The impressive 24.5-acre Millennium Park sits in the Loop area of Chicago, not far from the shore of Lake Michigan.
I always jump at the chance to spend time in the park because there are endless things to do.
It is a spot frequently visited by locals and visitors alike and is popular for its variety of visual, performance, and agricultural artwork.
The park was constructed in several phases over several years. The planning and construction process began in the late 1990s, and the park was officially opened to the public on July 16, 2004.
Over the 20 years since it opened, I have imprinted many memories of good experiences and activities I have taken part in there.
If you'd like to visit as well, know that admission to Millennium Park is free and open to the public. However, certain events or attractions within the park may require tickets or admission fees.
Perhaps you'd like to picnic in the park on a sunny day. You can do that because food and non-alcoholic beverages are allowed. Note that any bags may be subject to a search at the security perimeter if events are taking place.
My fellow guides and I have put our heads together and listed some of the best things to see and do there along with even more tips and information to make your visit easier.
I hope you enjoy your visit to Chicago's magnificent Millennium Park!
- Best Time to Visit
- Helpful Information
- Top 9 Things to Do
- Tips From Locals & Travelers
- Things to Do in Chicago
Check out our Chicago Visitors Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Chicago attractions.
When planning your visit, it helps to know the best time of the day and the best time of the year to visit Millennium Park.
Best Time of the Day to Visit
The best time to visit Millennium Park is early morning or late evening to avoid crowds and enjoy a more serene experience.
In the evening, you can see the park beautifully illuminated and take part in events or concerts.
Ultimately, the "best" time to visit Millennium Park is subjective and depends on your preferences for crowds, weather, and the activities or experiences you want to have.
Best Time of the Year to Visit
The best time of year to visit Millennium Park is during the late spring to early fall, typically from May to September.
During these months, the weather is generally pleasant, allowing you to enjoy outdoor activities comfortably.
Below we detail how to get to the park using public transportation, parking options if you drive, tours you can take, and how much time is needed to walk the park.
If you use public transportation, there are several close bus and subway stops along the park.
- Adams/Wabash stop for the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines
- Jackson for the Red Line
- Monroe for the Blue Line
- Van Buren Street Stop
Millennium Park has four separate parking garages:
- Grant Park North Garage | 25 N Michigan Ave
- Grant Park South Garage | 325 S. Michigan Ave
- Millennium Lakeside Garage | 5 S. Columbus Dr.
- Millennium Park Garage | 6 S. Columbus Drive
Prices range from $26-$45 depending on what time of day you park and how long you stay. They also have early bird pricing.
Buying parking in advance online usually offers a small savings.
There is metered parking throughout the area which starts at $6.50/hour. Check out the app SpotHero for ways to save.
Also, the Chicago hop-on-hop-off buses stop right by Millennium Park.
Amount of Time Needed
The time it takes to walk through Millennium Park can vary depending on the pace and the areas you want to explore.
On average, it may take around 1 to 2 hours to cover the main highlights of the park, including Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden, and Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
However, if you want to fully explore the park's various sculptures, gardens, and art installations, you may need more time.
This list is in the form of a self-guided walking tour, which takes about an hour within a one-mile stretch, and will make sure you hit all the stops.
If you have a good amount of time, it also includes attractions in the area you can visit such as museums.
For the best view, enter the park from Washington Avenue.
Millennium Park was revealed in 2004 after Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to convert the then unsightly industrial wasteland into a 25-acre park filled with architecture, sculpture, and flora.
1. Millennium Park Monument
To your left, you will see the peristyle and fountain dedicated to the founders of Millennium Park.
These 40-foot, doric-style columns are a replica of the original peristyle erected in 1917. The original stood until 1953.
A close look at the base of the monument reveals the names of the individual corporate donors for the park’s gorgeous renovations.
2. Boeing Gallery North
Following the path east around the peristyle, you’ll find the first of two open-air galleries with rotating art exhibits.
You never know what you will see as you explore this area.
