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    Millennium Park: Guide to Chicago's most loved park

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    Joel Fulleda

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    Although it was recently inaugurated, only in 2004, the Millennium Park it quickly earned a place among the main ones things to see in Chicago, in addition to the title of park most loved by its citizens.

    This is because it is not only a pleasant green area where you can find refuge from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, but also an open-air museum, full of works of art and structures designed by great architects. And the great thing is that all of this is available for free, thanks to the monumental project set up by former mayor Dealey, and the numerous private funds.

    So let's go and discover all the attractions of Millennium Park, where you can spend a few relaxing hours, and take splendid shots photo of the Chicago skyline!


    • Where is it and how to get there
    • Practical information
    • Millennium Park history
    • Millennium Park in Chicago, what to see
      • McCormick Tribune Plaza
      • Cloud Gate
      • Chase Promenade
      • Millennium Monument
      • Crown Fountain
      • Jay pritzker pavilion
      • Lurie Garden
    • Other attractions in and around Grant Park
      • Maggie Daley Park
      • The Art Institute of Chicago
      • Buckingham Fountain
      • Chicago Cultural Center
      • Historic Route 66 Begin start and end signs
    • Where to sleep and eat

    Where is it and how to get there

    Millennium Park is a portion of the largest Grant park, the "garden of Chicago", overlooking Lake Michigan.

    It is located east of downtown Chicago, the area called the Loop. Its official address is 201 E. Randolph St., but you can also access it from the many entrances on Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street. There are, however, no pedestrian accesses from S. Columbus Drive.

    The best way to reach it, as well as on foot, is with the convenient public transport network:

    • in subway, at the Washington / Wabash stop, served by the brown, green, orange, pink and purple lines. Once you get off, walk down a small section of E Madison Street, and cross Michigan Avenue to enter the park.
    • in bus there are several lines that cover the perimeter of the park. The most convenient stop is Michigan / Mason, which will drop you off right in front of McCormick Tribune Plaza, on lines 3, 4, and express 6, 26 and 143.
    • in train, if you found yourself in the suburbs or in the neighboring cities. Millennium Station is located at the intersection of E Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, very close to the park.

    Finally, even if I don't recommend it because Chicago gets around very well by public transport, you can also reach Millennium Park by car. There's a underground parking which can be accessed from S. Columbus Drive, with variable rates depending on the day of the week, about $ 12-15 for 2-3 hour stops and $ 21-23 for 24 hours.

    For more tips on how to use public transport in the city, I recommend reading the guide on how to get around Chicago.

    Practical information

    Millennium Park is open every day, from 8.00 to 21.00.

    Entrance is free, as well as guided tours organized by the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Lurie Garden tour.

    Pets are not allowed, except for service animals.

    Smoking is prohibited, except in designated areas, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages is only permitted in restaurants and during musical events.

    Millennium Park history

    The area on which Grant Park stands today was designated as a public park as early as 1844. Nevertheless, a few years later, the municipality ceded a large portion of green to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, which built an impressive railway network, then converted into a parking lot.

    Throughout the 900s, Grant Park expanded to become an important cultural hub for the city, while the northern area remained occupied by ugly parking lots and disused tracks, a real eyesore for both citizens and residents. tourists.

    In the 90s, the mayor Richard M Daley he set himself the goal of recovering this area. Taking advantage of a legal quibble (the 1852 concession provided that the land was used solely as a railway, a function that it no longer held), Daley reacquired the land and gave life to the Millennium Park project.

    Built between 1998 and 2004, the park was built on top of the old rail network, and cost $ 475 million. A good investment, however, given that since its inception the entire district has seen its prestige increase exponentially.

    Millennium Park in Chicago, what to see

    Here are the main attractions that can be visited inside the park.

    McCormick Tribune Plaza

    A natural gateway to Millennium Park, McMormick Plaza was also the first attraction to be opened to the public on December 20, 2001.

    It is a multifunctional area, famous mainly for the skating ring, generally set up between mid-November and mid-March, depending on the temperatures. Its dimensions are considerable, as much as 60 × 25 meters, therefore much larger than that of the Rockefeller Center in New York. Access is free, you only pay for the rental of the skates.

