With more than 300-acres of beautifully manicured green space, Grant Park is an inviting retreat nestled between the bustle of the city and the blue expanse of Lake Michigan-which is exactly why it's often referred to as "Chicago's front yard." Not only is Grant Park home to Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, it's studded with inspiring pieces of public artwork and sculptures. Wander the park to see all of these iconic pieces.
On the southwest side of Grant Park is Agora, one of Chicago's most recognizable and recent installations. Made up of 106 9-foot tall headless torsos made from cast iron, the sculpture is inspired by a Greek plaza but relates to bustling, high-paced Michigan Avenue. The figures are stationary but are posed in countless directions, symbolizing the idea of going everywhere and nowhere at once.
Cloud Gate (2006)
Often referred to as "The Bean," Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate is shaped like a seamless curved oval and is made from highly polished stainless steel plates, providing a distorted reflection of the city skyline and gawking visitors. The 12-foot-high arch at the structures base provides a "gate" for park visitors to walk under.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion (2004)
Frank Gehry's one-of-a-kind, Deconstructivism styled performance stage is breathtaking. With its signature arched cage work and distinctive ornamentation, a New York Times reporter once described it as a "celestial gateway to another universe." The Jay Pritzker Pavilion delivers the ultimate outdoor event experience, so be sure to pack a picnic and catch annual celebrations here, such as the Grant Park Music Festival and the Millennium Park Summer Film Series, among many others.
Crown Fountain (2004)
Containing two 50-foot towers that project diverse facial images of Chicago citizens, the Crown Fountain is one of Chicago's most recognizable displays of public art. During summer days, visitors can cool off by wading in the structure's reflecting pool. Or, if they're daring enough, by taking a stroll under the fountain's cascading waterfall, which appears to come out of the faces' mouths.
Christopher Columbus Monument (1933)
Chicago celebrated its 100th birthday with the Century of Progress World's Fair in 1933. In cooperation with the event, Chicago's Italian-American community presented a towering bronze statue of explorer Christopher Columbus on the southern end of Grant Park.
The Bowman and The Spearman (1928)
Commemorating Native Americans and the tremendous challenges faced during the settlement of the United States, this dramatic duo of bronze sculptures in Congress Plaza Gardens depicts two muscular Native Americans on horseback, their bodies caught in action as one hurls a spear and the other releases an arrow from his bow-only, there's a catch: the weapons aren't shown. The bodies in movement and the intense gestures prompt viewers to fill in the blanks with their minds, as they imagine the spear vaulting forward and arrows whistling through the blue sky.
Buckingham Fountain (1927)
Built to honor a former trustee at the Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain contains four identical pairs of 20-foot bronze sea horses, symbolizing the four states bordering Lake Michigan. From April through mid-October, the fountain performs a dazzling water show for 20 minutes every hour, from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Beginning at dusk, the water show also includes a light and music show.
Seated Lincoln (1926)
Abraham Lincoln was nominated to represent the Republican Party on the shores of the Chicago River, so it's only natural that the city honors our 16th President with a larger-than-life sculpture in Grant Park. Abraham Lincoln sits in a chair atop a granite pedestal symbolizing his being Head of State. The statue was the last public monument designed by Augustus Saint Gaudens. The artist did not live long enough to see the piece realized.
The Spirit of Music (1923)
To commemorate Theodore Thomas, the first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is a bronze statue of the "Lady of Music." The statue personifies harmony and composition with a figure that is feminine and dignified, assertive and bold. The statue is accompanied by a gorgeous seasonal flower garden.
Fountain of the Great Lakes (1913)
An allegorical piece representing the five Great Lakes, this magnificent fountain in the South Garden of the Art Institute of Chicago consists of five bronze sculptures of women bathing with oversized seashells. The water flows through them in the order water flows through the lakes on its way to the ocean: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario.
General John Logan Memorial (1897)
Logan was an Illinois based Civil War General and served as a State Senator from 1871-77. Famed sculptor August Saint-Gaudens built enormous animal sculptures for the Columbian Exposition and gifted this statue to Chicago in 1897.
Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago (1893)
You don't have to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see lions. In fact, you don't even have to leave Michigan Avenue. Constructed by Edward Kemeys, these two massive bronze lions have been standing guard at the entrance to The Art Institute of Chicago since its inaugural year. While realistically designed, the green patina lends an artist flair and a distinctive appearance. During holidays and city events, the big cats are often decorated for the occasion.