The Boeing Gallery North has been host to semi-annual installments since the aircraft manufacturing company’s five million dollar donation in 2005.
Take in the current exhibition, then continue south along the path.
The gardens pictured are also the location for the famous Chicago Christmas tree which gets officially lit at the end of the Magnificent Mile Parade that takes place in late November.
Be sure to check out our guided Holiday Tour that runs from late November through December 24th.
3. Cloud Gate (“The Bean”)
This internationally recognized contemporary sculpture by Anish Kapoor might look like its loving nickname, “The Bean”, but completing Cloud Gate was no small task!
Assembled with nearly 200 stainless steel plates, Kapoor’s sculpture cost $26 million dollars to complete.
Anish Kapoor is an English sculptor, who has studied at Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art Design.
Cloud Gate was his first United States installment, weighing in at 100 tons.
This is an excellent place to take selfies. Cloud Gate is also a favorite spot for pictures of the Chicago Skyline.
4. Jay Pritzker Pavilion
When first viewed, the Jay Pritzker Pavillion might be mistaken as one of the many sculptures in Millennium Park.
As you exit the North Boeing Gallery, make a left toward the Pavilion.
The closer you get, the more the unique design unveils itself as the state-of-the-art amphitheater that it is.
On days when there are no events, this auditorium is open to the public to explore.
If there is an event during your tour, you’ll be able to appreciate the acoustics of the space.
During the summer, there are free movies, concerts, and events at Pritzker Pavilion.
When you’ve got your selfie in front of the stage, continue southwest along the pathway until you see the highlight of your walking tour.
5. BP Bridge
Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, also known as BP Pedestrian Bridge, is a beautiful stainless steel pedestrian bridge that leads to Maggie Daley Park.
The 935-foot-long bridge, completed in 2004, features a stainless steel ribbon-like design, providing pedestrians with stunning views of the city's skyline and lakefront.
BP Bridge leads travels over Columbus Drive and has an excellent view of the cityscape!
6. Maggie Daley Park
The newest edition to the Millennium Park area is Maggie Daley Park which was built in 2012 to honor Maggie Daley!
This section is 20 acres of playful design which is great for the whole family.
The park includes playgrounds and a rollerblade or ice skating ribbon (depending on the season).
You can also pay to enjoy their new rock climbing wall! There is a lot to do in Maggie Daley Park.
Be sure to check their site for updated events.
7. Lurie Garden
Head back across the BP bridge and go south to enter the Lurie Garden through several different pathways.
Grab your camera and explore this 5-acre botanical garden.
The Lurie Garden opened in the summer of 2004, with designs by Kathryn Gustafson, Piet Oudolf, and Robert Israel.
Open all year long, the Lurie captures each season in its natural beauty. Its motto? “Urbs in Horto”, or City in a Garden.
When you are done exploring, exit the garden on the southwest side.
You’ll see the Boeing Gallery South in front of you.
8. Boeing Gallery South
This is another rotating outdoor art gallery!
In the past, Chicago has been wow-ed by sculptures by Jaime Plensa and Chakaia Booker, to name a few.
What will you see when you visit the Boeing Gallery South?
9. Crown Fountain
Adding to Chicago’s world-famous art collection is Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain in Millennium Park.
The Fountain took five years to complete, from 2000 to 2005, and has remained in Millennium Park for over a decade!
Two fifty-foot tall LED towers stand facing one another, as roughly 1,000 faces interact across this fountain.
The faces are representational of the diverse citizenship of Chicago. Water is spouted out from their mouths in the style of Gothic Gargoyle fountains.
Plensa, born in 1955, aims to reach his audience on an intuitive level, often dealing in dualities with his world-renowned pieces.
The videos are on display throughout the year, while the water aspect of the fountain operates seasonally.
At this time you will finish your self-guided walking tour on Michigan Avenue. We hope you enjoyed your time in Millennium Park! Come back soon!
10. Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave
Established in 1879, The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-class art museum located in the heart of Downtown Chicago.
