downtown and exit at stations like Chicago, Grand, or State/Lake. Or hop aboard CTA buses that travel downtown like #6, #20, #56, #60, #124, #143, #144, #157.
Apps like Uber or Lyft can drop off and pick up near the parade route, outside street closures. This eliminates parking challenges.
Parking Garages and Lots
Reserve parking ahead of time at downtown garages like Millennium Park Garage, Grant Park North Garage, Ogilvie Transportation Center, or Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Several parking apps also help you find and pay for parade parking.
You can dock boats at DuSable Harbor and Ogden Slip to enjoy the parade from the Chicago River. Marina permits and fees may apply.
Travel early, reserve parking ahead of time, and plot transportation to and from the parade to make getting there smooth and stress-free.
Who is in the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade?
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade brings together a vibrant mix of participants ranging from Chicago icons to nationally-known stars. Here are some of the key groups and entries that make up this magical parade:
- Santa Claus: The grand finale of the parade featuring Santa’s highly-anticipated arrival to officially launch the Christmas season. Kids go wild for the big man in red as he waves from his elaborate float at the end of the parade.
- Broadway in Chicago Musicals: Elaborate floats and spirited song and dance numbers are performed by casts of popular touring Broadway musicals.
- Radio Stations: Local radio stations like B96 bring music and lively energy with floats and on-air personalities.
- Mickey and Minnie Mouse: Disney icons Mickey and Minnie Mouse make the trip from Walt Disney World to delight kids.
- Giant Character Balloons: Huge inflated balloons of beloved characters like Elmo soar over the crowds.
- Bands and Dance Groups: Local high school marching bands and lively dance troupes march down the avenue with pep and beat.
- Chicago Sports Mascots: Reps from the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, and more showcase Chicago team pride.
- Chicago Icons: Look for nods to Chicago with appearances by the Cubs Billy Goat, Chicago Children’s Choir, the Jesse White Tumblers, and more.
- Holiday Decor: Festive floats designed around Christmas trees, snowmen, presents, nutcrackers, and other holiday décor motifs.
The eclectic mix of balloons, floats, music, mascots, dances, and more make the Mag Mile parade an inclusive, lively holiday event for all.
Parade Safety and Security
Safety is a top priority for this family-focused event. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications works closely with Chicago police and city agencies to provide a secure parade environment.
Safety enhancements include blockades, bag checks, camera surveillance, undercover personnel mingling in crowds, limited points of entry, and coordinated emergency response protocols.
Tips for a safe, smooth parade experience:
- Arrive early to avoid bottleneck crowds at parade entry points
- Carry minimal items and be prepared for bag checks
- Keep your group together, arrange a meetup spot if separated
- Report any suspicious activity immediately to security personnel
- Follow all safety directions from city staff and personnel
- Keep cell phones charged in case of emergency communications
- Consider leaving strollers and lawn chairs at home to reduce clutter
The Magnificent Mile Lights Parade makes safety a priority so spectators of all ages can relax and enjoy this special Windy City tradition.
How to Enjoy the Mag Mile Lights Festival besides the Parade?
While the illuminated parade is the centerpiece event, the Mag Mile Lights Festival offers a full day of holiday happenings beyond the parade itself:
- Mickey and Minnie’s Magical Tree Lighting Ceremony: Before the parade, gather to watch Mickey and Minnie illuminate the Magnificent Mile tree at 401 N. Michigan Avenue at 4:30 PM.
- Magnificent Mile Shopping: Stores stay open late with holiday attractions. Snap selfies at festive window displays along the avenue.
- Holiday Concerts: Enjoy free concerts at venues like Wrigley Building and Pioneer Court before and after the parade.
- Fireworks Show: Marvel at a dazzling pyrotechnics display over the Chicago River after the parade wraps up.
- Holiday Food and Beverages: Indulge in hot cocoa, Christmas cookies, roasted chestnuts and other seasonal treats.
- Family Activities: Make holiday crafts, ice skate at Ribbon Plaza or hit kid-friendly shops like American Girl Place.
Come early and stay late to experience all the holiday magic beyond the brilliant parade itself at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival!
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade 2023 FAQs
If you’re planning to attend the 2023 Mag Mile Lights Festival Parade in Chicago, you may still have some key questions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this famous Windy City holiday parade:
Is there an admission fee for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival or parade?
No. This beloved Chicago holiday event is completely free and open to the public. All the spectacular parades, lights, and activities can be enjoyed free of charge.
What is the parade order? Who marches in the parade first?
The parade kicks off with police cars and city officials, followed by bands, dance teams and Chicago mascots. Broadway shows, holiday floats, balloons, and music groups follow, all building up to Santa’s big finale float.
Where is the best place to view the parade for kids?
Any curbside spot from Oak Street to Michigan and Wacker offers great views for kids. The Santa float stops at Michigan and Wacker, so kids can see Santa up close there! Arrive early for front row access.
Is the parade cancelled for bad weather?
The parade proceeds rain or shine, unless dangerous conditions arise. Some balloon floats may be grounded in very windy conditions. Check the festival’s social media for any cancellation updates.
How long does the parade last?
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade runs approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour from official start to finish. Plan to arrive early and depart late to enjoy the full spectacle!
Can I march in the Magnificent Mile Parade?
Unfortunately, parade marchers are by invitation only. Most are specially trained dancers, musicians, performers, and contractors affiliated with parade entries. But spectators are the heart and spirit of this incredible Chicago tradition!
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade kicks off the holidays in brilliant style. I hope this guide gets you primed and ready to enjoy this premier Chicago holiday event in 2023 with fewer crowds and more cheer than ever! Let the spectacular sights, sounds, and joy of the season come to life as you revel in the magic of the Mag Mile parade.