10 Annual Events To Help You Experience Millennium Park All Year Long
Looking to make a trip to the Windy City? Don't feel obligated to go during a specific season, because Millennium Park has great events all year long!
If you are looking to spend some time in Chicago, you are definitely going to want to look into Millennium Park. Once an industrial wasteland owned by the Illinois Central Railroad, the park has now moved on to become an award-winning, world-class public space. Millennium Park is now a 24.5-acre park, paired with an outdoor music venue and multiple art installations. The park is now home to incredible exhibits of art, architecture, culture and design.
All year, Millennium Park offers visitors the opportunity to engage with the Chicago culture and truly be a part of hundreds of events year-round. This list picks out 10 key events, for everyone, in every part of the year. If you aren't sure what Millennium Park has to offer you, check out this list for a few ideas!
Millennium Park Art Exhibits
The first event on this list is the well-known Millennium Park Art Exhibits. These exhibits and installations are up all year long, but some of the installations change from year to year. In 2015, Millennium Park welcomed an installation by artist Jaume Plensa called "1004 Portraits" which showed through December 2015. These installations are a part of the Boeing Galleries, two outdoor galleries with benches designed as public exhibitions or sculptures and art. More permanently, Millennium Park hosts two installations: Cloud Gate and Crowd Fountain. Cloud Gate (also known as "The Bean") is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture, which looks similar to a bean. In it, you can see Chicago's skyline reflected, and under it, you can see reflections of yourself in all kinds of perspectives. Cloud Gate imitates the look of liquid mercury and is one of the largest sculptures of its kind in the world, coming in at 66-feet-long by 33-feet-high. Crowd Fountain is another installation by Jaume Plensa, and uses 2 large glass towers and projected images of Chicago citizens to complete its look. The towers spill water from the mouths of the images, creating a shallow pool of water on the ground between the two structures. While the images are on year-round, the water only runs between mid-spring and mid-fall, so don't miss your chance to take in the whole experience!
Millennium Park Concerts
The Millennium Park Concerts are a staple of summer in Chicago. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park—the first of its kind in the country—surrounds the stage with large curves for perfect amplification of sound, and has a stainless steel trellis that reaches over the entire pavilion. The 95,000 square foot lawn area houses 4,000 seats and a large lawn area for additional seating. From June-August, the pavilion hosts the Grant Park Music Festival, which pushes for classical music concerts, free to the public, to help bring classical arts back to the city. With concerts almost every day, the entire summer is filled with musical fun for everyone! Aside from the classical music, other bands come through the Pavilion, all free of cost to concert goers. If you plan on visiting the Windy City in the summer, make sure to block out an evening for the free musical entertainment that Millennium Park offers!
Summer Film Series
From the top of the summer to the end of the season, Millennium Park also offers outdoor movies at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion! The park uses a 40-foot, state-of-the-art LED screen to play dozens of movies for all Chicagoans and visitors to enjoy. This season the film series included showings of Back to the Future, Apollo 13, Big Night, Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Almost Famous, Drumline, The Aviator, Dirty Dancing, Mahogany, and The Breakfast Club. As you can see, the film series spanned all ratings, time periods and genres to give all types of moviegoers the perfect summer movie experience. All movies shown are free to the public, and seating is first-come, first-served. Summertime in Millennium Park is filled with opportunities to enjoy the arts without having to pay anything, part of the Millennium Park push to make the arts accessible to everyone without limits!
Make Music Chicago
Planning on being in Chicago on June 21? Come enjoy the worldwide celebration of music in Millennium Park! Make Music Chicago is just one of hundreds of celebrations on June 21 to celebrate music around the world. Originating in France in 1982, Make Music is now held by 700 cities in 120 countries on the exact same day. Make Music isn't just for the professionals either. Make Music boasts about its inclusiveness! All musicians—amateurs, young players, professionals, old players, jazz players, country stars—are welcome to Make Music Chicago! All of the performers come out to the streets, parks and more to play music. The event encourages everyone to see the importance of music, and share talent with the rest of the world. No musician is discouraged, and non-musicians are encouraged to come out and enjoy the show!