It boasts one of the most extensive and diverse art collections globally, spanning over 5,000 years of human creativity.
The museum's collection includes iconic masterpieces from various art movements, such as Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and American Gothic by Grant Wood.
Visitors can also admire significant works from European, Asian, African, and American art.
The museum not only showcases paintings and sculptures but also features photography, textiles, and decorative arts.
With its rich history and commitment to art education, the Art Institute of Chicago remains a cultural gem attracting millions of visitors annually.
11. McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink
1 N Michigan Ave
The McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink is a popular outdoor ice-skating venue situated in Millennium Park.
Open seasonally during the winter months, it offers a delightful experience for residents and tourists alike.
It has been known to host special events like outdoor concerts and live music performances in addition to regular ice-skating activities.
The rink's location in the heart of the city provides a picturesque backdrop with views of the city's skyline and iconic architecture.
Skaters of all skill levels can enjoy gliding on the ice beneath the shimmering lights, creating a magical ambiance.
The rink is surrounded by the striking Jay Pritzker Pavilion and other notable landmarks, making it a central hub for entertainment and recreation during the winter season.
12. Field Museum
1400 S Lake Shore Dr (Around 1.5 miles to the south from the Millennium Park)
The Field Museum, located in Chicago, Illinois, is one of the largest and most prestigious natural history museums in the world.
Founded in 1893, it houses an extensive collection of over 40 million artifacts and specimens, showcasing the wonders of the natural world and human history.
The museum's exhibits cover a diverse range of topics, including dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, gems, and cultural artifacts from around the globe.
One of its most famous attractions is "Sue," the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever discovered.
The Field Museum also actively engages in scientific research and educational programs, promoting a deeper understanding of our planet's past and present.
13. Shedd Aquarium
1200 S DuSable Lk Shr Dr (Around 2 miles to the south from the Millennium Park)
The Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest and most impressive indoor aquariums in the world.
Established in 1930, it houses a diverse array of aquatic life, with over 32,000 animals representing 1,500 species.
Visitors can explore various exhibits, including the Amazon Rainforest, Caribbean Reef, and Polar Play Zone.
The aquarium is renowned for its conservation efforts and educational programs, aiming to raise awareness about marine life and environmental issues.
The iconic architecture of the Shedd Aquarium, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, makes it a popular attraction for both locals and tourists, providing a fascinating and immersive underwater experience.
14. Soldier Field
1410 Special Olympics Dr (Around 2.5 miles to the south of Millennium Park)
Soldier Field is an iconic sports venue with a rich history. It was originally constructed in 1924 and has undergone significant renovations over the years.
The stadium primarily serves as the home of the Chicago Bears, the city's beloved NFL team.
It boasts a seating capacity of around 61,500 spectators, providing an electrifying atmosphere during football games and other events.
The field's distinctive design includes classical colonnades that blend with modern elements.
Renowned for its historic significance, Soldier Field has hosted numerous memorable sporting events and concerts, making it a cherished cultural landmark in the heart of Chicago.
While we do our best to provide all the information you'll need to visit Millennium. Park, sometimes you have specific questions of your own you need help with
Thankfully, our Chicago Travel Tips group on Facebook is the perfect place to look for those answers.
Here are a few examples of interesting and helpful tips provided by some of the almost 22,000 members of our group:
- If you plan to park, be sure to use a parking app. (Also, don't miss out on Chicago's Deep Dish Pizza!)
2. There are a number of hotels near Millenium Park. There are plenty of things to do in the area as well, some of which you can access more cheaply if you purchase a Tourist Attraction Pass. Getting around the city is made easier because of public transportation.
3. Chicago is a walkable city, and Millenium Park is listed as a place walkers are sure to enjoy. You might want to consider an architectural tour through the area.
For even more information about Millenium Park, or anything at all in Chicago, please feel to ask for advice on the Free Tours By Foot Chicago Travel Tips Facebook page.
Be sure to check out our guided tour of Loop & Millennium Park which concludes at Cloud Gate!