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Guide to Chicago’s Millennium Park

In a city full of historical architecture, Millennium Park is a beacon of modernity. The relatively small space is packed with modern design, from small sculpture to full size theatrical pavilions. It’s a must do for any visit to Chicago.

In this post, we provide a complete Guide to Millennium Park. The first half of this post provides background information, including some history, geography, and directions on how to get to Millennium Park.

The second half is our Tour of Millennium Park or Millennium Park Itinerary. This walks you through each section of Millennium Park, explaining what you’ll encounter. We close with a bit of extras–events at Millennium Park and what’s nearby.


About Millennium Park

Millennium Park opened in 2004, having been built on top of the railways that originally occupied the space. The park sits on the eastern side of the Loop neighborhood of Chicago, the heart of “downtown Chicago,” just a few blocks west from Lake Michigan.

Most official sources consider Millennium Park to be a part of the larger Grant Park, which also includes neighboring Maggie Daley Park and the Museum Campus.

Millennium Park is itself not too big for a flagship city park at under 25 acres. A walk around its entire perimeter is only about one mile. However, the entire Grant Park complex is a respectable 313 acres.

Millennium Park (box) in roughly the area of Grant Park (shaded green), including Museum Campus (Map and Imagery Copyright Google | Fair Use Claimed

Millennium Park is densely packed with amazing features. If you’re looking for open green space or baseball fields, that’s what the rest of Grant Park is for.

An important point—Millennium Park is a purely pedestrian space. That means no pets, no bikes, no skateboards, no roller blades, etc.

Millennium Park Hours & When to Visit

Millennium Park is open 6AM to 11PM, every day of the year. The welcome center is open 9AM to 5PM. The park occasionally closes due to overcrowding, scheduled events, or spontaneous events like protests.

Truthfully, there’s no best or worst time to visit Millennium Park. The park has such diverse offerings, that no season has everything and every season has something.

Here’s a breakdown of some notable seasonal impacts on the biggest attractions.

  • Ice Rink — Open mid-November to mid-March
  • BP Pedestrian Bridge — Closed intermittently in winter (safety)
  • Crown Fountain — Water features operate approximately May 1 to October 31
  • Lurie Garden — Most colorful June to October; occasional closures in winter
  • Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) — Snowy beauty in winter, especially shiny beauty in summer
  • Jay Pritzker Pavilion & Great Lawn — Snow beauty in winter, green and shiny beauty in summer

Mid-March to May 1 and November can be a mixed bag. You might have less colorful scenery, no fountains, and no snow if you visit during these times.

Millennium Park Location

Millennium Park occupies the northwest corner of Chicago’s Grant Park, in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago. Its address is 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602. To see Millennium Park in Google Maps, click here.

Original Map Copyright Google | Fair Use Claimed

Millennium Park is bound by Randolph Street (to the north), Michigan Avenue (west), Monroe Street (south), and Columbus Drive (east).

How to Get to Millennium Park

From much of downtown Chicago, the easiest way to get to Millennium Park will be to walk. If you’re a little farther, or if you don’t care for walking, taking the CTA bus system may be a good option. We recommend using Google Maps for directions.

Coming from the north, for more scenic routes than what Google might automatically suggest, consider walking along Michigan Avenue or the Chicago River. From the DuSable Bridge (where Michigan crosses the river), walk 7 minutes south to Millennium Park.

View North Across DuSable Bridge Toward Magnificent Mile

Alternatively, follow the Lakefront Trail (along the Lake) to the Randolph Street crosswalk. You can even detour through Maggie Daley park taking this route.

Map Copyright Google

From the south, your best bet at extra scenery will be along the Lakefront Trail, with highlights being Museum Campus and Buckingham Fountain. You can use the Monroe Street crosswalk (or farther north the Randolph Street crosswalk) and detour through Maggie Daley Park if you’d like.

Parking at Millennium Park

If you’re driving, there are plenty of garages at and near Millennium Park. The garages under the park itself will probably cost between $20 and $40 for your visit.

There’s no one perfect way to drive to Millennium Park, as it is centrally located downtown. Use Google Maps and follow its directions, being careful to keep in mind there are several multi-level streets in the area (if you get lost underground, just follow and signs back to the surface and then reset your GPS).

Taking the L Train System to Millennium Park

Taking the L to Millennium Park is incredibly convenient and easy. From the Red Line, get off at the Lake Street (State and Lake) stop. Via the Yellow Line and Purple Line (non-rush period), transfer to the Red Line at Howard. From the Blue Line, use the Washington stop.

Via the Green, Brown, Purple (rush periods only), Orange, Pink Lines, use the Washington and Wabash stop. Check out our guide to riding Chicago’s L train system.

