A July 2004 trip
to Chicago by metrogirl
Quote: In keeping with architect Daniel Burnham’s "big plans" for Chicago’s lakefront, Millennium Park has become our own Cinderella. An ugly parking lot has become a beautiful and exciting new International destination.
"Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die." Daniel Burnham, architect
high noon shadows: Millenium Park
The word was out. Chicagoan, tourists, tenderfoot Boy Scouts, and gnarly-handed knitting-circle ladies; anyone who has an accumulated a sick-day, a freeday, a holiday (or fudged one), descended on Millennium Park for the Opening Day festivities. When I saw the masses of people, I was about to go to "crabby-grumble mode" when I realized that at least we were all hanging-out in this grand, impressive place, and living life instead of watching the latest true-life reality TV show.
The plan for Millennium Park is to intertwine architecture, visual art, and landscape architecture. Walk with me, and I will highlight the hot-spots on the map below and then read the self-guided walking tour and the full journals on each of the numbered venue locations.
1. The Park Grill, Park Café, Park Shops, and the McCormick Tribune Plaza Ice Rink.At the heart is upscale dining, quick meals and drinks, restrooms, chair and skate rentals, trinkets, toys, souvenirs, art, and flowers.
2. SBC Plaza and "Cloud Gate" Here you’ll find directional signage and the shimmering silvery bean.
3. The Jay Pritzker Music Pavilion and Great Lawn, THE undisputed star of the show and Chicago’s free-concert venue.
4. Millennium Peristyle Monument on Wrigley Square. The curving row of Greek columns tops a donors-wall with the big-money names surrounding a serene, approachable fountain.
5. Harris Theater for Music and Dance A million home for mid-size music and dance companies burrows under landscaped terraces to preserve the openness of the lakefront.
6. Bicycle Parking Facility, a heated indoor bicycle parking facility, with lockers, showers, and bike repair.
7. BP Pedestrian Bridge, another Gehry design, connects Millennium Park over busy Columbus Drive to the lake, or visa versa.
8. Lurie Garden. Two acres of richly textured, metaphorically powerful space, but a work in progress.
9 Crown Fountain I saved the best for last. A pair of 50-foot glass, water-cascading towers has LEAD projected faces that smile and spray jets of water into the reflecting pool. Hmm… It is really much, much more!
There are 21 colorful wayfinding maps located throughout the park, with clear graphics that will help you get where you want to go.
The park has 123 permanent toilet fixtures (78 for women, 45 for men), and the majority of them are located in underground arcades to the east and west of the Pritzker Pavilion. They are clearly marked on wayfinder maps. There are 70 sleek contemporary and comfortable cast-aluminum benches located throughout the Park. It was hard to find a place to just perch. Bring a blanket!
There are convenient, specially designed food carts marking the Washington and Madison Street entrances to the park.
Bring a towel! Once you read about Crown Fountain you will understand. This is crucial if you are with small children. On my fourth visit to the Park I finally saw some for sale at the Park Shop for . I wish I had the concession for towels!
Grant Park Music Festival Corporation presents a series of free public Concerts all summer at the Pritzker Pavilion on Friday nights. A limited number of chairs are available for rental at the Park Café or bring your own folding chairs or blanket!
Driving & Parking:
Park in the Underground Parking Garages. They are the least expensive in all of downtown Chicago.
Columbus and Monroe and Grant Park North and South have pedestrian exits from garages within one-half block of Millennium Park.
Millennium Park Garage has occupancy for 2,186 cars. Rates for the garage are: for 12 hours and for 24 hours.
Michigan Avenue buses stop in front of the Park. But for detailed information from your hotel go to:(Chicago Transit Authority website) wwww.transitchicago.com
Elevated Train: Exits from train line on Wabash Avenue (1 block West of Park) at Adams or Randolph Streets stops.
Metra Train: There is a stop at the Randolph Street Station under Millennium Park. For more info call 312/322-6777 or go to www.metrarail.com
When this restaurant first opened in November 2003, it was never very crowded. But now that Millennium Park is officially open and hopping with action, you will have a problem getting in without reservations. I was impressed to hear that Park Grill had ranked fifth on the Best New Restaurant category in the 2004 Zagat Chicago Restaurant Guide after being open only 6 months.
Inside the restaurant there is seating for 300 on cushy celadon velour-seated chairs or generously cozy leather booths at dark wooden tables. The furnishings set against the creamy golden walls, cinnamon wood trim and pale marble of the floors and fireplace make an elegant, yet unstuffy statement. There are old black and white photos of what the area looked like in the past, including original peristyle that was knocked down, but replicated again in the NW corner of the park.
With the proximity of the Harris Theater and Chicago Symphony this classy eatery will be a popular after-theater destination for a night cap at the bar in the back of the space. The chic setting, the inviting booths and the view of the glittery skyline and in the winter the window-wall overlooking the ice rink will in time make this a popular date spot.
Chef Bernie Laskowski (previously of upscale MK and Bin 36) has set a classic American menu serving up contemporary classics like dark and rich French onion soup, chili-spiced baby-back ribs, and simple penne pasta with juicy stewed tomatoes. His fresh-made olive tapenade and warm, crusty bread start out meals on a French Provençal note, though.
Kids and burger devotees will be in heaven here, but for a hefty price. The thick sirloin patty perfectly cooked, nestled in a toasted sesame and poppy-seed flecked bun and served with a big pile of skin-on fries, is 13 bucks. For dessert, you'll have to decide between warm, creamy banana bread pudding and all-American mini apple pie.
