Chicago, I have to give it to you. You know how to do a park.
Millennium Park is located in the Loop, right along Michigan Avenue. Open 365 days a year from 6am to 11pm, and the best part? It’s free.
You can’t beat free.
If you walk south down Michigan Avenue and enter at the north end of the park, the first thing that will greet you is Wrigley Square. Wrigley Square is a large grassy area, lined with trees and with free wifi. Again, you can’t beat free. It’s the perfect place to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic or just sit back and people watch. God, how old does that make me sound?
Millennium Monument in Wrigley Square.
So you’re bored with people watching or picnicking at Wrigley Square and decide to further explore the park (how could you NOT?), you’ll walk a few steps and immediately run into a group of people with very expensive cameras. What exactly are they taking pictures of?
It’s a big silver bean, as my Baby Brother calls it. Or the Cloud Gate, as designer Anish Kapoor named it. It’s a three story high 110 ton sculpture that was designed to resemble a drop of mercury “hovering at the point of landing” (thank you, wikipedia!). The Bean, or the Cloud Gate, is a photographer’s dream come true. People are mesmerized by it. I know I was. It almost blends in seamlessly…
Folks are amazed by this sculpture…
This one is for the girls.
This guy has been working on this painting for a few years… There was a constant crowd forming around him. Folks would stand and watch for a few minutes, then move on — just to be replaced by more gawkers.
From under the bean…
Yours truly. Apparently I’m the only one holding myself back! Took a reflective bean to teach me that :)
Clearly, I’m obsessed with “The Bean”. Moving on… Once you can manage to tear yourself away from the Cloud Gate you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the centerpiece of Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion – As seen from the BP Pedestrian Bridge
If the design of the band shell looks familiar, it’s because it was done by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Gehry designed such landmarks as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Der Neue Zollhof in Düsseldorf and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Characteristic of Gehry, the Pritzker Pavilion consists of curving planes of stainless steel resembling the graceful blooming of a flower or the unfurling sails of a massive ship. (Again, thank you, Wikipedia!)
With 4,000 fixed seats plus additional lawn seating for 7,000, the Pavilion is home to the Grant Park Music Festival. Which means absolutely nothing to me, as I’ve never been to it, but apparently “it’s the nation’s only remaining free, municipally-supported, outdoor, classical music series” (Wiki).
Not much to say about the Pavilion other than the fact that it’s impressive.
After sneaking around the empty concert venue for a bit we stumbled upon the BP Pedestrian Bridge.
Yes, yes, I’m going to quote wiki. Again… and again. and again:
BP Pedestrian Bridge is a pedestrian bridge crossing Columbus Drive that connects Millennium Park to Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park. The girder bridge is the first bridge designed by Pritzker Prize-winner, Frank Gehry, and was named for British Petroleum who donated $5 million to the construction of the Park. The bridge is referred to as snakelike or serpentine in character due to its curving form. The bridge’s design enables it to bear a heavy load and is known for its aesthetics. Additionally, it serves acoustic needs as a sound barrier and functional needs as a connecting link between Millennium Park and points east.
Just about halfway across the thousand foot long bridge, it started to rain. Just a sprinkle, but considering the condition of our feet after walking through downtown Chicago for eight hours, we figured it was time to head towards the train station. Back across the bridge, past the Pavillion and the Bean, and south on Michigan Avenue. That was the plan. Until I gazed upon the fountains.
“Oh, that is SO cool!!!”
The Crown Fountain
The Crown Fountain consists of two fifty foot tall towers made up of glass brick with LCD projectors inside. They stand at either end of a large black granite plaza submerged under an eighth of an inch of water. Continuous streams of water cascade down the sides and back of the towers, and every five minutes or so the face on the screen will appear to be spitting the water out. If it hadn’t been a little chilly (and raining), I probably would have taken my shoes off and joined in the fun.
God I really am getting old. I should have just jumped in!
Alas, my train was leaving soon, so my time at Millennium Park had to end without a romp through the water. It also meant that I wouldn’t get to see the Cycling Center, the Lurie Garden, The theatres, the Promenade’s… I would have loved to spend the entire day there. Maybe next time, and definitely with the kiddos. They would have loved it.
Millennium Park gets a very strong thumbs up from me!