Now that I am back from several weeks of plane travel, hotel rooms, and irregular internet access, time to finish up my Intro-to-Chicago post! In Part 1, we covered Michigan Avenue (and its environs) north of the Chicago River; here in Part 2, we’ll focus on the myriad parks and museums that line Michigan Avenue south of the river.

Let’s start back at the corner of Michigan and Wacker, where we started last time. About three blocks south, you’ll come across the Millennium Monument, a semi-circle of Doric columns marking the northwest corner of Millennium Park.

columns and fountain at NW corner of Millennium ParkIts Grecian style lies in sharp contrast to the much more contemporary artwork throughout the rest of the park. Take, for example, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor bandshell that is home to the Grant Park Music Festival and its (free) outdoor concert series every summer. I’ve certainly idled away many a night beneath the Pavilion’s stainless steel arches enjoying the live music and convivial atmosphere.


The more famous Cloud Gate, meanwhile, is a bean-shaped sculpture whose stainless steel surface reflects the Chicago skyline…or if you stand underneath it, distorted image(s) of yourself.

the Bean - city view

the Bean as seen from underneath

And finally, there’s Crown Fountain, made of two towers from which water cascades or occasionally even “spits” out. The towers’ inward-facing walls are large LED screens that  display an ever-changing array of images, so you never know who — or what, if anything — will greet you when you visit.

Regardless of the image displayed, the fountain offers a cool respite from Chicago’s hot summers and a safe, public space for children to frolic. Those of us who may be a bit older — but who still want to prance around outdoors — might be a better fit at Chicago SummerDance, a free event at the southwest corner of Grant Park on summer nights.

When you’ve had your fill of outdoor fun, head indoors to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest museums in the nation and home to many classics I had learned about as far back as grade school. Amongst its most notable pieces are Georges-Pierre Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Vincent van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, and many of Claude Monet’s Haystacks and Water Lilies. The only drawback? Admission is a bit steep – $18 for adults and $12 for students and seniors – and there’s a list of things you can and cannot bring into the museum (more details on its website).

If you prefer the performing arts to fine arts, you might want to stop by for a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra across the street or head next door (to the CSO) for a recital at Pianoforte Chicago, a piano store showcasing Fazioli pianos and frequent (packed, standing-room only) performances.

Other indoor alternatives include the nearby Field MuseumAdler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium. To get to this Museum Campus, just head towards the southeast corner of Grant Park, about a mile and a half from our starting point at the river.