Grant Park - Chicago's Front Yard
Grant Park’s centerpiece is the fabulous Buckingham Fountain – a personal favorite of mine. And I think most people consider the surrounding flower gardens and concert grounds “all there is” to Grant Park. But there is so much more. So much that can only be seen and appreciated on foot (or by Segway). Most people – locals and tourists alike – simply zoom by on its border and “through” streets, oblivious to the beauty within.
In the southern section – known as Hutchinson Field - there a couple of walking paths, a few of which used to be bridle (horse-riding) paths. More recently, this section of Grant Park was the site of President Obama’s acceptance speech and rally. The Hutchinson Field is also home to several softball diamonds making it extremely popular for local softball leagues. Opposite the softball fields there are 5-6 tennis courts that have been there forever but are still well-maintained and used by neighborhood residents.
The section north of the fountain is known as Butler Field – the location of the Petrillo Band Shell and central spot for all but one of Chicago’s most popular music fests (Blues, Jazz, Country/Western, Lollapalooza). GospelFest was moved to Millennium Park a few years ago. Until 2010, Butler Field was also the site of the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival (like going to the drive-in without a car). Sadly, budget cuts caused the cancellation of this popular event.
Speaking of Millennium Park, few locals remember what it used to be – part of Grant Park but very forgettable as a surface parking lot and rail yard. Talk about a transformation!
There is another section of Grant Park that almost no one considers part of the park but it IS. It is the strip between Michigan Avenue and the railroad tracks (now used by the Metra commuter rail line) that runs the full length of the park. That strip includes many smaller sections of gardens, monuments, fountains, public art, and walking paths.
So much to see and love about Grant Park. I consider myself extremely lucky to have it here in the heart of the city, and I am extremely grateful to Mr. Montgomery Ward for working so hard for so many years to keep this area forever open and free to the public.