Proudly referred to as Chicago's "front yard," Grant Park is a public park, 319 acres located in Chicago’s central business district in the Loop Community area. Grant Park’s most notable features include Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum Campus. Named for United States President and Civil War General, Ulysses S. Grant, Grant Park was developed as one of Chicago's first parks and expanded through land reclamation. The park was the focus of several disputes in the late 1800s and early 1900s over open space use. It is bordered on the north by Randolph Street, on the south by Roosevelt Road, on the west by Michigan Avenue and on the east by Lake Michigan. The park contains performance venues, gardens, art work, sporting, and harbor facilities. It hosts public gatherings, and several large annual events.
A city centerpiece much like New York’s Central Park, the site of three world-class museums -- the Art Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium-- the park includes the museum campus, a 1995 transformation of paved areas into beautiful contiguous greenspace. Grant Park's centerpiece is the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, built in 1927 to provide a monumental focal point while protecting the park's breathtaking lakefront views. The park also contains baseball diamonds, tennis courts and plays host some the city's largest food and music festivals.
The park has been the site of many large civic events. In 1911, it hosted the major Chicago International Aviation Meet. It was the scene of clashes between Chicago Police and demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Pope John Paul II celebrated an outdoor mass to a large crowd here in 1979. Championship celebrations for the Chicago Bulls were staged here during the 1990s. The park was the location for President Barack Obama's Election Day victory speech on the night of November 4, 2008.
Annually, the park hosts some of Chicago's biggest festivals and spectator events including The Taste of Chicago—a large food and music festival held around the Independence Day holiday; The Grant Park Music Festival; and the park is also the site of the start and finish lines of the Chicago Marathon. Since 2005, Lollapalooza, a popular series of rock concerts has taken place in the park.
Grant Park offers many different attractions in its large open space. The park is generally flat. It is also crossed by large boulevards and even a bed of sunken railroad tracks. While bridges are used to span the tracks, and also used to connect with Millennium Park, the rest of the park must be reached by pedestrians at traffic crossings, except for a spacious underpass connection to the Museum Campus. There are also several parking garages underneath the park, near Michigan Avenue.
Features and layout of Grant Park
The northwestern corner of the park was renovated between 1998 and 2004 to become Millennium Park, a contiguous area with a variety of artistic features by architects and artists. Millennium Park has free admission, and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden and other attractions. The park is connected by the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park.
Daley Bicentennial Plaza
Across the BP Pedestrian Bridge from Millennium Park, the northeast corner of Grant Park hosts outdoor activities at Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Attractions here include a garden, a winter ice skating rink, tennis courts, chess tables, and a fieldhouse, complete with a fitness center. The far north end of Grant Park the site of the Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza is set to be completely restructured beginning in 2012. The new park design will replace the concrete-heavy design with a more pastoral park featuring winding paths connecting wide lawns and hills with active areas. Among the new park’s features will be a skate park and scooter plaza, an undulating ribbon-like ice skating loop with a climbing wall at its center, and a large “play garden” for children. The goal, is to open the new park in summer 2015.
Art Institute of Chicago
Built in 1893, on the western edge of Grant Park is the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the premier art museums and art schools in the United States, known especially for the extensive collection of Impressionist and American art, such as A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and Grant Wood's American Gothic.
The center piece of Grant Park is Buckingham Fountain, one of the world's largest fountains. The fountain, in a rococo wedding cake style, was dedicated in 1927 as a gift to the city from Kate Sturges Buckingham in memory of her brother Clarence. The fountain operates from April to October with water displays every 20 minutes and a light and water display from 9:00pm to 10:00pm.
Chicago's Museum Campus is a 57 acre addition to Grant Park's southeastern end. The Museum Campus is the site of three of the city's most notable museums, all dedicated to the natural sciences: Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium. A narrow isthmus along Solidarity Drive dominated by Neoclassical sculptures of Kosciuszko, Havlicek and Copernicus connects to Northerly Island where the planetarium is located to the rest of the Museum Campus situated on the mainland.
Petrillo Music Shell
The Petrillo Music Shell hosts music performances during the Chicago Jazz Festival, Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza. Located at 235 S. Columbus Drive, the music shell's area encompasses the entire block bounded by Lake Shore Drive to the east, Columbus Drive to the west, East Monroe Street to the north and East Jackson Street to the South. The structure was relocated to this site in 1978 from the south end of the park. The amphitheater and paved surface for public seating is in the southwest corner.
Located in the center, on the west side of the park, is Congress Plaza. The two semicircular plazas, created by East Congress Plaza Drive, and bisected by East Congress Parkway, contain gardens, fountains, and artwork, including the large bronze warrior statues, The Bowman and the Spearman that are positioned like gatekeepers to the park.
Much of the southern end of Grant Park is given over to Hutchinson Field, an open space for large events, with a dozen baseball or softball diamonds. Chicago Lakefront Trail The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile multi-use path along the coast of Lake Michigan. It is popular with cyclists and joggers. From north to south, it runs through Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park.
Marinas and Harbors
There are two pleasure and leisure boat marinas on Lake Michigan, which are accessed from Grant Park. Monroe Harbor provides 1000 mooring cans, tender service, and facilities in the expansive harbor east of the park. It is the home of the Chicago Yacht Club and the Columbia Yacht Club. DuSable Harbor (formerly, Chicago Harbor) northeast of the park, offers 420 boat docks and a harbor store. Both Harbors may be accessed off Lake Shore Drive near Monroe Street.