The highlight of Chicago’s Loop community area, Millennium Park is arguably the city’s most famous tourist attraction. Situated within the larger Grant Park, Millennium Park is home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, “Cloud Gate,” Crown Fountain and Lurie Garden, among other highlights. Previously home to rail yards and parkland, plans for Millennium Park began in 1998, and donations by the Pritzker family in 1999 launched designs for the famous bandshell. Since the park is technically a landscape-covered bridge, it is considered the world’s largest rooftop garden. Metra Rail Millennium Station and a bustling parking garage lie beneath. Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill created the original designs, but other architects including Frank Gehry (who designed the pavilion) and Thomas Beeby incorporated plans of their own over time. Today, the park is both a display of postmodern architecture and host to some of the city’s most attended events.
Millennium Park Features
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is considered the park’s centerpiece. The Frank Gehry–designed bandshell features 4,000 fixed seats and an additional lawn capacity of 7,000 and hosts many of the city’s major events and concerts in warmer months. On the northern end of the park, Harris Theater is a 1,525-seat venue for the performing arts.
Gehry also designed the BP Pedestrian Bridge, which connects Millennium Park with Maggie Daley Park. The snakelike design is a sculpture in itself, crafted from stainless steel plates in abstract forms. The bridge is free of barriers and wheelchair accessible. Take in the stunning views of the park from the 935-foot bridge.
The park’s AT&T Plaza is home to the famous Chicago Bean: the “Cloud Gate” sculpture. AT&T Plaza is situated at the top of Park Grill, between the ice rink and Chase Promenade. The Bean, as it has been named by Chicago residents, is a three-story reflective steel structure created by artist Anish Kapoor. Visitors can walk under and around the sculpture and take photos in an array of striking reflections.
Another piece of public artwork in the park is Crown Fountain, a video sculpture which is created from a black granite reflecting pool situated between two glass brick towers. Light-emitting diodes display digital videos so that it seems water is flowing from the faces’ mouths. Nearly 1,000 Chicagoans appear on the screens at random.
The McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink is sited on the western edge of the park next to the Historic Michigan Boulevard District. From mid-November through mid-March, the plaza serves as a free public ice rink. In warmer months, it is an expansive outdoor dining facility, Park Grill, which hosts culinary events and concerts each summer. Visitors here can dine al fresco and look out to panoramic park views.
Tip: Bathrooms, concessions and a gift shop can also be found at the McCormick Tribune Plaza
At the southern tip of the park, Laurie Garden spans 2.5 acres of perennials, bulbes, shrubs and trees. Designed by landscape architecture firm GGN along with Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel, the park represents the dichotomy of Chicago: A “dark plate” features shaded trees, while the “light plate” is home to sun-soaking perennials.
Want to take a bike ride through the park? McDonald’s Cycle Center is home to bike rentals, repairs, lockers and showers at the northeast corner of the park. Memberships and day passes are available, so the Center is ideal for commuters and tourists alike.
Millennium Park Events
Millennium Park is home to the city’s yearly Christmas tree lighting. The Pritzker Pavilion hosts many of the city’s major events, including the Grant Park Music Festival—a free outdoor classical music series. The bandshell ais also home to the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The Chicago Opera Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Joffrey Ballet are among the regular performers at the park’s Harris Theater.
The Chicago Blues Festival, Summer Music Series, Jazz Festival, Gospel Fest and World Music Festival are other annual events held in the park. At the north and south edges of the park, the Boeing Galleries display changing art and sculpture exhibits.
Tip: In the summer, there is a Family Fun Tent situated in the park’s northwest corner. Here, families can take advantage of free arts and crafts and games for children each summer from 10am to 2pm daily.
Closest hotels to Millennium Park
- Fairmont Hotel Chicago
- Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago
- St. Jane Hotel Downtown Chicago
- Hyatt Regency Hotel Chicago
- Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
- Virgin Hotels Chicago
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago
- Comfort Suites Chicago