NFT Chicago The Loop / Grant Park

The Loop / Grant Park

A giant silver bean and 50-foot-tall animated faces...yes, really! Millennium Park is definitely the Chicago show-stopper, with its unique blend of artwork and landscaping. Farther down Michigan Avenue, the more traditional Grant Park brings highbrow and lowbrow culture side by side. Tasteful music or Taste of Chicago, there's something for everyone.

Debate the intentions of early Impressionist techniques at the Art Institute, or belt out the lyrics to the newest indie band of the moment in Millennium Park. In the summer, hear the music that makes this Sweet Home Chicago at the annual blues festival in See more.

>Grant Park.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Summer Fun with the Kids

By Dina Weinstein
Childhood wasn't officially institutionalized until the Victorian Era. And now we have to live with the consequences. Museums, excursions, jaunts to the beach: Children are pampered and indoctrinated to become better adults and stronger individuals. Inconvenient and time-consuming? Not in Chicago! Let Dina take you on a child-centric tour.  

The Cheapskate's Guide to Chicago

By Dana Kaye
Dana Kaye sure said it straight when she declaimed: "You don’t have to be gay to enjoy all the drink specials on Halsted." But you do have to be on a budget. Chicago is no city for the thrifty, but Dana Kaye is not one for following the rules. Take heed as she stealthily discloses the secrets to getting by with no money.

More than Murals: Public Art in the Loop

By Douglas DuBrin
Art? Who needs art!? So bourgeois... so unnecessary. Until you come to Chicago: The open prairie, the fertile meadow. This is a land that cries out into the night, screaming: Recreate my visage, my torrid emotions by the brush strokes and paint splatterings of subjective imaginings and poetical structuring! So Douglas DuBrin's gonna talk about that.

Chicago's Amazing Parks

By Kelly Pucci
Aren't public parks the darndest things? Open, available and lush with wildlife. To think there was a time when common laborers knew not such things... Please, allow Kelly Pucci to give you a guided, arboreal tour of the jungle, not the concrete, because this isn't a Bob Marley song. This is real life.

Biking Chicagoland

By Katie Murray
Can Mayor Daley turn Chicago into a city of bikers? Only time/Katie Murray will tell.

Air Conditioned Chicago

By David Rosenstock
It's a hot and pitiless world out there. Nothing beats a cool, architecturally inspiring walk in the corridor to get you back to your pre-liquified self. Join David Rosenstock as he takes you on a verbally acuitous journey through the bowels of  downtown's lobbies, markets and secret passageways--all air-conditioned, all life-changing.

The Resurgence of Architectural Design in Chicago

By William Moy
Glass and steel, columns and parks; Chicago architecture has it all! Don't believe it? Why would you? William Moy is prepared to forcibly educate you.

Dancing Under the Stars

By Jennifer Campbell
You know you want to. Yield to your inner jitterbugging, foxtrotting cakewalker.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Ianto Everett
Photo:  Gordon Hall

Millennium Park
We all know what we’re not supposed to do with yellow snow, but what’s the deal when the snow is blue, green and orange? On 1 February you’ll be able to find out, as the Check the Museum of Modern Ice will appear in Millennium Park. This month-long festival will be the first time Canadian artist Gordon Halloran displays his frozen sculptures in the US, and the centerpiece of his multicolored ice works will be a 95 foot long and 12 foot high ice wall. In addition to the sculptures, Halloran will put his painting-below-zero talents to work on the Millennium Place ice-rink to brighten things up downtown.