Taking the Metra to Millennium Park

If the Metra is more convenient, you’ll have a few options. The Metra Electric District Line, which services the southern portion of the city and some south suburbs, has its northernmost stop at the Millennium Station stop, right at Millennium Park.

Other Metra Lines don’t put you as close to Millennium Park. There are three other Metra terminals downtown–Union Station, Ogilvie Station (OTC), and LaSalle Street Station. Each of these is about a 20-minute walk from Millennium Park (use Google Maps). These walks are all simple, scenic (in an urban sense), and safe, and we recommend them for anyone who is new to the Loop.

From OTC and Union Station, you could alternatively follow the river north and east for a longer, more scenic route, you’ll just put yourself about 7 minutes north of Millennium Park when you get to Michigan Avenue.

If you’d prefer to skip the walk from Union Station you can walk across the river to the Quincy L Station and take the Brown or Orange Lines (not Pink or Purple) to Washington and Wabash.

From Ogilvie (OTC), use the nearby Clinton station and take the Green Line or Pink Line (Loop direction) to Washington and Wabash. From LaSalle Street, use the connected LaSalle Street Blue Line Station to take the Blue Line (O’Hare Direction) to Washington.

Taking the South Shore Line to Millennium Park

Finally, the South Shore Line–a train line that operates from South Bend Indiana along the lake and into Chicago, also has an endpoint at Millennium Station.

Millennium Park Geography and Map

In this section we just provide an outline of Millennium Park. If you’re looking for descriptions of the highlights or an itinerary for visiting the park, jump down to “A Tour of Millennium Park.”

Millennium Park is bound by Randolph Street (North), Michigan Avenue (West), Monroe Street (South), and Columbus Drive (East). It makes sense to divide the park into two halves, west and east.

Map Copyright Google Maps | Fair Use Claimed

The west side of the park sits along Michigan Avenue and contains its most popular sculpture features. At the northwest corner is Wrigley Square and the Millennium Monument. In the center west are Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) and the McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. At the southwest corner is the “spitting” Crown Fountain.

Just behind (to the east of) these features, running north/south is the Boeing Gallery (which is interrupted in the middle by Cloud Gate), represented by the red line segments above. Further to the east, essentially dividing the east and west halves of the park, is the Chase Promenade (the solid black line down the middle).

The east side of the park is highlighted by the Jay Prtizker Pavilion and the Great Lawn, which are centrally located. To the north is the indoor Harris Theater, and to the south is the Lurie Garden.

A Tour of Millennium Park (Millennium Park Itinerary)

This tour starts at the northwest corner of the park (Randolph and Michigan) and ends at the BP Pedestrian Bridge to Maggie Daley Park. If you’re coming from Maggie Daley Park, you’ll probably want to visit the items in reverse order.

Getting Your Bearings

Real quick, whether you’re using our map, Google Maps, or another map, get your bearings. The city sits west of the park and the lake to the east. Several tall buildings sit north of the park, most notably the unmissable Aon Center.

View from Millennium Park

Map and Itinerary for Millennium Park Tour

  1. Wrigley Square
  2. Boeing Gallery (North)
  3. Cloud Gate
  4. McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink
  5. Crown Fountain
  6. Boeing Gallery (South)
  7. Lurie Garden
  8. Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn
  9. Harris Theater
  10. BP Pedestrian Bridge

The dotted line indicates that you might re-order these based on where you want to finish. 2A and 6A are the Chase Promenade North and South, which are sometimes used for events, but otherwise empty spaces.

Wrigley Square [1]

Wrigley Square is an interesting spot to start. Most of Millennium Park was used as a rail yard and parking lot throughout the 20th century, but best I can tell, this spot has continuously remained a green (or at least open) space since before 1900.

Prior to 1953, the site contained an arched peristyle and fountain that are famously replicated today as the Millennium Monument. By 1953, the concrete constructions had begun to deteriorate, and construction of an underground parking garage required their destruction.

The Millennium Monument is 15% smaller than the original. In part because of this size reduction, but no doubt in greater part because of the larger scale of the city around it, the Millennium Monument is said to “lack the commanding presence” of the original structure.

As its plaque reads in part, the monument “pays tribute to leading individuals, corporations and foundations at the time of the millennium” for their generosity in the creation of Millennium Park. Take a few minutes to enjoy the square.

Circling behind the monument is a ramp. Follow it into the park, where it will connect with the Boeing Gallery (North). Take a right and walk explore the gallery.

Boeing Gallery (North) [2]

The Boeing Galleries are two outdoor galleries that primarily house sculptures, though other displays are occasionally rotated in. Sometimes, it’s just an empty walkway.

