Chicago River is one way to see the skyscrapers. You
can cruise or paddle. You can walk on its edges on
the city's growing RiverWalk.
— The Bean is big.
Bean is already one of Chicago’s major landmarks, up
there with the Hancock Tower, the Chicago River, the
Willis Tower, Navy Pier and, yes, Wrigley Field.
fact, it is Chicago’s No. 2 tourist attraction. It has
gotten an estimated 4.5 million visitors a year since it
opened in 2004, second only to iconic Navy Pier with 8.6
elliptical Bean, as the stainless-steel sculpture is known
by locals, is the major landmark in the city’s
Millennium Park, a $475 million public park that opened in
sits where railroad yards and parking lots once stood at
the edge of downtown. It has become Chicago’s new front
yard. The park has its own greeters, welcome center and
the three-story sculpture by London artist Anish Kapoor is
known as Cloud Gate. But its kidney-bean shape is why is
it is known simply as The Bean.
public sculpture strikingly reflects and distorts the
neighboring skyline and clouds on its gleaming surface.
cost $23 million and is made from 168 stainless steel
plates with no visible seams. It is 66 feet long, 33 feet
high and 42 feet wide, weighing 110 tons. It looks like an
oversized drop of mercury.
can walk under its 12-foot-high arch and even touch the
stainless steel surface. It is whimsical and irresistible.
Everyone loves The Bean, on AT&T Plaza, the
centerpiece of Millennium Park.
park lies on the south side of the Chicago River, tucked
between the downtown area (the Loop) and Lake Michigan.
Chicago has done with Millennium Park is a major urban
the 1850s to 1997, the land where the park is now was
controlled by the Illinois Central Railroad. Visionary
Chicago leader Daniel Burnham realized that the tract was
untouchable in the early 1900s and designed Grant Park
around it. By the 1990s, the area was covered with
parkland, unsightly tracks and parking lots.
1997, Mayor Richard M. Dailey unveiled plans for a 16-acre
park and outdoor concert venue in the Beaux Arts style of
nearby Grant Park. With the involvement of architect Frank
Gehry and other partners, the project grew to 24.5 acres.
park also features Crown Fountain. Spanish artist Jaume
Plensa created a shallow pool between two 50-foot-high
glass-block towers. The black granite reflecting pool
fountain and the towers cost $17 million.
water operates from May to October, cascading down the
towers and spouting through nozzles on the front of the
towers that show faces of 1,000 Chicagoans.
are held in the park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion with its
Great Lawn. It has seats in the pavilion for 4,000 and can
accommodate 7,000 more on the grass.
features a stainless-steel band shell designed by Gehry. A
trellis of curved steel pipes holds the sound system. It
is home to the Grant Park Music Festival.
McDonald’s Cycle Center offers bike rentals at the park’s
Park has won awards for its accessibility and green
park offers greeter tours at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily
from May to October. It is a 45-minute free walking tour
that looks at the park’s art and architecture.
are also offered of the 2.5-acre Lurie Garden at the park’s
southern end at 11 a.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. Sundays from
May to September. It cost $13.2 million to build the
Park is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus
Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe
Drive to the south.
is connected via the 925-foot-long BP Pedestrian Bridge
and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park,
Lake Michigan, the Lakefront Trail and Navy Pier.
hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Admission is free. For
information, call 312-742-1168 or 312-742-2963, or see www.millenniumpark.org.
good way to get an eyeful of Chicago and its skyscrapers
is to explore the RiverWalk that runs along the Chicago
River. It is 1.3 miles long and growing. You are at the
bottom of an urban canyon. The walkway was started in
can also cruise the river on boat trips that look at the
architecture of the city. It’s impressive even if you
don’t care about architectural styles.
rent a kayak and paddle the Chicago River. It’s a
three-hour tour with Kayak Chicago for $65: 630-336-7245, www.kayakchicago.com.
green river now flows backward from Lake Michigan to the
Illinois River, carrying sewage away from the city. Its
water quality is far from pristine. It is dyed kelly green
on St. Patrick’s Day.
is also known for its world-class museums, shopping, night
life, entertainment and more than 6,000 restaurants. It’s
an impressive and friendly city with a strong Midwest
gets 46 million visitors a year. It is the birthplace of
the skyscraper and features public art. It embraces Lake
Michigan with its 33 public beaches. Its 550 parks cover
personal favorite downtown sight: On the outside of the
Chicago Tribune building are bits of rock and artifacts
from historical sites around the world. It is unexpected
and a little surreal.
can see pieces of the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid, the
Alamo, Notre Dame de Paris, the Great Wall of China, the
Coliseum, Angkor Wat, the Parthenon, Corregidor Island,
the Palace of Westminster, Reims Cathedral, Berlin Wall,
Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent and the World Trade
150 labeled artifacts are set in the exterior limestone
walls of the Gothic-style building at 435 N. Michigan Ave.
There’s at least one from all 50 states. The artifacts
were reportedly brought back to Chicago as gifts for Col.
Robert F. McCormick, the paper’s owner and publisher.
can walk, run and pedal on the Lakefront Path that runs
18.5 miles along Lake Michigan. The imposing downtown
skyline is never far away.
path goes through city parks and past 31 beaches,
playgrounds, picnic areas, statues, marinas, a golf
course, ball fields and more. It is the best and most
crowded bikeway around Chicago.
neat way to learn about the city is via Chicago
Neighborhood Tours that offer a look at churches and
ethnic fare. Chicago is made up of 77 community areas with
take a guided tour on bus and on foot to neighborhoods
like Little Italy, Hyde Park, Historic Bronzeville or
tours last four hours with a refreshment stop. Tickets are
$25 for adults and $20 for senior citizens, students and
children 8 to 18. Tours depart at 10 a.m. Saturdays
year-round from the Chicago Cultural Center at Randolph
Street and Michigan Avenue in the Loop.
reservations and more information, call 312-742-1190 or www.chicagoneighborhoodtours.com.
Pier has been a Chicago landmark since 1916. It served as
a pilot training base in World War II. The 3,000-foot-long
pier reopened in 1995 after a $150 million reconstruction.
it is an entertainment facility with IMAX theaters, a
concert venue, a children’s museum, bars, restaurants
and shops. It can be wall-to-wall people.
other attractions: Sue is the skeletal Tyrannosaurus rex
and the star of the Field Museum of Natural History. The
Shedd Aquarium is the best in the Midwest. The Art
Institute is stellar. The Museum of Science and Industry
includes a full-sized German submarine in its basement.
tourist information, contact the Chicago Convention and
Tourism Bureau, 312-567-8500, www.choosechicago.com.