The Bean and Chicago’s Millennium Park

The Bean at Millennium Park

Chicago’s enormous public downtown park on Lake Michigan is technically a collection of public parks. The newest one is Millennium Park which opened in the early 2000’s in order to cover up a sunken Metra train station.

Millennium Park features various modern tourist magnets, the most famous of which is colloquially known as “The Bean.” Technically it’s called “Cloud Gate,” but locals don’t call it that because, well, it looks like a big shiny bean. Let’s be honest here; the locals are right.

Many tourist guide books will point out that “The Bean” reflects the Chicago skyline. That’s true from a certain angle — but if you approach on foot you’ll quickly see that it’s like a big warped fun house mirror which reflects anything, including one’s own reflection.

If you want you can even walk directly under The Bean, and you’ll be in good company. This big weird sculpture is a popular selfie spot for the tourist crowd, intentional or not.

It’s a fun and free place to snap a photo and if we’re being honest it looks nothing like a cloud at all from any angle. Walking around the nearby just north of The Loop I happened to find the “real” cloud gate sculpture:

The "real" cloud gate

Okay, so that’s just a patch of snow that hadn’t melted yet. But you have to admit it looks much more like a cloud than The Bean does.

There’s also a big outdoor concert venue space in Millennium Park, an ice skating rink for winter months, as well as an art installation called Crown Fountain. You may have seen photos or videos of Crown Fountain which features two video screens facing one another displaying photos of faces that occasionally “spit” water at you. Unfortunately Crown Fountain was turned off during my visit.

On the east side of the park, a wavy bridge designed by Frank Gehry takes you over a highway to the kid-friendly Maggie Daley Park.

With millions of tourists flocking to see Millennium Park each year, every hip fast casual chain you can think of has an outpost nearby: Shake Shake, Protein Bar, Sweetgreen, Five Guys, etc. With Chicago’s combined ~10% sales tax combined with the fact that everything in Millennium Park has a corporate sponsor, this free attraction must be a gold mine for state and local governments.

My recommendation: It’s free, very easy to get to, and there’s a good chance you’ll be in the area while visiting Chicago. Why not stop by and take a selfie with The Bean? Everyone else is doing it.