Stay left at the fork. At the south end of the Boeing Gallery (North), you’ll get your first glimpse of Cloud Gate (aka The Bean).

Turn left and in about ten steps you’ll quickly intersect the Chase Promenade. If anything is going on to your left (Chase Promenade North [2A]), feel free to visit for a few minutes. Otherwise, turn right to Chase Promenade Central and Cloud Gate.

Cloud Gate (The Bean) [3]

The most famous part of Millennium Park is the Cloud Gate sculpture, also know as “The Bean.” Art fiends would probably be able to speak much more to the sculpture, but I’m happy to lend a few thoughts and share a few fun facts.

Cloud Gate is an incredibly reflective bean-shaped sculpture. The Chicago skyline is famous for its beauty, and walking around Cloud Gate allows your to see the skyline from a variety of distorted perspectives. Walk around its base and underside to enjoy some really fun reflections of all the people.

Cloud Gate debuted in 2006, making it younger than Millennium Park. Even most millennials can remember a time before “the bean,” and so for many Chicagoans it doesn’t quite have the significance of more historical constructions, like Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center, and Buckingham Fountain. That isn’t to say we don’t appreciate it, though.

You can read Wikipedia if you’d like to hear about the more abstract themes. To me, it just represents the idea of togetherness as a city. Through its shape and reflection, Cloud Gate seems to unify the world around it.

Some facts about Cloud Gate (all from Wikipedia):

  • Cloud Gate is built of 168 stainless steel plates
  • It weighs 220,000 pounds
  • Cloud Gate is expected to survive 1000 years
  • The basic design has been copied in Karamay, China
  • The cost to build was initially estimated at $6 million, but wound up at $23 million

DNA Info also has some cool photos from the construction.

McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink [4]

Behind Cloud Gate (between Cloud Gate and the rest of the city, that is), sits McCormick Tribune Plaza and–during the winter–Ice Rink. You can access the Plaza and Ice Rink easily via stairs at either end of the Cloud Gate platform.

Adjacent to the Plaza is Park Grill, an average restaurant with high prices and ice rink views during the winter and patio seating during the summer.

The Plaza is mixed use throughout much of the year, but from mid-November to mid-March is hosts Chicago’s most famous ice rink.

Jeffrey Jung 2008 [CC BY 3.0]

Besides being a run experience in itself, the ice rink is Chicago people-watching at its finest. You’ll see tourists, local teenagers on first dates, and older couples on their millionth date. Ice skating is free, and skate rentals cost $13 to $15, depending on the day.

For a Chicagoan just trying to survive the winter, it’s nice to be in a place where it’s actually expected you’ll slip once or twice. Once you’re done at the Plaza, keep heading north, walking around the median / flower bed to get to Crown Fountain.

Crown Fountain [5]

Like Cloud Gate, artists and theorists would have much more to say about Crown Fountain. The fountain consists of two 50-foot towers with open (wet) space in between.

The towers illuminate and play videos, as well as implementing playful water features like water falling from above or spouts that, with videos of faces, mimic spitting (but like…not gross).

The fountain is scheduled to operate May 1 to October 31, weather permitting. Even with the fountain off, the screens still operate.

From Crown Fountain, we’ll head to Boeing Gallery (South), which is a pathway parallel to the fountain just east of it. Exit the fountain through the path on the south, take a left, walk about 20 steps, and turn left into the Boeing Gallery (South).

Boeing Gallery (South) [6]

The Boeing Gallery (South) is similar to the Boeing Gallery (North), just with different items on display. They sometimes feature the same overall exhibit, and sometimes feature two separate exhibits. Again, the gallery is also sometimes empty, leaving a simple pathway.

Exiting the Gallery, turn right (no need to cross the median / flower bed). You’ll pass by Chase Promenade South [6A] on the right. If anything is going on, feel free to stop by. Otherwise continue on until you encounter the Great Lawn (you can’t miss it, it’s a giant lawn).

The order of final four remaining attractions is up to you and where you want to finish up. We’re going to go Lurie Garden, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Harris Theater, and then exit via the BP Pedestrian Bridge to Maggie Daley Park.

If you want to finish where you started or are heading north, visit Lurie Garden, then the BP Pedestrian Bridge (cross it however far you want and then turn right back around), then Jay Pritzker Pavilion, finishing with Harris Theater (which is just east of Wrigley Square).

If you want to finish heading south, visit the BP Pedestrian Bridge (cross it however far you want and then turn right back around), then Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Harris Theater, and Lurie Garden.

Lurie Garden [7]

Lurie Garden sits just south of the Great Lawn. It’s hard to miss also hidden, as it’s protected by a 15-foot high hedge. Don’t worry about where you enter, just find an open spot in the hedge and spend a few minutes exploring.

