Each year, on Friday and Saturday preceding Thanksgiving, Chicago celebrates the BMO Harris Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (also known as Chicago Lights Festival)—200 trees along Chicago's North Michigan Avenue (or Magnificent Mile) light up to signal the official start of the holiday season. An event that is considered as one of the largest Christmas holiday celebrations in the country.
The Lights Festival started in 1949 when a 50-foot tall Christmas tree was put up in the Water Tower Park. It was topped by a six-foot high star and adorned with 1,500 lights. Ten years later, the Saks Fifth Avenue decided to install Italian white lights on the elm trees in front of the shop in place of their traditional holiday decorations. The effect was amazing, so nearby shops such as Gucci, Tiffany, Armani, and Burberry blankly joined the festivities.
Numerous lights and decorations are not the only ones that lit up the Magnificent Mile. Colorful parade en route to the city’s Christmas tree lighting marches through the street on Sunday. As the lights on Michigan Avenue are turned on block-by-block, the procession follows the lights. It presents around 40 floats with huge balloons led by Walt Disney's Christmas characters. Live music of the marching bands from the Crystal Lake Strikers Drum-Line or the Proviso East High School Band cheer the crowds. More than 1 million people line the parade route each year to welcome Christmas and see the lighted floats.
A fireworks display culminates the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and signals the beginning of the holiday shopping season on Michigan Avenue. Live concerts take place on the Harris Stage in Pioneer Court at 401 North Michigan Avenue. The event is free for the whole public.
For the detailed program and event updates, please visit the official BMO Harris Magnificent Mile Lights Festival website.