Where is the best place to while away a leisurely day? Look no further than Millennium Park, which has everything—fountains, sculptures, and 24.5 acres of grass and trees surrounded by the soaring buildings of the Loop.
I myself spent an entire day wandering around the park taking pictures and enjoying the sights. It’s OK to look like a tourist at Millennium Park because everyone else around you will, too. Of all the attractions to see, I have three typical favorites: the bean, the face fountain, and the ice rink, which every Chicagoan should know about.
Perhaps the most recognizable sight at the park, the Cloud Gate sculpture—locally referred to as “the bean”—is 110 tons of highly polished steel in the shape of, well, a bean. This is where most people flock to take pictures. The skyline and fellow onlookers are reflected in the silvery metal, and if you stand just right you can catch yourself in the picture as well. Where’s Waldo: can you spot me in the picture above? Probably not, but I’m wearing a green shirt in the reflection. Roughly as high as a three-story building, “the bean” actually curves to allow visitors a chance to walk underneath the sculpture.
Before Millennium Park opened in 2004 (built on the previous site of a railroad yard) students from the School of the Art Institute took photos of 1,000 anonymous Chicagoans. These images are projected onto LED screens on two 50-foot glass towers to create the Crown Fountain. During warmer months the photographs occasionally purse their lips and water spouts from an outlet in the screen. Yes, honestly, the photos look as if they are spitting water at onlookers below. I’m gonna bet you’ve probably never seen this kind of sculpture before.
Don’t assume the park is only fun during summer months, though. When the temperature drops the skating begins. The McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink, located at the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Washington St., gives skaters perfect views of Michigan Ave. The rink sees over 100,000 skaters each winter and is actually free to the public. There is not a lot along Michigan Ave. that is complimentary, so take advantage of this is a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the city! Skate rentals are available for just $10 if you need a pair.
But these are just a few examples of all the interesting attractions at Millennium Park. The gardens and other sculptures are worth checking out and offer the perfect location for an afternoon stroll or place to lounge and read a book. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by famed artist Frank Gehry, hosts the Grant Park Music Festival, and various other free concerts and events. Located in the heart of the Loop, Millennium Park offers Chicagoans a place to relax in every season.