The 10 Best Things to Do in Chicago’s Millennium Park

Millenium Park Chicago

 Vito Palmisano / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

The brainchild of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Millennium Park is the largest public space within the 319 acres of downtown Chicago's Grant Park. It was established in 2004 and is now one of the biggest free attractions of the city, rivaling only the Lincoln Park Zoo. That's mostly because of its popular "Bean" installation, Cloud Gate.

Millennium Park is on the east side of downtown, bordered on the west by Michigan Avenue and the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, on the east by Columbus Drive, on the north by Randolph Street, and on the south by Monroe Street. Primary Chicago public transportation to the park is either the Michigan Avenue CTA bus No. 151 or the Red Line subway train, Randolph stop. It is about a five-minute walk from the Magnificent Mile. Ample parking is available in the nearby Millennium Park Garage. 

Admission to Millennium Park is free, and it is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

01 of 10

Snap a Selfie At the BP Bridge

Millennium Park: BP Bridge

chrismetcalfTV / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The BP Bridge connects Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park and makes for easy access to Columbus Drive. The bridge is right next to the Monroe Street parking garage, so it is the logical first stop on a tour of the park.​

Designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry, the BP Bridge is 935 feet long and rises high enough to provide great views of the surrounding area. The outer part of the bridge is brushed stainless steel, which ties the BP Bridge into another Gehry-designed work, the Pritzker Pavilion.

BP Pedestrian Bridge, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-742-1412
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02 of 10

Enjoy Some Music At Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Jay Pritzker Pavillion

 TripSavvy / Anna Haines

Just like the BP Bridge, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion was designed by Frank Gehry and is made of brushed stainless steel. The pavilion was named in memory of Jay Pritzker, a prominent Chicago businessman whose family is well-known around the city for their philanthropy.

The pavilion rises 120 feet into the air and evokes ribbons flowing in the wind, not an easy feat for a metal structure. The 11,000-person seating area (4,000 seats in front of the stage with room for 7,000 on the Great Lawn) is covered with crisscrossing pipes that support the pavilion's high-end sound system. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts a number of free music events from spring through fall, including the Grant Park Music Festival and the popular Gospel Fest.

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601-6530, USA
Phone +1 312-742-1168
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03 of 10

Get Wet at Crown Fountain

Wide shot of people running through the fountains

TripSavvy / Cory Giguere

Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain is a unique tribute to the people of Chicago. The artist was inspired by historic fountains that have gargoyles with water spouting out of their open mouths. Plensa's version is made up of two 50-foot glass block towers that display rotating video images of 1,000 residents.

Kids are big fans of the Crown Fountain, which is less than a block away from the ​Art Institute of Chicago, and parents should plan accordingly because their children will probably wind up soaking wet. While the images on the towers are shown throughout the year, the water portion is only turned on from mid-spring through mid-fall, weather permitting.

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-742-1168
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04 of 10

Appreciate Nature in the Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden with the Chicago skyline in the background

TripSavvy / Cory Giguere

The 2.5-acre Lurie Garden is a surprisingly tranquil spot due in large part to the 15-foot-high hedge enclosing it on two sides. The hedge protects the perennial garden from pedestrians and is meant to symbolize Carl Sandburg's description of Chicago as the "City of Big Shoulders." Along the east side is a hardwood footbridge running over shallow running water, which is popular during Chicago's hot summers, with people sitting on the edge and dipping in their toes.

220 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-228-1004
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05 of 10

See the Iconic Cloud Gate

People taking photos in front of cloud gate

TripSavvy / Anna Haines

Cloud Gate—referred to by locals as "The Bean" for obvious reasons—is a public sculpture by talented British artist Anish Kapoor. Cloud Gate weighs in at more than 110 tons and is 66 feet long and 33 feet high. The Bean was created using a huge number of individual stainless steel plates. Cloud Gate's seamless surface is the result of thousands of hours of polishing.

The sculpture has the appearance of a giant drop of liquid mercury, and the mirrored surface offers an amazing reflection of the city's skyline, even more breathtaking on a bright, clear day. Visitors can walk underneath the Cloud Gate, which is surprisingly concave. Kids especially enjoy the funhouse mirror effect that this creates.

Cloud Gate is one of the more popular photo opportunities in the city. Nearby restaurants are Shake Shack, Cindy's Rooftop in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, and Rural Society in the Loews Chicago Hotel.

