Grant Park is much more than a park. It’s a gathering place for the city’s biggest events, a green oasis in the heart of downtown, and a cultural hub that holds some of Chicago’s most famous landmarks.
Here’s everything you can’t miss in Chicago’s Grant Park.
See Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain is the centerpiece of Grant Park, and it doesn’t disappoint. For starters, it was modeled after one of the extravagant fountains at Versailles — it just happens to be twice the size, making it one of the largest fountains in the world. The fountain’s waters flow from May through October, including a dazzling light and water display each hour complete with music and a center jet that shoots up 150 feet in the air. Get the scoop on Buckingham Fountain.
Visit Millennium Park
Millennium Park, a popular park within Grant Park, is a modern take on the traditional town square. Locals and visitors alike gather here to walk through the gardens, have a picnic in the grass, catch outdoor concerts and movies, admire the public art, and so much more.
Your first stop has to be Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean,” one of the city’s most iconic (and photogenic) sights. Next, splash about at the interactive Crown Fountain, hear live music and watch movies at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and surround yourself with nature at the beautiful Lurie Garden.
Play in Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park is the playground of your kids’ dreams. It’s located right next to Millennium Park within Grant Park’s campus. The sprawling lakefront space is jam-packed with whimsical play spaces inspired by classic children’s books, like an enchanted forest or a full-size ship. There’s the popular Skating Ribbon for summer scootering and winter ice skating, plus rock climbing, mini golf, tennis, and more. Explore more at Maggie Daley Park.
Explore the Art Institute of Chicago
One of the largest and oldest art museums in the country, the Art Institute of Chicago is a must-see during any visit to Grant Park. The sprawling museum houses some of the world’s most famous paintings, plus the largest collection of Impressionist art outside of the Louvre. Don’t miss the stunning Modern Wing, home to contemporary masterpieces from Warhol, Picasso, Dalí, and more. Learn more about the Art Institute of Chicago.
Visit Museum Campus
The southern section of Grant Park contains some of Chicago’s largest museums — plus stunning views of the lakefront and skyline.
First stop, Field Museum, with its incredible natural history collection, including Máximo the Titanosaur (the largest creature ever to roam the Earth) and SUE, the world’s most complete T. rex.
Next, stop by the Shedd Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world, to hang with belugas, sharks, stingrays, sea otters, penguins, dolphins, and aquatic creatures from around the globe.
Last but not least, Adler Planetarium is the oldest planetarium in America. Experience America’s first steps on the moon, build your own telescopes, and peer into the depths of space (think trillions of miles) at the Adler’s observatory.
Check out the festivals
Chicago is a festival city, and Grant Park is home to some of the year’s biggest and best fests. There’s Taste of Chicago in July, Chicago SummerDance June through August, and famous music fest Lollapalooza in August. Check out more Chicago festivals.
Take the Lakefront Trail
Chicago’s Lakefront Trail stretches 18 miles from one end of the city to the other, framed by Lake Michigan on one side and the city skyline on the other. Sounds pretty breathtaking, right?
A 1.5-mile stretch of the trail borders the eastern edge of Grant Park, making it easy to hop on and off at multiple points. Rent a bike and ride from one end of the park to the other, passing landmarks like Buckingham Fountain and the Museum Campus on the way.
Discover public art
Grant Park is like one enormous outdoor art gallery. Check out The Bowman & The Spearman, the park’s gatekeepers, and the dramatic gathering of headless and armless torsos that make up Agora. There’s also the Fountain of the Great Lakes, a popular spot to sit in the tree-shaded South Garden of the Art Institute of Chicago, and lots of other public artworks scattered throughout the park.
Get motivated for a morning workout with some spectacular skyline views. Try a free outdoor class from June through September, featuring yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and tai chi on the Great Lawn at Millennium Park. Or show off your best tricks at the Grant Park Skate Park (you can bring your scooter, rollerblades, and BMX bike, too).
The park also serves as the start and finish line of the Chicago Marathon, one of the major world marathons, which takes place in Chicago each October.
For a family-friendly workout, take your pick from any of the fun things to do at Maggie Daley Park: rock climbing, tennis, rollerblading in the summer, and ice skating in the winter.
Oh, and don’t forget about the Lakefront Trail, where you can bike, walk, or run along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.