Two of Chicago's greatest treasures reside in Grant Park—the Art Institute and Buckingham Fountain. Bordered by Lake Michigan to the east, a spectacular skyline to the west, and the Museum Campus to the south, the ever-popular park serves as the city's front yard and unofficial gathering place. This pristine open space has walking paths, a stand of stately elm trees, and formal rose gardens, where Loop dwellers and 9-to-5-ers take refuge from the concrete and steel. It also hosts many of the city's largest outdoor events, including the annual Taste of Chicago, a vast picnic featuring foods from more than 70 restaurants.
The park's centerpiece is the gorgeous, tiered Buckingham Fountain (between Columbus and Lake Shore Drs. east of Congress Plaza), which has intricate pink-marble seashell designs, water-spouting fish, and bronze sculptures of sea horses. Built in 1927, it was patterned after one at Versailles but is about twice the size. See the fountain in all its glory between May 1 and October 1, when it's elaborately illuminated at night and sprays colorfully lighted waters. Linger long enough to experience the spectacular display that takes place every hour on the hour, and you'll witness the center jet of water shoot 150 feet into the air.