For most, Millennium Park area is really The Bean, the people-spouting-water sculpture (Crowne Plaza), Gehry Pavilion, Lurie wildflower garden and a few modernist sculptures scattered about, right? I love these places, each, for a different reason: the Bean because it’s fun, Crowne plaza for the kids playing in the water, Gehry Pavilion (and bridge) for just being all-Gehry-like, the garden because it’s so pretty in Spring and Summer. But none of these places really scream quiet and solitude (pun intended).
But there IS a place around Millennium Park to catch a little quiet, sit by watching the lake and read a book – the Cancer Survivors Garden at the north-east end of Grant Park. This beautiful little garden is nestled in between trees, a rectangular plot emphasized on one end by two towering, free-standing Corinthian pillars and on the other by two symmetrical seating pavilions of, I want to say, wrought iron.
I instantly felt a liking for the pillars that stood tall, gleaming in the sun, like it was caught in a time warp, with all the modern skyscrapers towering above it. After learning that they were salvaged from the Federal Building (1905) when it was razed, I fell in love. (Learn more about the garden here.)
The pavilions on the southern side are as pleasing. There is no better place to view Lake Michigan than this. You see the rust and peeling paint (and Graffiti in some spots) but somehow these add to the garden’s beauty. Of course, it wasn’t planned that way – the garden is fighting hard to stay alive and is in dire need of funds. (Read more about it here.)
Sitting at one of the pavilion benches, you can actually here birds chirping and leaves rustling, you can stealthily watch people practicing their skills on the Segway and simply enjoy the beautiful blue of Lake Michigan with only the Lake Shore Drive between you and the water. You might occasionally come across a languid cyclist or a friendly jogger or a contemplative reader across the daffodils.
What really catches your attention is that the garden makes you forget that you are smack in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world!
The only drawback with the garden is that it doesn’t look very well-tended towards the southern side – flowers were all dead here. (Chicago Park District does mention that flower gardens are open only June-October. I wish it extended to Spring as well!) It may also have something to do with the lack of funds for maintenance. Pity.
So if you want to catch a little bit of quiet and serenity around the Loop, this is the place. Don’t forget to look at the metallic plaques along the edge of the flowering spots such as this one:
The garden is available for events through the Chicago Park District Special Events Venues program. Richard and Annette Block Cancer Survivors Garden is located at the northernmost end of Grant Park, east of the Millennium Park Complex. It can be accessed by foot over Gehry bridge or via Randolph Street. Physical address: 445 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601