Happy Birthday, Millennium Park!

Chicago's visitor favorite, Millennium Park celebrates its 10th anniversary.

It’s your children’s goofy faces reflected in the silver bean-shaped “Cloud Gate.” It’s finding a peaceful spot amid the wildflowers of the Lurie Garden. Or picnicking with your favorite someone on the Pritzker Pavilion lawn for a free concert. Everyone has a favorite Millennium Park moment. And they’ve been multiplying since the ambitious green space made its grand debut a decade ago July 16, 2004 and has since blossomed into one of the city’s most popular attractions. This year, Millennium Park celebrates its 10th anniversary with a slew of free activities and displays, including “Jaume Plensa: 1004 Portraits,” four brand-new, large-scale sculptural installations by the clever artist behind interactive Crown Fountain. It’s time to make some new Millennium Park memories. Find out all the details at www.millenniumpark.org

>>Listen to something a little more melodious than those tinny sounds oozing through the headphones of the guy next to you. Make your way to Millennium Park for free evening concerts under the elegant metal curls of the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. Pick a seat or get comfy on the expansive lawn. The Downtown Sounds series continues this month with genre-busting Maps & Atlases and the San Francisco-based psychedelic rock band Wooden Shjips (Aug. 4). The following week (Aug. 11) features instrumental metal band Russian Circles and sax whiz Colin Stetson. Sounding off for its 80th year is the Grant Park Music Festival through Aug. 16 and highlighting the talents of the Grant Park Orchestra and chorus. More of a jazz junkie? Catch several of the masters on Thursday evenings this month including guitarist Fareed Haque (Aug. 21) and an ensemble from Chicago, South Africa and London who present a musical homage to Nelson Mandela (Aug. 28).

Lunchtime on the lawn rewards visitors with musical interludes at the pavilion for Grant Park Music Festival rehearsals and docent-led talks.

Young music fans dance away their sillies with kid-friendly performances under the Family Fun Festival tent every day at 1 pm. Through Aug. 24.

Stop by Garrett Popcorn before making it a movie night at Pritzker Pavilion for the Summer Film Series every Tuesday at 6:30 pm. This month, it’s “The Birdcage” (Aug. 5); “American Graffiti” (Aug. 12); “Dreamgirls” (Aug. 19); and “The Wizard of Oz” (Aug. 26), celebrating an anniversary, too—its 75th.

>>Look back to a time before Millennium Park when there was, well, not much of anything except a distressed eyesore of a hole in the ground. In the 10th anniversary outdoor art exhibit “Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs,” John Vinci of local firm Vinci/Hamp Architects (they’ve contributed to the preservation of landmarks like Wrigley Field and the Tribune Tower), 58 images by 16 photographers offer a peek at before, during and after construction. Some of the pictures were meant to document the process of building Millennium Park, which took four years longer than originally planned. And some depict the park in all its current playful, busy, beloved glory.

>>Let go of everyday worries and woes with a free morning workout on Wednesdays on the Great Lawn. Choose a 7 am Tai Chi class, 8 am yoga, 9 am Pilates or 10 am Zumba, which comes with live drumming to boot. Or take your mind off your troubles as you stroll the colorful 5-acre haven that is the Lurie Garden. On Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, a garden guide will point out highlights of this carefully and lovingly landscaped space that took Chicago’s motto—“Urbs in Horto” or City in a Garden—as its inspiration.

Elisa Drake
About the author

Elisa formerly served as the Chicago editor for Where and has...