Exploring the downtown area of a city, you wouldn’t expect to find lots of green open spaces or water nearby with boats. Cities are known for being crowded and cramped, and although Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States, I was determined to find patches of green in this metropolis. Taking Labor Day weekend as an opportunity to go beyond my neighborhood in the North, I found Chicago’s downtown parks to offer a way to wander among the open spaces of Chicago. For someone like me who is energized by the vibrancy of city life but craves adventure in the outdoors, I wondered, “Could Chicago deliver both city life and nature?”
Chicago Cultural Center
My first stop finds me at the edge of Millennium Park at Chicago Cultural Center. Since there’s no entry fee, I make my way past the front doors and up the winding staircases of tiled mosaics. Finished in 1897, the Cultural Center originally served as Chicago’s first public library and impressed viewers with its use of marbles, brass, hardwoods, Farville glass, and mother-of-pearl and colored stone. Looking up at the Tiffany dome, the world’s largest stained glass with 30,000 pieces of glass, I know I’m not in Utah or Colorado anymore. Seeing the tiles of writing from different world alphabets, it’s clear to see why this building joined the National Registry of Historic Places in 1972. As an aspiring writer and lover of literature, the names of famous writers, playwrights, and poets from Dante to Shakespeare reminds me the importance and power of words.
Crossing the street and making my way into Millennium Park, a section of Grant Park, I can hear the sounds of Jazz music as people sit on the chairs and grass in Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Although I’m tempted to stay for a little longer, I know I can’t miss out on the popular art installment, “The Bean.” Also known as Cloud Gate, this sculpture weighs 110 tons and is 66-feet long by 33-feet high. Seeing reflections from this structure of myself and others in the Chicago skyline, it’s incredible to think how small we are in the world as Chicago’s skyscrapers tower above us. One of my favorite characteristics about this park extends beyond “The Bean,” as I learn the park transformed an industrial wasteland into an exquisite public park in 1997. Having recently visited the Butchart Gardens, it’s inspiring to think that parks like these were made from a land that was put aside for waste.
Even though there are crowds, I find it’s easy to navigate through Grant Park as I search for one of the world’s largest fountains, Buckingham Fountain. Decorated as a rococo style wedding cake, I love discovering unique angles of each structural element of this fountain. Looking around Chicago’s “front yard,” I find there are endless amounts of greenery in Grant Park’s bushes, trees, and bright colors of flower beds. Although several museums including the Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum make their home here, I won’t be able to make it to all of them today. Instead, I cross the street and walk along the Lakefront Trail watching sailboats gliding along the water. I’m beginning to love the fact that although I’m nowhere near the ocean, I still have water and the beach to enjoy on Labor Day Weekend.
Heading back downtown and catching the “L” back home, I’m happy to say Chicago didn’t disappoint me as I searched for open space and piece of greenery. It’s nice to think that a city like Chicago values its green patches as much as its skyscrapers. It’s a city that realizes the importance of catering to a girl who loves the city as much as she loves getting outside.
This Post is Part of the #WeekendWanderlust.