Posted By:  Josannah Birman
Photo:  Josannah Birman

Millennium Park
Inspired by liquid mercury, Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate makes us question why we ever bothered with sculptures of dead white guys on horses. The 110-ton installation consists of seamlessly welded stainless steel plates and is all about reflection. Images of the skyline and clouds wiggle on the polished surface. A 12-foot-high arch acts as a gate, inviting visitors to marvel at their own fun-house style reflections. Everyone from city dwellers to day-tripping suburbanites and picture-happy international tourists flock to the immense ‘Bean.’ We have learned to love this surreal sculpture almost as much as we love anything free. Combine these two greats with a gratis walking tour of Cloud Gate and its architectural neighbors. Tours depart from the Millennium Park Welcome Center at 11:30 am and 1 pm during the summer months. Don‘t try to fight the power of ‘The Bean,’ just hop on the El and check it out already.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Where’s the only place you can legally have alcohol in Grant Park? If it’s not a festival, then you must be at The Green at Grant Park. Of course, you’re not there just for the bar, you’re there to play on the best putting green in the city. Nestled into the side of a parking garage, this lush 18-hole course is not for sissies. Two kinds of synthetic grass sprinkled with sand give the course a realistic feel, and real sand traps add extra danger. At first glance, it looks like easy play, but subtle changes in elevation make this a challenging golf course even for seasoned players. In the center of the action, a patio restaurant serves up a full menu of summertime favorites including specialty salads, kabobs, and ribs, as well as a full bar in case you need to drink away a bad game.

Posted By:  Maria Reynes
Photo:  Marta Sasinowska

Millennium Park
This is girrl power put to the good. Check out two super hotty women as they reach out to people and get them to hoist hula hoops over their heads and twirl them around their waists. A bit skeptical of the weight of the hoop at first, I was assured that a hoop with a little weight will stay up better. I was totally hooping better than I ever could as a kid. Though I wasn’t ready to dance and gyrate, I definitely dug watching the hosts lead others to that stage. Heather Crosby of HooperPower and Mercedes Gomez of Chicago Hoop Dance are local teachers and presenters getting involved on a global level to bring healthy lifestyles to underprivileged children. The even is happening in 13 countries around the world on July 7 to raise money for hula hoops to donate to schools and individuals.More info:

Posted By:  Josannah Birman
Photo:  Josannah Birman

Tango guru, Al Gates, greets guests in a room overlooking Michigan Avenue bordered by white lights. After paying fifteen bucks to learn seductive moves, the confused crew of tango newbies line up for a tapping lesson while polished dancers glide around us. Called out for off-beat tapping, Al seems frustrated with my utter disregard for a little thing called rhythm. While practicing walking in circles tango style, Al’s voice periodically startles me with a “stay on beat,” “step don’t slide,” or “head up.” After a ten-minute eternity, I take a break and head for nourishment which is a homey spread of fruit, cheese, and veggies. Meanwhile, the other newcomers have progressed to stepping backwards but one look from Al and I know it is not my time. A graceful woman wearing a red scarf tries to get me to “step with attitude,” but gives up after a few dreadful trips around the packed dance floor. Another hour of massacring the celebrated art of tango leaves me angrily darting for the door. An announcement that birthdays at Tango Chicago are celebrated with champagne lures me back in. Toast. Sip. Mingle. Walk my two left feet out the door.

Posted By:  Lisa Shames
Photo:  Lisa Shames

Leprechauns. Four-leaf clovers. The Blarney Stone. What is it about the Irish and lucky charms? Now add one more to the list: Galway-native Billy Lawless and his new-on-the-scene tavern The Gage. No stranger to the Chicago pub scene—Billy and his father opened the Irish Oak and The Grafton—this time Billy’s hit the pot of gold with a turn-the-century landmark building his father sussed out. He got even luckier when he nabbed red-hot chef Dirk Flanigan—Blue Water Grill, Meritage—who’s created a sophisticated yet fun menu. Think braised rabbit salad, gourmet burgers, roast saddle of elk, and, natch, fish and chips. Designed to look like an early 1900s pub, this former hat warehouse sports lots of dark-brown leather and wood—manly yes but we like it too!—with a ‘whiskey closet’ housing 150-or-so whiskeys and Scotches. You’ll find plenty of imported and local brews, too. Order the locally crafted sausages—including one or two from Flanigan—house-cured salmon or daily cheese selection to share with your new friends. Toast your good fortune with a glass of wine from their user-friendly list and chalk up their hefty 8-ounce pour to destiny. Look who’s lucky now.

