Grant Park | A Chicago Local’s Guide to Visiting (in 2023)
A trip to Chicago just isn’t complete without a visit to Grant Park. Also known as “Chicago’s front yard,” this 312.98-acre Chicago park is overflowing with some of the Chicago’s top attractions and events.
Planning on visiting the Bean? The Art Institute? Museum campus? Then you’re in luck. These attractions and more are all located within the tree-lined edges of this downtown Chicago greenspace.
As a Chicago local, I can say that the city’s urban-nature balance is something that truly sets Chicago apart, and Grant Park is one of the best examples of this. In this guide, I’ll walk you through why the park is super family-friendly, has something for everyone to enjoy, and should totally be on your Chicago itinerary.
Table of Contents
- About Grant Park
- Things to Do in Grant Park
- Getting To & Around Grant Park
- Grant Park Hours & Details
- Tips for Visiting Grant Park
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About Grant Park
Grant Park’s history dates back to around 1836 when urban development was rapidly growing and the city map was being drawn.
The lakefront views in this area were (and still are!) priceless, and so the canal commissioners promised that the space would remain “forever open.” By 1844, this wide, open greenspace became known as Lake Park.
In 1879, the Art Institute was built and, by the early 1900s, Museum Campus had sprung up as well. Today, Grant Park is filled with countless attractions and is part of the Chicago Park District. It offers visitors and locals alike a welcome nature escape in the midst of the downtown scene.
It’s bordered by Randolph St to the north, Michigan Ave to the west, McFetridge Dr to the south, and of course, Lake Michigan to the east. And, although Chicago’s Lincoln Park is technically the largest park in the city, Grant Park offers an unrivaled space for cultural attractions, public art, and recreation galore.
Things to Do in Grant Park
Located in the Northwestern corner, this area is home to some of Grant Park’s most notable attractions
Millennium Park, the northwestern corner of Grant Park, is probably its most well-known area. Why? Because Millennium Park features all of the following attractions:
- ☁️ Cloud Gate – Also known as “The Bean”, this is one of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks. It was designed by artist Anish Kapoor and is meant to reflect the city’s skyline.
- ⛲ Crown Fountain – An interactive modern art display with water features. A great place for families and picnicking.
- 🌷 Lurie Garden – An urban garden oasis in the middle of Chicago, providing beautiful views and a haven for plants and wildlife.
- 🎵 Jay Pritzker Pavilion – A huge cultural and musical performance venue where some of Grant Park’s biggest events take place.
- 🏛️ Millennium Monument & Wrigley Square – This limestone column monument was built as a tribute to the people, foundations, and donors that made Millennium Park possible.
- 🎭 Harris Theater – A performing arts theater for music and dance.
- 🎨 Boeing Galleries – An outdoor gallery of modern and contemporary art exhibitions and structures.
The Art Institute
One of the world’s best art museums home to iconic pieces
The Art Institute is not only one of Chicago’s premier art museums, but one of the world’s best. Located on the western edge of Grant Park along N Michigan Ave, this impressive art museum features American art as well as an extensive collection of work from around the world and throughout history.
Some of the famous works here include American Gothic by Grant Wood, The Bedroom by Vincent Van Gogh, and The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso. General admission is $25 for adults.
Maggie Daley Park
A premier location in Grant Park for outdoor recreation
Maggie Daley Park is a fantastic spot for all things recreation. Some of the activities and amenities here include the following and more:
- 🎾 Tennis courts – First-come, first-serve tennis courts available to the public.
- ⛸️ Ice skating ribbon – A seasonal outdoor ice rink with a scenic, Chicago backdrop.
- 🧗♀️ Climbing wall – A climbing park for beginners and experienced climbers.
- 🏌️♂️ Mini golf – A family-friendly mini golf course featuring Chicago landmarks.
- 🤸 Play garden – An imaginative playground for children ages 12 and under.
- 🧺 Picnic Groves – Two wood-tabled picnic areas are located on the eastern side of Maggie Daley Park.
- 🎗️ Cancer Survivors’ Garden – A beautiful, open pavilion with landscaped gardens and views of the lake.
- 🏠 Fieldhouse – A venue for events, day camps, and other activities.
- 🥪 Rink Cafe – A cafe serving up basics like hotdogs, hamburgers, and other treats.
The southeastern side of Grant Park that’s home to great museums
Grant Park’s southeastern end is home to some of the best museums in Chicago, including:
- 🦕 The Field Museum – One of the largest natural history museums in the world.
- 🌠 Adler Planetarium – An interactive museum for astronomy and astrophysics.
- 🦈 Shedd Aquarium – Chicago’s premier aquarium that features aquatic life from around the world, as well as the Great Lakes.
- 🌳 Northerly Island Park – A peninsula that juts out from Museum Campus and is home to an urban nature sanctuary.
Buckingham Fountain and Surrounding Areas
One of the largest fountains in the world, this area is great for families to enjoy
Located on the eastern edge of Grant Park, this area has some cool spots to explore including:
- ⛲ Buckingham Fountain – One of the largest fountains in the world. It features water, light, and music displays.
- 🌹 Grant Park Rose Garden – A lush garden filled with a variety of roses.
- 🌳 Butler Field – An open greenspace used for recreation and concerts.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
This scenic trail runs along Chicago’s waterfront for over 2 miles
Take a walk along Lake Michigan at Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, which runs right along the eastern edge of Grant Park for over 2 miles.