    During the rest of the year, the space is occupied by the outdoor tables of the Park Grill, the only restaurant inside the park.

    Cloud Gate

    The most famous attraction in Millennium Park, and arguably all of Chicago, is this large steel bean, located just behind McCormic Tribune Plaza.

    The work, whose real name is Cloud Gate was created in 2004 by the British sculptor Anish Kappoor, who was inspired by the properties of liquid mercury. It weighs 110 tons, is 10 meters high, 13 meters wide and over 20 long. It is made up of 168 steel plates, cast and polished until all the joints disappear, to obtain a perfect mirror effect.

    The sculpture reflects and distorts everything around it, from the crowds of tourists to the Chicago skyline, and makes for a great photo opportunity. Have fun playing with your reflection and finding all the most creative shots!

    Chase Promenade

    Entering the park beyond the "bean" you will arrive on Chase Promenade, a paved driveway and tree-lined that runs through Millennium Park from north to south.

    The Boeing Galleries North e South, two public art exhibition spaces sponsored by the famous aeronautical company.

    Here you will see interesting public art installations and temporary exhibitions. One of the most famous dates was Revealing Chicago: An Aerial Portrait, a 2005 project by photographer Terry Evans. 120 photos taken from a helicopter over the course of an entire year, to show the city in all its facets.

    Millennium Monument

    The northwest corner of the park is occupied by the Millennium Monument, a Greek-style colonnade in a semicircle with a small fountain in the center. The monument wants to commemorate the founders and financiers of the park, thanks to which today we can access all these magnificent works of art for free.

    Crown Fountain

    In the south-western corner we find the second best known and most visited work of Millennium Park, namely Crown Fountain.

    This very special work of the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa was inaugurated in 2004, and is truly unique in the world. These are two huge ones tower-shaped fountains 15 meters high, whose surface is entirely covered with LED displays. On the towers they are projected the faces of some Chicagoans while they make faces and faces. When they open their mouths, the water gushes from the fountains, feeding the huge black granite basin in the center.

    The installation is very popular with children, who enjoy playing with water splashes in the warm season.

    Beware, however, the water features are only in operation from May to October. When the faces disappear, the towers are transformed into shiny glass walls, from the top of which a thunderous waterfall descends, while in the evening they become gigantic colored blocks.

    Jay pritzker pavilion

    Designed by Frank Gehry, the Jay Pritzker Pavillon is Chicago's premier musical auditorium. Between seating and standing room in the Great Lawn, it has a seating capacity of ben 11.000 people, and thanks to its particular structure it guarantees perfect acoustics.

    The stage is surmounted by a intertwining of steel sails, which resemble a funny feathered headdress. Does it remind you of another famous concert hall? Very likely, since Frank Gehry also designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and his style is unmistakable.

    In addition to being the home of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and the Chorus and Grant Park Music Festival, the auditorium hosts world-class events, such as the Summer Film Series, Summer Music Series, Chicago Blues Festival, and the Chicago Jazz Festival . Consult the list of events if you are interested in anything, so that you can plan your trip accordingly.

    Lurie Garden

    Lurie Garden is a park within the park, a flowered garden in the southeastern area of ​​Millennium Park. It is home to perennials, bulbous plants, and other native Illinois species, left to grow without any treatment, in the most natural way possible.

    The garden consists of two distinct areas, divided by a pedestrian walkway and protected on the sides by hedges over 4 meters high. The “dark” section represents Chicago history, and is populated with shade-loving trees and plants. The "clear" section refers to the future of the city. There are no trees here, but perennials that love sun and heat. Hedges also have a specific meaning. They are in fact the physical representation of the "broad-shouldered city", as the poet Carl Sandburg defined Chicago in his famous 1914 work.

    From May to September, Lurie Garden volunteers hold gods free guided tours, many times a day. Tours depart from the Monroe Street entrance, and last approximately 20 minutes. Surely you will find someone on site willing to help you, but, if you want to take the guided tour, I suggest you write a few days in advance to the email you can find on the official website.