Posted By:  Bathsheba Birman
Photo:  Bathsheba Birman

Chicago Architecture Foundation
You read the book, now do the tour. Eric Larson's bestseller juxtaposes two interconnected Chicago events. Daniel Burnham’s legendary World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was dubbed the “White City” for marvels including the debut of the first Ferris wheel and was reputedly the inspiration for writer Frank L. Baum’s vision of Oz. Dr. H. H. Holmes, arguably America's first serial killer, confessed before his execution, "I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing." Just blocks from Burnham’s masterpiece, Holmes, a lifelong swindler and womanizer, designed his own building in Englewood that became a hotel for the fair. Holmes lured young women to the site, known as the Murder Castle, where he tortured and killed them. Holmes ultimately confessed to 28 such crimes but estimates put the death toll as high as 200. The CAF tour, once available for members only, is now offered monthly on Fridays and Sundays from April to October. See a slideshow of photos, then visit many of the places identified in the book by bus. Cost is $40-$55. Reservations required. Bodyguard not included.

Posted By:  Darwyn Jones
Photo:  Darwyn Jones

Crown Fountain
I first heard about the ‘modern-day gargoyles’ from the news. They described the Millennium Park attraction as two 50-foot towers made of glass blocks with LED screens displaying the faces of 1,000 Chicago citizens. WTF? Sounded like an artsy fartsy waste of money. Still, I went. Two faces were displayed—one on each tower—just staring at each other. They would blink. They would grin. Mainly, though, they just stared. A shallow reflecting pool connected the two faces. Children played, laughing and barefoot, as parents lined the perimeter. They were all so happy beneath the hovering 50-foot faces. I was creeped out. I mean, it’s very ‘attack of’ don’t you think? I imagined one large face asking, “Getting hungry?” and the other looking to the kid soup before them. Run, Children, Run! Then the mouths began to move. Lips were pinched in almost-kisses and out came heavy streams of water. The children ran, but not away. They ran to be doused and the laughter grew. Who knew being spit on could be so much fun? Now that it is winter the water is shut off. The faces are still staring though, so if creepy is your thing…

Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong

This neoclassical revival skyscraper, with a replica of a Greek temple on its roof, is an underrated living monument to Chicago’s transformation from Eden-like prairie to concrete canyons subdivided by the Chicago River’s turquoise twists and turns. Baby boomers and fringe boomers remember it also as the former Stone Container Building, when the interior’s ornate moldings, stylishly hanging lanterns, and murals of early to mid-19th century commerce and industry along the Chicago River was obscured by drop ceilings. Around the turn of the 20th century, new management restored the building to its original refined opulence, and replaced the dingy Burger King that occupied Boul Mich’s former quarters, and proved a quick whistle stop for stars ranging from R Kelly to Usher, with a more yuppie friendly Corner Bakery Café.

Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo:  Mark F. Armstrong

Hard Rock Hotel
This 40-story structure, with two basements on rock caissons, was completed in 1929 as an office skyscraper, originally as the Carbide & Carbon Building. Known for its handsome gold and black terracotta tower, black terracotta facade, and black granite and gold base—the gold is glazed on the terracotta and metal—it was designed by Burnham’s sons. Developers talked of converting it into condos before the Hard Rock took over. The hotel doesn’t appear to rake in a tribe of guests, but that doesn’t stop folks from keeping its lounge on the ground floor jumping to live band music and television screens ablaze with music videos.

Posted By:  Kelly Pucci
Photo:  Kelly Pucci

Feeling like Lucy Gayhart, the doomed heroine of Willa Cather’s novel, who trudged through deep snow along Michigan Avenue to reach her rehearsal studio in the Fine Arts Building, I ducked into the overheated lobby one wintry day last week. While waiting for my toes to thaw, I studied the directory in the building where Chicago artists, musicians, singers, dancers, and teachers have rented studios since 1898. Poring over the list of current tenants, I fantasized about gifts for my friends. I could go traditional and pick up a Stradivarius from Bein & Fushi or perhaps I’d ask violinmaker John Bowen to whip up something special. On second thought, I could get a gift certificate for lunch at the popular Artists Restaurant on the first floor.

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See The Loop / Grant Park...
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