Chicago’s motto is “City in a Garden” (technically it’s “Urbs in horto,” but you probably don’t speak Latin), so an actual garden is an important part of our most famous park.

Although it’s small, Lurie Garden is quite beautiful and has some fun design choices, particularly the use of boardwalk and stone pathways in this urban oasis.

Wander around, in, and out of it. Once you’ve navigated it, head back to the Great Lawn.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion & Great Lawn [8]

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion & Great Lawn has been widely heralded from diverse perspectives as the highlight of Millennium Park. It is an essential shared and open green space, a stunning work of art, and an acoustic masterpiece all at once.

The structure legally had to be classified a work of art. Chicagoans have long had an obsession with protecting Grant Park and the waterfront as a whole from oversized structures, so an ordinary building of such a height could not legally be built in that spot.

Obviously the greatness of the space is somewhat lessened when there isn’t an event going on, but it’s also much easier to appreciate without the crowds. Don’t be surprised if the Great Lawn isn’t open, as it’s often closed for preservation between events.

We recommend heading to Maggie Daley Park via the BP Bridge, if you haven’t done so already. If you want to add a lap around the Pavilion and Great Lawn, passing by the outside of the Harris Theater along the way, feel free.

Harris Theater [9]

Unless you’re heading inside for an event, there is little to say about Harris Theater. Most of the structure is located underground (see the above discussion on height restrictions in Grant Park).

BP Pedestrian Bridge [10]

The BP Pedestrian Bridge, connecting Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park over Columbus Drive is one of the visual highlights of the parks.

It twists, turns, and reflects, keeping in theme with the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Cloud Gate.What’s more–this bridge serves a dual purpose.

Remember when we mentioned the great acoustics of the Pavilion? Didn’t you wonder about traffic noise? Thank the BP Pedestrian Bridge!

Not only does it allow for pedestrians to easily cross Columbus, but it blocks traffic noise from Columbus Drive from getting into Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

If you’re finishing here, you’ll be deposited in Maggie Daley Park, another park definitely worth taking the time to explore!

Guided Tours of Millennium Park

If you’d like a guided tour of Millennium Park, you can use Chicago’s InstaGreeter service. InstaGreeters are free tour guides available May 24 to October 6 at 11AM. You can visit the website here.

Events at Millennium Park (Summer 2019)

Particularly during the summer, Millennium Park hosts a wide variety of events. Most are free and open, some are free but get too crowded. Very rarely, an event pops up that requires a paid ticket (or a private event uses some of the major spaces).

Events held on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion & Great Lawn are meant to be welcoming to the public. You’re encouraged to bring your own food, beverage, blankets, lawn chairs, etc. and to relax and have a good time. Outside alcohol is allowed at most public events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion & Great Lawn. The main exclusions are the large festivals that use the space.

You can view the official Millennium Park events calendar here.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger events and programs at the park.

Lurie Garden Programming

Lurie Garden hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including nature walks and yoga classes. These are not all held at the actual garden, and the schedule is not released too far in advance. You can view their schedule of events here (most are free but require registration).

Grant Park Music Festival (PM Select Nights)

The Grant Park Music Festival is one of Millennium Park’s most famous events. From mid June to mid August the Jay Pritzker Pavilion & Great Lawn hosts the Grant Park Orchestra, with the Grant Park Chorus occasionally joining them. Guest performers are also common. Pre-concert lectures are also available.

Millennium Park Summer Music Series (PM Select Mon., Select Thur.)

Between late June to late August, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts 11 concerts on select evenings. These are free and open to the public. You can find the full schedule here.

Millennium Park Summer Film Series (PM Tue.)

Tuesdays from early June to mid August at 6:30PM, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion has a summer film series. The movies are a mix of contemporary hits and older films. These are free and open to the public. You can find the full schedule here.

Summer Workouts at Millennium Park (AM Sat., Tue., Thur.)

There are morning workouts on the Great Lawn on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays during the summer (late May to late August). These are free and open to the public. You can find the full schedule here.

What’s Nearby

From Millennium Park, the entire city is at your fingertips. With its central location, you could easily hop on any L train line to reach most of the city.

If you haven’t already visited the rest of the Grant Park campus, that’s the place to start. Swing by Maggie Daley Park (east of Millennium Park, accessible via the BP Pedestrian Bridge). Buckingham Fountain is a few blocks south.

Along the lake is the Lakefront Trail. South from Millennium Park along the trail you’ll encounter the Museum Campus. Head north for Navy Pier.

Architecture fans may want to head west into the Loop, but the neighborhood is all business during the week and often eerily quiet on the weekends. Head north up Michigan Avenue for the Magnificent Mile and the bars and restaurants of River North.