The northwest corner of Grant Park is the site of Millennium Park, one of the city’s grandest public works projects. Who cares that the park cost hundreds of millions more than it was supposed to, or the fact that it finally opened a full 4 years after the actual millennium? It’s a winning combination of beautiful landscaping, elegant architecture (the classically inspired peristyle), and public entertainment spaces, including an ice rink and theater. The park’s centerpiece is the dramatic Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, featuring massive curved ribbons of steel, which sits over 4,000 fixed seats, with room for an additional 7,000 in the abutting Great Lawn. Throughout the summer, the park is a cultural oasis, and people from all over learn to shake their thang to live music on a 4,900 square foot outdoor dance floor during Chicago SummerDance dance lessons. Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus stages a popular series of free outdoor classical music concerts here most Wednesday through Sunday evenings in the summer, and the lawn fills with a younger crowd on Mondays for “Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays.”
Two public artworks well worth checking out are the kidney bean–shaped sculpture Cloud Gate and the Crown Fountain, where children splash in the shallow water between giant faces projected on video screens. Free walking tours of the park are offered daily from May through October at 11:30am and 1pm, through the Chicago Cultural Center’s Millennium Park Greeter Tours ★★★ program. Meet at the Cultural Center’s Visitor Center, 77 E. E. Randolph St. ([tel] 312/945-4231; www.chicagogreeter.com). The first-come, first-served tours are limited to 10 people, and no reservations are required.