While doing research for our trip to Chicago in I knew I wanted to see some of the main attractions, like the Willis (Sears) Tower, the Art Institute, Navy Pier, and a few others. One thing that really wasn’t on my list was Millennium Park. I am so glad I read about it and added it to our to-do list during our trip in June of 2016. It was amazing and we happened to visit on a perfect night. I will share more about that and our visit in a bit, but I wanted to share a little bit about the park first.
For those of you who don’t know Chicago, there is a loop in downtown Chicago and Millennium Park is located in this loop area. It is in the northwestern section of Grant Park and, is was originally intended to celebrate the second millennium. Millennium Park has free admission and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and various other attractions.
The park is connected by the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park. The park sits atop a parking garage and is considered the world’s largest rooftop garden. Some observers consider Millennium Park to be the city’s most important project since the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and it has received awards for its accessibility and green design.
Planning of the park began in October 1997. Construction began in October 1998, and Millennium Park was opened in a ceremony on July 16, 2004. Apparently, this was four years behind schedule. The three-day opening celebrations were attended by some 300,000 people and included an inaugural concert by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. Today the park features a variety of public art, and in 2015, the park became the location of the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting.
The main thing I had wanted to see was the Cloud Gate sculpture. It is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor and nicknamed the Bean because of its shape. Constructed between 2004 and 2006, it’s made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams, measures 33 by 66 by 42 feet, and weighs 110 short tons. It is quite interesting.
Kapoor’s design was inspired by liquid mercury and the sculpture’s surface reflects and distorts the city’s skyline. Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate’s 12-foot high arch. On the underside is the “omphalos” (Greek for “navel”), a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. The sculpture builds upon many of Kapoor’s artistic themes. Today it is popular with tourists as a photo-taking opportunity for its unique reflective properties. Of course, we had to take many crazy pictures which are too crazy to share here, lol. But I will say we had a fun time taking pictures and being silly. Above is one from the “omphalos” of The Bean looking up. Pretty interesting.
As much fun as that was, the best part was the surprise that we received when we walked into Millennium Park. It was a Tuesday and we had no idea that during the summers that have a film series running and they play different movies in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, I was thrilled to recognize they were playing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off before we even got to the pavilion. The place was packed (as it was the first movie of the season). Many people were also sitting outside in the Lurie Garden just eating, drinking, and hanging out while the movie played. It was so cool. I am SO glad that we stumbled upon the film festival. Here is a link to the Millennium Park Summer Film Series with upcoming movies.
If you are in the Chicago area, this is a place that should definitely be on your to-do list. If you are there during the summer, make sure to visit on a Tuesday. We are so glad we accidentally stumbled upon this while we were visiting. Kudos to the city of Chicago for this great summer event.
Millennium Park Visitor Information
The Washington & Wabash ‘L’ stop serves the CTA Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines. Find more information and plan your route.
Millennium Park is located directly above the Millennium Park Station at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, with access to the Metra Electric District and South Shore Line trains and the downtown pedway system. Find schedules, fares, and a map of downtown stations.
Convenient parking is located in the Millennium Park Garage, Grant Park North, Grant Park South, and East Monroe Garages. Find information and pre-purchase parking.
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