My favorite Chicago attraction is Grant Park. No matter what the season is, there are always fun and interesting things to see or do. The park also provides a good opportunity to mingle not only with fellow tourists but locals as well.
In the summer, there are several festivals or concerts happening at any given time. The season opens with the Grant Park Music Festival, and lasts for three months. During this time, every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, a different artist or group performs at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion. The performers range from symphony orchestras, to acoustic musicians, to electronica DJs.
While the shows take place at night, most performers hold open rehearsals at noon. This enables workers from nearby buildings and offices to enjoy their lunch surrounded by good music, under a beautiful summer sky. Tourists, who may have other engagements in the evening, will also have the opportunity to see and hear the day’s artists even though it’s just a rehearsal.
For art lovers, the park has exhibits all year round. The last major exhibit was Jun Kaneko’s signature Dangos, which means rounded form or “dumplings” in Japanese. The exhibit ran for seven months, and allowed viewers to examine their environment and focus on a sense of scale and place. Previous exhibits have included Yvonne Domenge’s large-scale sculptures which were on display for most of 2012.
For those looking for a respite from city’s hustle and bustle, one can duck into the Lurie Gardens. Guided tours are available every day, and the garden’s offerings vary depending on the season. This five acre garden pays homage to the City’s motto, “Urbs in Horto”, or City in a Garden, which refers to the city’s transformation from a flat and marshy swamp to one of the biggest and most powerful cities in the country. The Lurie Garden is surrounded by 15 foot hedges that give the illusion of being in a secluded garden somewhere remote instead of downtown Chicago. There is a small stream that runs around inside the garden and adds extra tranquility to the space.
Also in the summer, the super music festival Lollapalooza is hosted on Grant Park grounds. This three day music extravaganza offers locals and tourists alike a chance to see over a hundred performers in a span of a weekend. For those who would rather cut a rug, the Spirit of Music Garden in the southern portion of the park offers a summer long dance festival. Every Wednesday night at 6, the event starts with the host dance instructors showing and teaching the guests the dance for that night. After an hour of teach and lead, the dance party starts and attendees get to show off the moves they’ve just learned.
Within weeks of Lollapalooza, the park also hosts the world-famous Taste of Chicago. This two week event is attended by up to a million people every year, and offers guests the chance to sample Chicago’s very diverse and multi-cultural culinary offerings. One can get anything from deep dish pizza, turkey legs, cheesecake, hotdogs, to soul food, all within one square mile. During this time, there are several musical performances scattered around the park as well.
However, it is not only during the summer that one gets to enjoy the beauty of the park. Come winter, an ice rink is opened on the grounds of Millennium Park. Access to it is free to the public, you only pay for skate rentals if you don’t bring your own. The park’s trees are strung with Christmas lights, there are vendors selling mulled wine, hot chocolate, and spiced nuts; and the park is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland.
No matter what season you come, no matter what activities or interests you may have, Chicago’s Grant Park will always have something for you, and the best part is, most of the events are free. It’s Chicago’s way of welcoming guests to her beautiful front yard.