The chilly Tribune Ice Rink was turned into the city’s biggest alfresco warm-weather dining patio for an additional 300 or more diners. It boasts a different, but still spectacular view of the Chicago skyline and an up-close-and-personal view of the silvery bean sculpture "Cloudgate." The atmosphere makes you more feel more relaxed, as outdoor dining will do, and I can say I felt very special surrounded by world-class art and architecture.
Open daily for lunch 11 am-2:30 pm.
Ladies-who-lunch or executives on the go can expect a tab of $10-$15.
Dinner served nightly 5 pm-11 pm.
$20-$30 average without drinks.
The Park Grill offers a banquet space for up to 125 and a private dining room for up to 40 guests.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 25, 2004
11 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60602
Restaurant | "Park Café"
Adjacent to the more formal Park Grill Restaurant is the Park Café that offers the casual option of take-away for those in search of a quick meal or beverage. You can choose from wraps & sandwiches, soups, & a salad bar. Most choices are priced under $6.
Picnic bags are available for those who wish a romantic or casual picnic in the park to listen to music in the new band shell.
Choices of picnic fares vary in price & selections. They range from the lighter "Sandwich Bag" containing Pasta salad with olives, roasted peppers & basil, choice of chips, choice of: smoked turkey Wrap or chicken salad, ham and Swiss, corn beef or tuna salad sandwich, fresh baked cookies, bottled water or soft drink for 13.95 per person. Heartier picnics can be had for 25.95-29.95 per person like "The American"containing BBQ or Fried Chicken & Corn on the Cob or "The Epicurean" filled with a special Heirloom tomato salad, Tandori chicken & couscous.
The Picnic Bag includes napkins, moist towelettes, plastic utensils & salt & pepper. I was told that picnic baskets will come later in the summer. To add a comfy touch to your picnic, there are a limited number of lawn chairs available for rent through the Café.
The Picnic Hotline to reserve your romantic dinner: 312.521.7280.
You can take you selections from the Park Café to eat out throughout the grounds of Millennium Park or sit at a shady table in a special section of the café’s adjacent summer Terrace under pretty yellow or blue umbrellas.
In collaboration with the Chicago radio station WNUA a Summer After-Work Concert Series:THE CHILL is held each Thursday night at 7pm. With your $39 concert ticket, there is a special Prix Fix Menu per person including Champagne.
Chicago planners hope Millennium Park will become an International destination. I was happy to see the thoughtfulness of Park Café’s owners with their way-making sign written in multiple languages. I hope city-planners follow their lead.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 27, 2004
Attraction | "Park Shop"
The Park Shop is loaded with Millennium Park products! You will also find the usual tourist necessities of postcards, maps and guides; gifts, t-shirts and caps, spa products, stationary, and assorted souvenirs. For more discerning tastes, there are books on Chicago art, architecture, and history. Millennium Park architectural star, Frank Gehry has leased some limited-edition fine art and prints only to the Park Shops available for a high-end purchase.
A children's section is nestled in a brightly-lit corner that contains educational items and colorful books. Located directly outside is a designer kiosk with additional interactive souvenier items and toys. These are much more cheaply made, but only slightly less expensive than inside.
The shop is tiny and always seems busy being located in the midst of the food venues as well as a public restroom. But the interior design is neat and clean. The cool celadon walls invite you inside to peruse through the good displayed on the orderly white fixtures. The clerks are pleasant and quite helpful with the merchandise and directions, the displays kept crisp in spite of the high traffic, but the merchandise is, as expected, quite pricey.
At present, the Park Shop has a corner on the market for most Millennium Park related items with very steep price-tags. But I suspect in a few weeks, some of the surrounding retailers will begin to carry similar or identical items and the prices will be more reasonable throughout. But if I were a tourist, I would not go home with out my Millennium Park snow globe to all compliment the growing tacky-travel-kitsch on my shelf.
Store Hours: 9 am to 9pm daily (extended hours during Park events).
222 N. Columbus Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Attraction | "Park European Flower Market"
To the left of the Park Shop under the shade of a crisp white umbrella a profusion of color literally explodes from the front of the European Flower Shop. Reminiscent of a flower vendor on a Paris thoroughfare, the gorgeous displays of fresh-cut bouquets are spread out on to the sidewalk in silvery, oversized anodized tin vases.
Each day I pass Millennium Park, the flower selections on display are more delightful than the previous day’s choices. Roses are the prime selection at this boutique. The hues may vary from day to day, but the quality is always superb. The spicy smells of the raging reds, baby powder pink & citron-scented yellow are a daily staple. Also on display for immediate purchase are giant orange Gerber daisies, miniature long-stemmed sunflowers, riotous violet-blue hydrangeas, regally tall burgundy gladiolas & delicate mauve daylilies. The arrays of blooms are unapologetically stunning & steal some of the attention from the shimmery bean above them
The shop also carries the usual suspects of potted plants as herbs, schefflera, miniature palms, aloes, & ivies in portable attractively-artsy containers. They looked healthy & were perhaps to tempt the gift-needy office workers that eat lunch in the Grill. Hmm…I can’t see these as a romantic gesture, with the receiver toting a potted dieffenbachia around the Park. I also spied a set of nearly 5-foot tall potted purple-leafed cannas & wondered who would be lugging those around. I soon discovered that they were going to be used to decorate the entry to the Mayor’s Fundraising Banquet the next day.
The friendly proprietor will be happy to wrap your purchases in your choice of a simple lime-colored tissue to a more elaborate gift-wrap with a pretty ribbon. The prices are geared to the impulse tourist purchase, as a single long-stemmed rose or tall sunflower will set you back $5.00+tax. In spite of the location-inflated price, I rather enjoy the old-world romance that the market lends to Millennium Park until it has the age to develop its own unique patina.
Store Hours : 9am to 7pm Wednesday through Sunday.
Oak Street Beach
1000 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60611
+1 312 747 0832