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6 tips for Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Last November we packed up two vans, 14 family members and some extra sweatshirts to head downtown for the BMO Harris Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. We’d been down there before, and as native Chicagoans, we should have realized some of the headaches we’d run into, but unfortunately this day we decided to wing it.

If you go

  • 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Lights Festival Lane, Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave. Includes music, activities, Santa and treats.
  • 5:30-7 p.m. Tree-lighting parade on North Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to Wacker Drive.
  • 6:55 p.m. Fireworks at North Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River.
  • themagnificentmile.com

If you’re planning to head to the festival on Nov. 21, here are a few tips we should have remembered.

1. Dress for very cold weather-even if it’s not cold when you start out from home.

2. If you want a front row seat, get there early. The people in the front rows with the best views were there four or more hours ahead of time.

3. Try to get a location near an open store or something like Starbucks to warm up, use the bathroom and get hot cocoa.

4. Stay for the fireworks! Hearing the percussive sounds echoing off buildings and the brilliant lights reflecting throughout downtown was the best part of the day.

5. Park far away, if possible. It was worth the walk to get on the road home quickly.

6. Have fun! Chicago’s holiday season has officially begun.

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