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A Guide to Visiting Chicago’s Millennium Park

This blog post was updated on September 4, 2018.

What was for over 150 years an industrial wasteland occupied by the Illinois Central Railroad is now one of Chicago’s most famous attractions for both travelers and locals. A stroll through Millennium Park spans 24.5 acres of Chicago real estate, flirting with the water’s edge. It is an attraction overflowing with arty sights and sounds, mostly at no charge to enjoy them. Coined Millennium Park for its projected opening in 2000, the park wouldn’t grace Chicago with its presence until 2004. Regardless of the delay, Millennium Park is an unmissable attraction in Chicago. With all of that acreage, you would hate to miss some of the park’s most impressive sights. From facts about Millennium Park’s fixtures to its overall composition, visitors can follow this simple guide to visiting a few of the park’s free highlights.

Visit “The Bean”: While most people refer to the giant bean piece of art in Millennium Park as “The Bean”, its real name is Cloud Gate. The work of British artist Anish Kapoor, Could Gate is easily the biggest draw to Millennium Park. The 110-ton silver drop sculpture mirrors the Chicago skyline, the clouds above and the crowds standing in its presence. Measuring 66 feet long by 33 feet high, visitors shouldn’t miss the chance to walk beneath the sculpture’s 12-foot high arch. It is a “touching” sculpture in Chicago’s portfolio.

Splash around at Crown Fountain: Just down from Could Gate is Crown Fountain. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the fountain is comprised of two 50-foot glass black towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images of Chicago residents. The collection of faces includes 1,000 residents in total. This art piece in Millennium Park also features another element, water. Water spouts from the mouths of the residents, creating the effect of modern gargoyles. With the water operating from mid-spring through mid fall, it makes for a nice place to cool off from the Chicago sun. Most children come prepared in their swimsuits to splish-splash in a concrete jungle as though it’s a backyard plastic pool.

Pause from the chaos at Lurie Garden: After my visit to Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain, I was in need a respite from the chaos of the crowds. Luckily a peaceful feature was built into Millennium Park, the Lurie Garden. The five-acre garden is positioned diagonally from Cloud Gate. With a 15-foot high shoulder hedge, the commotion of the city seems like miles away. The perennial garden also features a shallow water feature where you can dip your feet to cool off amongst the pennies.

Bask in the sounds or quiet of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion:
Another unforgettable symbol of Millennium Park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Clearly designed by Frank Gehry with his signature style, the pavilion features 120-foot high waves of stainless steel ribbons. It boasts 4,000 fixed seats and a lawn that can accommodate 7,000. Often home to concerts and events, you can merely just sit in front of the pavilion and take in the quiet when sounds don’t fill the outdoor amphitheater.


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