Festival of Lights, in East Peoria, Illinois

Playing in East Peoria

If you missed the Magnificent Mile’s Lights Festival celebration last weekend, fret not. East Peoria also hosts an annual electric spectacular with a parade of about 30 floats illuminated by two million lights. The November 27th cavalcade of color is just the beginning of East Peoria’s seasonal celebration, the weeklong Festival of Lights. Here, a run-down of events designed to put even the grouchiest of Grinches in a holiday mood.

  1. Stand and gawk
    The 26th Annual Parade of Lights kicks off at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, November 27th. Look for giant, glowing versions of the Batmobile and the Starship Enterprise as well as more traditional displays (Santa, Rudolph, Frosty) cruising the three-mile route. The floats, designed and built by hundreds of volunteers who work year-round, start their voyage on the 2200 block of East Washington Street, continue west through downtown East Peoria, and stop a block and a half west of the police station. For more information, go to peoria.org or call 309-575-0303.
  2. Run around
    The morning of the parade, the 20th Annual FOLEPI (Festival of Lights, East Peoria, Illinois) River Trail Classic takes off with a four-mile competitive run at 9 a.m. on Saturday, November 27th; a two-mile non-competitive walk starts at 8:30 a.m. Both events take place on a paved, downhill course. Awards go to the fastest runner overall and the top three winners in age groupings, including 14-and-under to 70-plus. Entry fee is $12. For more information, go to cityofeastpeoria.com or call Jim McIntyre at 309-253-2420.
  3. Shine on
    Starting December 3rd, drivers can wind their way through the two-mile stretch of East Peoria known as Winter Wonderland (a.k.a. 123 Par 3 Avenue, near the Fon du Lac golf course). The wonder includes parade floats and animated displays, gleaming with roughly three million lights. (Wonderland’s annual electric bill comes to around $50,000.) Admission is $10 per car. For more information, go to peoria.org or call 800-365-3743.

Where to stay: Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites (200 Eastlight Ct.; 309-699-4100, marriott.com) offers a package that includes admission to Winter Wonderland and breakfast; rates start at $79 per night. For old-school glam in the heart of downtown Peoria, try the The Père Marquette (501 Main St., Peoria; 800-447-1676, hotelperemarquette.com) built in 1927; rates are $119 to $550 per night.

Where to eat: For live jazz and blues served with their acclaimed soup (which you can buy by the quart), head for the Rhythm Kitchen Music Café (305 S.W. Water St. at the River Front; 309-676-9668, rhythmkitchenmusiccafe.biz). For fine dining, try June (4450 N. Prospect Rd. #S1, Peoria Heights; 309-682-5863, junerestaurant.com). The chef/owner, Josh Adams, worked at Alinea before moving to Peoria and is an adamant locavore: Much of the produce he uses comes from his family’s farm.

GO The East Peoria Festival of Lights, November 27th and December 3rd through 31st. For more information, go to peoria.org or call 309-676-0303.