A Comprehensive Guide To Chicago's Millennium Park

Millennium Park in Chicago,Illinois
••• Izzet Keribar / Getty Images
  • 01 of 07

    Millennium Park Overview

    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 Lincoln Park Zoo. That's mostly due to its popular "The Bean" installation.

    Millennium Park is located 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 #151 or the Red Line subway train, Randolph stop. It is approximately a five-minute walk from the Magnificent Mile.

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

    --edited by Chicago Travel Expert Audarshia Townsend

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  • 02 of 07

    The BP Bridge

    BP Bridge
    ••• On Millennium Park's BP Bridge. Courtesy of City of Chicago

    The BP Bridge connects Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park, and makes for easy access over Columbus Drive. The bridge is located right next to the Monroe Street parking garage, so 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.

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  • 03 of 07

    Jay Pritzker Pavilion

    Jay Pritzker Pavilion
    ••• Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Prescott Carlson

    Just like the BP Bridge, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion was designed by Frank Gehry and is made up 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, and room for 7,000 on the Great Lawn) is covered with criss-crossing 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 very popular Gospel Fest.

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  • 04 of 07

    Lurie Garden

    The Lurie Garden
    ••• Courtesy of The Lurie Garden

    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 very popular in the hot summer with people sitting on the edge and dipping in their toes.

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  • 05 of 07

    Cloud Gate, unofficially dubbed "The Bean"

    Millennium Park in Chicago,Illinois
    ••• Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

    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 over 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 fun house mirror effect that this creates.

    Cloud Gate is one of the more popular photo opportunities in the city. Nearby restaurants like Shake Shack in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Seven Lions and Rural Society in the Loews Chicago Hotel.

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  • 06 of 07

    Crown Fountain

    Crown Fountain
    ••• Millennium Park's Crown Fountain. Prescott Carlson

    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 as 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 mid-spring through mid-fall, weather permitting.

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  • 07 of 07

    Millennium Park - An Oasis in the City

    Elevated view of Millennium Park, Lake Michigan in background
    ••• Nagehan Demirci / EyeEm / Getty Images

    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 to create an island amidst the downtown congestion.

    The development is in walking distance to many hotel properties

    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--gets a $168 million renovation, which includes 2,019 guest rooms, meeting spaces and restaurants.

    Intercontinental Chicago: Serving as a gateway to the Ma...MOREg 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 brand-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.