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA
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06 of 10

Get Active At Maggie Daley Park

Photo of rock wall in Maggie Daley Park against sky scrapers in Chicago

Courtesy of Maggie Daley Park

The Chicago Park District manages one of the best public parks in the city for kids: Maggie Daley Park. This 20-acre family-friendly paradise, sandwiched between Millennium Park and the lakeshore, features a skating ribbon, a larger-than-life rock climbing wall, a huge playground divided by appropriate age levels, a play ship, a mega slide, a mirror maze, and an "Enchanted Forest." Plus, you can't beat the Chicago skyline views. 

337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-742-3918
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07 of 10

Visit the Millennium Monument

Picture of the Millennium Monument in Chicago

Melinda Limoges / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you're looking for a bit of history in this park, you'll find it at the Millennium Monument. It was designed by Cannon Design in 2002. The monument's base features the names of 122 people—those are the founders of the park who continue to support its growth and change. On top of that are giant, 40-foot columns built from Indiana limestone. Directly in front of the monument sits a fountain, a perfect place to sit down and get away from the more hectic areas of the park.

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-742-1168
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08 of 10

View Art From Local Artists at the Boeing Galleries

Art at Boeing Galleries in Chicago

Taka / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This park has it all, including a spot to appreciate art. The Boeing Galleries hold art from many different artists in the community of all genres, from temporary modern to contemporary. It's directly funded by private donors to the Millennium Park Foundation, and since its creation, the gallery has developed a reputation for the quality of its modern and contemporary art.

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09 of 10

Rent a Bike From McDonald’s Cycle Center

McDonald's Cycle Center in Chicago

brian kusler / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

No, not that McDonald's. (It's okay, we thought it too.)

If biking is something you enjoy, you can stop by McDonald’s Cycle Center and rent a bike to ride around the park. Put together by Muller + Muller, the cycle center was built to promote green travel, and to reduce some of the pollution caused by transportation in the city. Not only does it offer bike rentals, but it also offers storage, repair facilities, and other amenities for bikers all around the city.

239 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-668-0230
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10 of 10

Watch a Performance at the Harris Theater

Exterior shot of the Harris Theater in Chiacgo

Wildcat Dunny / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Harris Theater is a huge theater located (mostly) underground at Millennium Park. The theater was designed by Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge Architects and is the first "multi-use theater" built in the area since 1929. The theater hosts an array of different and diverse performances, and partners with many Chicago art organizations to promote new and upcoming artists. They also host things such as "conference keynotes, corporate meetings, product launches, live tapings, and commercial productions," according to their website. Notable names like Chelsea Handler, Tom Hanks, and Marie Kondo have all graced the Harris stage, among many others.

205 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone +1 312-334-7777

The skyscrapers looming in the background are one of the only reminders that a visitor to Millennium Park is still within city limits. The city of Chicago has done a fabulous job creating an island amid downtown congestion.

Hotels Within Walking Distance

  • Chicago Athletic Association Hotel: The historic building housing what was once a members-only club is now a luxury boutique hotel with 241 guest rooms and six long-awaited dining and drinking establishments.
  • Hilton Chicago: Hotel amenities include Hilton Chicago's Athletic Club, boasting an indoor running track, full-length heated indoor pool, and whirlpool and sauna with seasonal sundeck. There is complimentary WiFi throughout the property and three restaurants.
  • Hyatt Regency Chicago: Chicago’s largest hotel and the world’s largest Hyatt property got a $168 million renovation, which includes 2,019 guest rooms, meeting spaces, and restaurants. 
  • Intercontinental Chicago: Serving as a gateway to the Mag Mile from the south, the Intercontinental Hotel is a sophisticated luxury hotel in a historic building.
  • Loews Chicago Hotel: ​Located in the upscale, well-to-do Streeterville neighborhood, Loews Chicago Hotel is situated on the first 14 floors of a new 52-story tower. It boasts many amenities for the leisure and business traveler
  • Peninsula Hotel Chicago: The Peninsula is located just steps away from hundreds of upscale boutiques and premier shops, including Tiffany & Co., Neiman Marcus, and American Girl. Rooms range from luxurious to even more luxurious, with a $400,000 package that includes a Bentley and his and her diamond rings.
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The 10 Best Things to Do in Chicago’s Millennium Park