Millennium Park is a 24.5 acre wonder that sits in downtown Chicago on land that had been owned by Illinois Central Railroad since the 1850's. When Grant Park, which consists of nearly 320 acres, was being built in 1917, it was built around the land owned by the railroad .
Once the railroad was no longer in use, the land sat vacant. Many thought that the abandoned railroad tracks and empty parking lots greatly detracted from the beauty of the lake and the surrounding areas, so in 1997 plans were begun to construct an outdoor concert area to cover the eyesore. The next year, the idea for Millennium Park was born .
Huge sculptures, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an interactive fountain and a garden are just some of the features of the park. Intended as an oasis that all Chicago residents can enjoy, the park includes a welcome center and every concert at the outdoor pavilion is free .
There is an outdoor ice skating rink that is open each day and, like many of the park's features, there is no charge to skate.
The park's Lurie Garden is a 2.5 acre garden that was designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and named after benefactor Ann Lurie, was honored with a prestigious award in September of 2008. The American Society of Landscape Architects gave Lurie Garden the Award of Excellence in General Design. There were entries from all over the world, but Lurie Gardens got the top award for its design as well as excellence in other areas such as sustainability and environmental sensitivity .
The Crown Fountain is more than just a water feature. Designed by Jaume Plensa, a Spanish artist, the fountain includes a shallow pool with 50-foot glass block towers at each end. Photographs of Chicago citizens are displayed on LCD screen. The photographs, which change every five minutes, represent the diversity that can be found in the citizens of Chicago .
In addition to the outdoor concert space, there is also an indoor venue. The Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance has over 1500 seats and offers ballet, opera and other programs.
Millennium Park hosts many events each year including caroling, garden strolls, family gardening workshops, music programs and many others.
Mayor Richard M. Daly described the park this way:
"Millennium Park honors and builds on several proud Chicago traditions at once - beautiful architecture, landscaped and protected parklands, and the ongoing celebration of the arts.''
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