Millennium Park is known as the "front lawn of Chicago." Since opening in 2004, the park has become the top tourist destination in the city, and one of the top 10 in the country. But while it may be a large tourist draw, Millennium Park offers plenty for locals as well. This is your tour guide to the top 4 features to visit while in the park.
Designed by Catalan sculpture Jaume Plensa, Crown Fountain features two free-standing towers facing each other. These two 50 foot tall monoliths display giant videos of faces of Chicagoans smiling and blinking. It's a little bit like the floating head of the Wizard of Oz. The towers also pour walls of water onto playing kids below. On hot days, the cascading water can be a welcome relief and a great way to spend an afternoon interacting with art.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is considered by many to be the cultural anchor of Millennium Park. This massive bandshell was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the mind behind the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It contains 4,000 seats and a huge lawn area with seating for 7,000 more people. The pavilion hosts concerts and festivals regularly throughout the summer and even offers yoga and pilates on Saturday mornings. There is almost always an event happening at the Jay Pritzker and even when there isn't, the lawn is a prime spot for a Sunday afternoon nap.
The Cloud Gate is better known by its affectionate nickname The Bean. This famous sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor has become a must-visit part of Chicago. Its polished surface displays the Chicago skyline as a warped, stretching dream world. It is imperative if you stop by the Cloud Gate with your friends to get a picture on the underside in the makeshift funhouse mirror.
BP Pedestrian Bridge
A necessary stop for fans of design and architecture, the BP Pedestrian Bridge is another creative product of architect Frank Gehry. The meandering curves of the bridge are covered in Gehry's trademark stainless steel plating to create a beautiful snaking walkway. While it may not seem like a footbridge would be worth a visit, the BP walkway offers stunning views of the park and lakefront and is perfect for a casual stroll.
Spend an afternoon in Millennium Park and you will quickly find out why it is so immensely popular. In a world that seems increasingly spoiled by concrete, it is nice to have a green place to relax without leaving the city.