Broadway In Chicago
Broadway in Chicago is a was started in 2000, and runs productions of traditional Broadway blockbusters to be more accessible to the Midwest. This push for theater is another part of the Chicago push for supporting the arts, and Broadway in Chicago does not disappoint. Every year, Broadway in Chicago runs a one-night, completely free, show in Chicago. In 2015, Broadway in Chicago hosted its annual run at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on August 17. The show featured performances from Gotta Dance, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dirty Dancing, The Lion King, and more! This gathering highlights the best of Broadway shows, without the long travel to the Big Apple. The event is completely free, very accessible and held in the Pavilion to house thousands of people.
Fifth Star Awards
The Fifth Star Awards are another great way to enjoy live performances in the summer months. The awards honor Chicago artists and art institutions who have made, or are currently making, significant contributions to the arts and culture of the city. The awards are a time of celebration for all of the art, culture, and creativity that has graced the Chicago skyline over the past year. The event features video tributes along with live performances to give the audience an idea of how much has been happening right in the neighborhood. This is a great way for visitors to get a look at the up-and-coming Chicago artists, and to enjoy another night on the pavilion lawn enjoying arts and culture. The 2015 awards were held in mid-September, and as usual, the event is completely free to both native Chicagoans and traveling visitors!
The Halloween Gathering
If you're planning your trip to Chicago in October and you're a Halloween fanatic, the Halloween Gathering is just what you need to round out your trip to the Windy City! If you love Halloween and are looking for something more than trick-or-treating, the Halloween Gathering will be perfect for you and your family. The Halloween Gathering takes place on the Chicago Cultural Mile, so you'll be sure to hit Millennium Park on your way over. In just one day, the event hosts more than 60 parades, 25 performances and 22 workshops. The entire event is completely free, with interactive events at every stage of the Halloween Gathering. More than 200,000 people are able to take part of the event during the day, The 2016 event will take place on Saturday, October 22, 2016. This celebration of the Halloween spirit and culture will be a special treat for people of all ages, and kids are definitely welcome to participate in the early Halloween fun!
Jingle Around The Loop
If you're planning on a winter trip to Chicago, make sure to be a part of the Jingle Around the Loop at Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center. You and the family can enjoy ice skating, Christmas Caroling, visits with Santa Claus and an annual tree lighting ceremony after Thanksgiving. All of the events go on for more than a day, so no worries about making it during a certain week. All season long, you can enjoy all of the free holiday fun that Chicago and Millennium Park have to offer. There are candlelight tours, train rides, special festivities and plenty of decorations to enjoy in Millennium Park! Millennium Park spares no expense with the fun, and it's sure to be something that the entire family can enjoy. If you're going alone, no worries! Enjoy all of the local restaurants, bars and museums and maybe take up some skating lessons on your way!
Ice Skating Lessons
Speaking of ice skating, Millennium Park has an entire outdoor skating rink open all day and evening to the public! If ice skating isn't for you, feel free to take in all of the skaters, amateurs and professionals alike, as they dance on the ice. However, if you are looking to skate, the rink is open to the public and completely free to enjoy. If you're not so sure about your skating abilities, but want to take part in the fun, there are free skating lessons offered all season long, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, one hour before the rink opens. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park opens mid-November and stays open through the beginning of March, weather permitting. Skate Rental is just $12, and you can stay as long as you would like! Lessons and special programming are also offered each day of Chicago Public School Winter Break one hour before the rink opens, except for Christmas Day!
Tree Lighting Ceremony
For over a century, Chicago has hosted a tree lighting ceremony to welcome in the holiday season. This year, Millennium Park has been chosen as the new home of the Christmas trees because of it's worldwide recognition of cultural excellence. The tree is picked from annual submissions from tree-growers around Illinois, and the winning family is invited to the tree lighting ceremony to enjoy the festivities with the mayor! The evening is filled with skating, caroling, parades and of course, tree lighting!
No matter what type of person you are, or what season you're visiting in, Millennium Park clearly has a lot to offer! If you're in the Windy City and looking for a day of culture and fun, make sure to stop by Millennium Park to enjoy all of the arts, architecture, design and fun you could imagine! Be sure to check out the events on this list, but also know that there is even more out there for you than we have space for here! From art exhibits to athletic events to family fun, Millennium Park has it all! This industrious area turned park is sure to keep you coming back again and again!
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