No visit to Chicago would be complete without a visit to Millennium Park. Chicago's popular new civic center has already received landmark status. Additionally, its location on Chicago's lakefront adds to its popularity. Millennium Park is actually a redeveloped section of Grant Park.
From the 1850s through the late 20th century, the Illinois Central Railroad controlled the site that is currently occupied by Millennium Park. In Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago, the railroad property was considered off limits. As a result, much to the dismay of Chicago's residents, the Grant Park portion of the plan was developed around it.
Construction on Grant Park was initiated in 1917. Years later, in 1977 four Chicago civic groups proposed the "Lakefront Gardens for the Performing Arts." The proposed park would include a performing arts pavilion. Unfortunately, the plan lacked two important requirements: a funding strategy and significant government support. However, the groups were somewhat successful, in that the Petrillo Music Shell was built as a compromise between the civic groups and the Chicago Park District.
What is now called Millennium Park was first conceived in 1998, with the goal of creating new parkland in Grant Park that would distract from the view of the unattractive railroad tracks and parking lots along the lakefront. In 1997 Mayor Richard M. Daley directed his staff to create a plan for a new music venue. Daley's dream was to have the area to be built over the active tracks and surface parking lot, thus hiding what many people considered to be eyesores in the otherwise beautiful city of Chicago. His dream came true. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus opened Millennium Park in a ceremony on July 16, 2004 as part of a three-day celebration that included an inaugural concert. 300,000 people attended the grand opening festivities. This surpassed the 50,000 people that were expected.
Today, Millennium Park Chicago bears the distinction of being the city's award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. As a result of a partnership between the City of Chicago and the philanthropic community, the 24.5-acre Millennium Park proudly displays the work of world-famous architects, planners, artists and designers. The most popular feature of Millennium Park in Chicago is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which is a band shell designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. This extraordinary concert venue has 4,000 fixed seats, as well as an additional lawn seating for 7,000.
The Pritzker Pavilion is the home of the Grant Park Music Festival, which is one of the most popular events in Illinois. Even if you are not attending a festival or concert in Millennium Park Chicago, there are still a number of attractions worth seeing. For example, the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park is home to Cloud Gate, which is a 3-story, 110-ton steel sculpture that is known as "The Bean". The sculpture is the work of the artist Anish Kapoor. Cloud Gate is a polished reflective steel sculpture that was designed to resemble a drop of mercury hovering at the point of landing on a plaza of Millennium Park. The curved, mirror-like surface of Cloud Gate provides amazing reflections of visitors, the city, and the sky. It is one of the most popular attractions in Millennium Park and the city of Chicago.