In fact, 2 of 18 total miles of Lake Michigan coastline sit next to Grant Park. You can reach the trail from a variety of points in the park, but I recommend visiting Buckingham Fountain and walking over to the trail from there.
If you’re interested in racing and boating, the edge of Grant Park is home to Chicago’s premier yacht club.
South Garden Area
Located in Grant Park’s Southwest corner, this area is notable for its baseball and skateboarding
Millennium Park may get all the credit for being one of the best parts of Grant Park, but the southwest corner of the park has some spots worth checking out, too. In particular, the Skate Park features 1.86 acres of open recreational space for skateboarding, biking, and rollerblading.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson Field is a southeastern lawn home to a well-kept field, great for playing baseball.
Festivals & Events
Grant Park is home to some of Chicago’s most notable events
Grant Park hosts a number of events throughout the year, especially in the summertime. Some notable Chicago festivals and events include:
- 🎸 Lollapalooza – An annual summer music festival that takes over Grant Park’s southern end. This festival brings big names as well as up-and-coming artists. Performers like Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billie Eilish, and so many others have all played here.
- 🎹 Chicago Blues Festival – The largest blues festival in the world takes place here every summer, right in Millennium Park, with free admission.
- 🎷 Chicago Jazz Festival – A fantastic jazz festival that’s become a Chicago labor day weekend tradition. It takes place in Millennium Park and admission is free.
- 🎶 Millennium Park Summer Music Series – A free, weekly summer music series that takes place at Jay Pritzker Pavilion. A diverse lineup of artists from a variety of music genres perform for this.
- 🎼 Grant Park Music Festival – A free Grant Park tradition. This summer music series takes place at Jay Pritzker Pavilion and is known for its classical music performances by world-class orchestras and choirs.
- 🌭 Taste of Chicago – A fun (and delicious!) annual summer festival that takes place near Buckingham Fountain. Visitors can expect food vendors from all over the city, a beer hall, and crowd-pleasing musical performances. Admission is free.
- 🎥 Summer Film Series – Movies are presented on a huge screen at Jay Pritzker Pavilion and play from mid-summer through early fall. Admission is free.
For a casual afternoon in Chicago, grab some light food and head to Grant Park
Whether you pack your own food or pick up a meal from a nearby restaurant or food truck, Grant Park has tons of great spots for light picnicking.
For a casual picnic near attractions or scenery, I recommend finding a spot in Millennium Park. Some great choices include Crown Fountain, Millennium Monument, Picnic Groves in Maggie Daley Park, and the Lakefront Trail.
For a more classic setup, head to the Great Lawn beneath Jay Pritzker Pavilion or any other open greenspace throughout the park.
Getting To & Around Grant Park
Depending on where you’re staying in Chicago, you may need to take the “L” train to get to Grant Park. Luckily, the park is located in the Loop, which makes it easily accessible.
The train has a number of stops just a couple of blocks from the park, including State/Lake, Washington/Wabash, Adams/Wabash, and Harold Washington Library.
If you’re staying in or close to the Loop in Chicago neighborhoods like River North, Streeterville, or South Loop, then walking to the park is easy. Ubers are also an easy way to get downtown to this area. If you plan on driving in Chicago, know that there are several parking garages located beneath the park.
Once you’re in Grant Park, walking is the best way to get around. Even with the park’s size, you can still get from one end of the park to the other in around 30 minutes.
If you want to spice things up, you can segway or bike around the park. For more on bike rentals in the city, check out our guide for how to get around Chicago.
If you plan on renting a car on your trip to Chicago, then the best way to do it is with Discover Cars. One of our most trusted travel resources, the service is great for comparing rental rates and securing your booking.
Grant Park Hours & Details
🎟️ Entrance – Free
🕛 Hours – 6 am – 11 pm daily
🚗 Parking – There are underground parking garages located beneath the Park, by Michigan Avenue.
🚶 Tours – The best way to visit Grant Park is to explore on foot, but there are some guided tours that include stops in the neighborhood:
- Chicago’s Ultimate City Bike Tour
- Big Bus Chicago Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Chicago Favorites Ultimate Food & Walking Tour
🖥️ Website – Grant Park Website
📱 Phone – (312) 742-3918
🗺️ Map It – 331 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
Tips for Visiting Grant Park
Tip #1 – Wear Good Walking Shoes
Wearing good walking shoes in Chicago is a must, especially if you’re planning on exploring an area as wide and open as Grant Park.
Tip #2 – Go Hands-Free
With all of the things to see and do in Grant Park, it’s a good idea to be hands-free. If you’re traveling as a family and want a little extra storage space, I recommend bringing a day pack. If you just want to carry the essentials, belt bags are the way to go.
Tip #3 – Bring a Water Bottle
If you’re walking around the park when the weather’s warm, stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle with you.
Tip #4 – Wear Sunscreen
Chicago summers are no joke and the sun can get pretty intense. I highly recommend wearing some sunscreen for a day out in Grant Park.
📚 Related Reading: Check out our Chicago packing list for more on what to bring.
That’s a wrap on Grant Park. With so many fun things to do in Millennium Park and other areas, it’s one of the best places to visit in Chicago.
Have fun in Grant Park, Chicago!
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