Until the late 1990s, the area that is downtown’s Millennium Park was a rather dreary-looking, albeit well-located, slice of real estate. Thanks to a highly ambitious (and hugely expensive, to the tune of $475 million) renovation project that long overran its original 2000 completion date, it’s a showcase for public art, landscape design and performing arts. Its twin artistic centrepieces are equally compelling. First is a stunning, seamless, stainless-steel sculpture officially titled Cloud Gate but universally known as “the Bean”, by British-based artist Anish Kapoor. Inspired by liquid mercury, it invites viewers to walk around, beside and even underneath it to enjoy spectacular and endlessly intriguing reflections of both the city and the sky above it. Nearby, Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa consists of two glass-brick towers set either side of a black granite plaza; giant video images of the faces of ordinary Chicagoans play across them both, and water spurts from them in summer at unexpected intervals to form a lake that’s usually filled with playing children. Further back, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is an amazing open-air auditorium designed by Frank Gehry, who used mighty swirls and flourishes of steel to improve its acoustics. Finally the Lurie Garden features more than 26000 plants in total, representing more than 250 varieties native to the Illinois prairie.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

This year marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and also the launch of a new Civil Rights Trail through the USA's south – a route…

10 Jan 2018 • Ella Buchan local_activity Special feature
An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

For dynamism, cultural impact and sheer diversity, New York City is hard to beat. The city is a global leader in art, architecture, music and food, and is cramm…

10 Jan 2018 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Though it may be tempting to escape to the sunshine this winter, there's a lot to be said for revelling in the snow and ice, too. And there’s plenty of beau…

27 Dec 2017 • Michelle Bhatia insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right