    Other attractions in and around Grant Park

    The interesting things to see don't just stop inside Millennium Park, so let's find out what the surrounding area has to offer too.

    Maggie Daley Park

    From Millennium Park, cross the long BP Bridge (also designed by Frank Gehry) to arrive at Maggie Dealey Park.

    Overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, the park is named after Mayor Dealey's wife, who passed away in 2011, and is also part of Grant Park. This area has also undergone a significant transformation, thanks to the landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, who completely reinvented it to make it more accessible to families. The park was inaugurated on 13 December 2014.

    It's a huge playground for young and old, which includes tennis courts, picnic areas, mini golf, and event spaces. Its main attractions are the 400-meter-long ice rink and ice skating rink, and the climbing wall.

    The park is open from 6.00 to 21 from Monday to Thursday, and from 6.00 to 22.00 from Friday to Sunday. Admission is free.

    The Art Institute of Chicago

    The Art Institute is Chicago's premier museum, and one of the leading in the United States. Founded in 1879, it is housed in a historic building in the beaux-arts style. However, a modern wing has recently been added, with a glass, stone and steel structure designed by Renzo Piano.

    It contains an impressive amount of works and artifacts from every era, from ancient Greece to Asia, with jade figurines, pottery, Persian miniatures and much more.

    However, the most modern works do the lion's share. In particular, the museum has a collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings second only to the Louvre, with works by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Degas, to name but a few. Also noteworthy is the XNUMXth-XNUMXst century section, which includes pieces by Matisse, Kandinsky, Magritte, Pollock and Warhol.

    The museum is open at varying times depending on the season and the day of the week, so it is better to consult the official website. Admission costs $ 25 for adults, $ 19 for over 65s and teenagers, and is free for under 13s.

    Buckingham Fountain

    The centerpiece of Grant Park is undoubtedly the Buckingham Fountain, from 1927. Among the largest in the world, it is built in the Rococo style, and resembles a gigantic wedding cake. It allegorically represents Lake Michigan, while the four groups of sea horses symbolize the four states that surround it (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana).

    The fountain is a fantastic photo spot, with the skyline standing out in the background behind the majestic jet of water. Come in the evening when it is lit by suggestive plays of light. Like Crown Fountain, however, Buckingham Fountain is only in operation between May and October.

    Chicago Cultural Center

    The Chicago Cultural Center is located near Millennium Park, in one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

    Opened in 1897 as a public library, it boasts the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world, a lobby in Carrara marble, and ceilings decorated with mother-of-pearl mosaics. Visiting it is practically a must, and I also suggest you take the guided tour, which is held from Wednesday to Saturday at 13.15pm, departing from the Randolph Street entrance.

    In addition to the intrinsic beauty of the structure, the Cultural Center offers a busy calendar of events including contemporary art exhibitions, readings, short and feature film screenings. There are an estimated 700 programs a year, many of which are free.

    Historic Route 66 Begin start and end signs

    The mythical Route 66, the "Mother Road" that connected Chicago and Santa Monica, crossing 8 states of the Midwest and the American West, began right here, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and E Adams Street. Whether your trip includes the Mother Road or not, you can't miss the usual photo with the starting sign.

    Officially, Route 66 ends at the Santa Monica Pier. However, if you go the other way around, its end is in Chicago. Nobody ever thinks about it, but in fact, here you can also see the end sign, although it is much less famous than the other. To find it, go to the intersection of Michigan Avenue and E Jackson Boulevard, opposite CVS Farmacy.

    Where to sleep and eat

    Millennium Park is located downtown, in the area known as loop. Despite being quite expensive, this is the most comfortable area to sleep in, especially if you have limited time. For alternative solutions, but also advice on the best accommodations, read our guide on where to sleep in Chicago.

    When it comes to food, Chicago is a multifaceted and multi-ethnic metropolis, so you will find any cuisine and food to suit all budgets. But you shouldn't miss the official Chicago dish, la deep dish pizza, a kind of salty pie with a high edge stuffed with mozzarella, tomato and other toppings of your choice. To discover the best deep dish pizza, but also local and typical dishes, read our guide on where to eat in Chicago.

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