If you love gardens and design, browse this site before or during your visit to make your trip to Millennium Park more thought provoking and enjoyable.

Photo by: Dee Nash

Quick facts about Millennium Park

Which city can boast that one of their most popular tourist attractions was built on top of a former railroad yard and parking lot? Chicago can. Located in The Loop district on Lake Michigan's shoreline, Millennium Park is a free public park designed to celebrate the second millennium. Chicagoans and out-of-town visitors both enjoy its urban location, and it's become a meeting place for all. Throughout the park, visitors can see permanent art pieces by celebrated artists as well as unique architectural features. With the Lurie Garden as one of its premier attractions, Millennium Park truly reflects Chicago's city motto, Urbs in Horto, meaning "city in a garden."

View Map > >
Photo by: J.Crocker
Play Video Three minute video on how Millennium Park came about

Millennium Park's fascinating history

The former mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, was at his dentist’s office when he looked out the window and saw an eyesore: unused bus lanes, a rail yard, and a barely used parking lot. He thought to himself: this should be a park! Daley contacted a local philanthropist, John H. Bryan, to help him raise money to build the park. Bryan formed Millennium Park Foundation, a nonprofit partner in the funding, construction, and curation of the project. The Lakefront Millennium Project was approved on May 14, 1998. As with every project, this one had its hurdles. Wealthy Chicagoans donated funds, but costs overran donations. Some of the infrastructure needed rebuilding, and the plan changed over time as donors gave their input for specific projects. It took some creative fundraising and financing to make the park a reality. In the end, the park cost over $510 million as a cooperative effort between private donors and taxpayers. $240 million from private funds were used for the construction of all public artistic and architectural elements, while $270 million from public funds were used for the construction of the parking garage and supporting infrastructure. It opened on July 16, 2004.

Millennium Park was built the Chicago Way

The story behind its construction involved Richard M. Daley's vision for the city, the well-heeled philanthropists who backed him, mayoral friends who benefited financially and people going to prison.

Read More by Chicago Tribune reporter Hal Dardick > >
Photo by: Brad Hagan
The Lurie

Lurie Garden

Part of Millennium Park, Lurie Garden is a green roof that was built on top of a seven-level parking garage. It’s 2.5 acres and enclosed by tall hedges called "shoulder hedges"-when viewing the city from the garden, these shrubs help frame the skyline. The garden was built atop geofoam, a lightweight fill material.

Piet Oudolf designed the garden, and the garden’s horticulturists still consult with him about the ongoing plan for the space. After designing the plan for Lurie Garden, Oudolf went on to create the planting design for the High Line in NYC.

GGN was the landscape architect for Lurie Garden. The Seattle-based firm was founded in 1999 by Jennifer Guthrie, Shannon Nichol, and Kathryn Gustafson.

HOURS: Open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (check website for any closures)
COST: Free
EVENTS: See website

Lurie Garden Photosclick photos for larger view

Photo by: Dee Nash

Plants ofLurie Garden

Interested in learning about what’s growing at Lurie Garden? The garden’s website offers information about their plants, organized by Type, Season, and Color; and arranged into categories: Grasses, Perennials & Bulbs, Shrubs, and Trees. Click a picture to get each plant’s botanical name, common name, growing zone, and more.

See Lurie Garden Plant Life > >

Lurie Garden's head horticulturist
Laura Ekasetya's favorite plant picksclick photos for plant descriptions

Photo by: Rob Cardillo
Photo by: Daniel X. O'Neil

Sustainability at Lurie Garden

Instead of cutting back perennials in fall, gardeners at Lurie Garden keep them in place until late winter for continued interest. Leaving the dead foliage aids the animals and insects that call the garden home by providing them with cover and nesting areas. Gardeners mow the perennials in the garden before spring and leave the debris to decay naturally. They cut back the river of salvia after it blooms in summer to encourage rebloom in fall.

No chemicals or fertilizers are used in Lurie Garden. It's organic and is insect and bird friendly. Gardeners chose tough plants suited to the site that don't need much supplemental watering. This has resulted in a landscape full of buzzing insects and animals.

Lurie Garden is home to two honeybee hives. It's also abuzz with native bees and other insects. It's a great place to take nature photographs.

Top Design Features At Millennium Park

BP Pedestrian Bridge

BP Pedestrian Bridge

This bridge was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in July of 2004, along with the rest of the park. It spans Columbus Drive and connects Millennium Park with the Maggie Daley Park.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the bridge materials used in construction include 2,000 rot-resistant Brazilian hardwood boards for the deck, 115,000 stainless-steel screws and 9,800 stainless-steel shingle plates.

BP donated $5 million dollars towards its construction.

