Less than 10 years ago right in Downtown Chicago was the remnants of the railroad lines that helped make Chicago the great city that it is. It was an eyesore, dirty, polluted and downright ugly. Luckily Mayor Daley and other city leaders had the vision to turn this space into one of the city’s top tourist attractions, Millennium Park. I doubt even the most optimist of them believed that it would in less than 10 year become Chicago’s second most popular tourist attraction.
So what is it that makes Millennium Park one of the best tourist attractions:
At the top of the list has to be the public art. Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” commonly known as the bean is hugely popular and has quickly become a symbol of the city. It is not only the scale and beauty of it that has made it so beloved. Its highly reflective stainless steel skin not only gives visitors a chance to see themselves reflected in a piece of sculpture it gives amazing reflections of the skyline. It is a great photo op at any time of day. Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain is another spectacular piece of public art. It consists of two, 50 foot, glass towers with a reflecting pool in between. The glass towers have large faces projected on them, which change regularly. The favorite thing for the children is that periodically water cascades off of the top and gets shot out of the person’s mouth, filling the reflecting pool.
The spectacular views of the city’s skyline. Millennium Park is set with much of Chicago’s best architecture on full display. You have the turn of the last century high-rises sprinkled in with 1000 foot high modern glass and steel skyscrapers.
The Lurie Gardens. They are a beautifully maintained and well-designed prairie set in the middle of a bustling city. They make for a great place to go for a peaceful retreat. There are free guided informative tours through the garden which have many helpful signs if you want to learn about the plants on your own.
Millennium Park is a good place to relax and have a drink or even a gourmet meal. In the warm weather the skating rink is turned into a patio which along with a great setting offers good drinks and decent noshes. Those who would like a more upscale experience can eat at the well regarded Park Grill.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Designed by the world famous architect Frank Gehry this outdoor theater with both permanent seats and lawn seating has free concert all summer. They include music such as: jazz, symphonies and more experimental modern music. The music is almost always top notch, but it is the pleasant surroundings that make it a real treat. One of Chicago's best free things to do.
While Millennium Park is rightly a top Chicago tourist attraction it is more of a place to go and spend an hour or two then somewhere to spend a whole afternoon. It is convenient to some of Chicago’s other top sights and attractions like The Art Institute and Buckingham Fountain and visitors can easily combine a trip to Millennium Park with a visit to other attractions.