Chicago has all the offerings you'd expect from a major city: world-class museums, vibrant shopping districts and ample nightlife venues, just to name a few. If you're here to learn, plan to spend a fair amount of time in Grant Park: This area is home to such notable institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum. For a more Windy City-centric education, start your vacation with an architecture river cruise – which can provide background on Chicago's famous skyscrapers like the Willis Tower and Tribune Tower – before exploring the city's innovative roots at the Museum of Science and Industry. Just save time for some of the city's quintessential experiences like catching a game at Wrigley Field and window-shopping along The Magnificent Mile.

A first-time visit to Chicago isn't complete without a stop at Millennium Park. Situated in the Loop just north of the Art Institute of Chicago, this 24.5-acre space is used to showcase cutting-edge art, architecture and landscaping; it also acts as a backdrop for concerts and festivals. Most visitors come to Millennium Park to see the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, better known as "The Bean." Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain features two 50-foot towers that face each other at opposite ends of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers' LED screens project the faces of 1,000 different Chicago residents, which are perfectly aligned with spouts so that it appears they are spitting water on passersby. Cloud Gate – created by British artist Anish Kapoor – is a 110-ton bean-shaped sculpture forged from stainless steel. The Bean's elliptical shape reflects the Chicago skyline.

There are plenty of other reasons to visit Millennium Park: You can see a concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, stroll through the Lurie Garden or the Boeing Galleries (where contemporary sculpture is displayed outdoors), or sign up for a Segway tour at the McDonald's Cycle Center.

On a gorgeous spring, summer or fall day, grab a blanket and picnic basket to enjoy on the park's grounds. Overall, former visitors said their time in the park was relaxing and worthwhile, though some mention that you'll likely encounter a few solicitors and homeless people.

Millennium Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The park and its exhibits are free to visit and complimentary guided garden and architecture tours are available on select days between May and September or October. Free audio tours can also be downloaded from the City of Chicago's website. You can also download free smartphone apps from the Google Play or iTunes stores for walking tour ideas, event listings and maps. Additional fees apply for items purchased at the park's concessions stands and restaurant. Restrooms and a bike parking area are offered on-site. To get to the park, travelers can bike, drive and park in one of several adjacent garages, walk from the Loop or take the L to the Lake, Randolph/Wabash, Monroe or Adams/Wabash subway stations.

O'Hare International Airport, usually referred to as O'Hare Airport, Chicago O'Hare, or simply O'Hare, is an international airport located on the far Northwest Side of Chicago, Illinois, 14 miles. Address: 10000 W O'Hare Ave, Chicago, IL 60666. Code: ORD. Elevation: 668'. Passenger volume: 79,828,183. O'Hare International Airport is the world's second-busiest airport by total movements (860,049).

 

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