Photo by: Maricel

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

The Pavilion, also designed by Frank Gehry, is the home of the Grant Park Music Festival each year. It's dominated by a large open steel structure called a proscenium arch. You can sit in one of the 4,000 fixed seats in the seating bowl, or you can relax with 7,000 other people on the great lawn. Free concerts play here frequently.

Photo by: Michael Hicks

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

This beautiful piece of art is located in Cloud Gate Plaza. Designed by Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate is a favorite art piece due to its unique reflective quality. It is affectionately called "the bean" by visitors because of its kidney bean shape. Composed of 168 stainless steel plates with invisible welds, it weighs 110 tons. It is 66 feet long and 33 feet high—tall enough for visitors to easily stand beneath it.

Photo by: Michael Rehfeldt

Wrigley Square

Wrigley Square

Located at North Michigan Avenue and East Randolph Street. Named after the William Wrigley, Jr. Company, which donated $5 million toward its construction. The largest feature of the square, Millennium Monument, is a peristyle designed by OWP/P Inc.—it's a reproduction of one that was originally part of Grant Park in this spot between 1917 and 1953. The names of 120 Millennium Park donors are engraved on the Founder Wall, which was enhanced with new color-changing LED lights in the spring of 2017. Nestled within the peristyle is a fountain that faces a lawn, a popular wedding venue.

Photo by: Taka

Crown Fountain

Crown Fountain

Designed by artist Jaume Plensa, the space includes two fifty-foot glass tower fountains at each end of a black granite reflecting pool. Each tower sports a video of 1,000 Chicagoans with their mouths open. Water then sprays from their mouths out onto the platform where you'll often find children splashing and playing in summer. Krueck and Sexton Architects constructed the towers, and the fountain is located at the northeast corner of South Michigan Avenue and West Monroe Street. During winter 2016/17, Crown Fountain was enhanced with new projection technology, electrical, and plumbing upgrades.

Photo by: JuanCarlosMartin

Millennium Park Designers

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. SOM drafted the original master plan for the park, which was later amended to accommodate the parking garage beneath the great lawn, and increase the park's size, and other renovations to area transportation.

Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners, LLP

Frank Gehry designed the centerpiece of Millennium Park: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion-equipped with a proscenium arch and orchestra enclosure for a bandshell-and the pedestrian bridge that crosses Columbus Drive. Before committing to the project, Gehry was approached several times by Adrian Smith from SOM on behalf of the city. Gehry was hesitant about the project, but his refusal to accept the commission was overcome by Cindy Pritzker, the philanthropist, who had developed a relationship with the architect when he won the Pritzker Prize back in 1989.

Gehry, one of the world’s most famous architects, also designed the Olympic Fish Pavilion in Barcelona, the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

For building and design geeks

What could have gone wrong at Millennium Park

What could have gone wrong at Millennium Park

Could the Bean have been so reflective that it would blind pilots? Could the granite surrounding Crown Fountain have burned children's feet? Planners had a lot to worry about before Millennium Park opened. Watch the video.

Millennium Park in a Day

Get in your 10,000 steps and more by walking through the 24.5-acre park. Be sure to visit all of the design highlights and don't miss Lurie Garden.

Join other tourists and take a crazy picture of the Chicago skyline or yourself in the reflection of Cloud Gate ("the Bean").

Go shopping on The Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Apparel stores and eateries are just part of this upscale experience.

Visit the Navy Pier and try one of the daily cruises.

Millennium Park in a Weekend

Take in a concert at the Pritzker Pavilion. Check their website for a concert schedule and the Summer Music Series.

If you're not scared of heights, try out "the Ledge" at Skydeck Chicago on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower.) The Skydeck is open every day. See website for hours.

Stroll the halls of the Art Institute of Chicago (across the street from Millennium park) and explore one of its many themes after you take in Millennium Park.

Public art is an important part of Millennium Park, but don't forget to visit Picasso sculpture on Daley Plaza at 50 W. Washington Street. Untitled, it's simply known as "the Picasso." Want more? Picasso's model and sketches are in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Getting There

For directions and parking availability, visit the City of Chicago's website.

Comfort and Safety While Visiting:

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes that can handle varied and wet surfaces. Wear layers because the weather can vary throughout the year. In the winter, a coat is a must. If you plan to go skating at the McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink, you can bring skates or rent them. Since the garden is open year round, note that cold and snow will be prevalent in winter months.

Best Times to Visit:

Times of year: Open year-round unless closed due to adverse weather. The garden has four-season interest, but May is perfect for catching Lurie Garden in full spring bloom.

Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Cost: Free


201 E. Randolph St.
Between Michigan Ave. & Columbus Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 742-1168
Email: dcase@cityofchicago.org

Websites/Social Media: