Although Michelle Obama mentions The Loop many times in her autobiography, I must have missed the explanation of what it was. I was curious to see it. The Loop, it turns out, is Chicago’s central business district in the downtown area of the city. The name probably comes from the elevated railway line that encircles the district. It’s easy to walk around the area.
My first stop in The Loop was the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park. It consists of two glass brick towers, each with an LED screen showing changing faces. The installation was especially entertaining for children because of a stream of water that came out of a nozzle that aligned with the mouth of the displayed face. For some reason, children love playing in water. They positioned themselves underneath the flowing water, then continued to slide around on the wet black granite floor until they were soaking wet. I hoped their parents had a change of clothes for them.
Equally alluring is Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in the Park. Nicknamed The Bean by locals, it’s a steel structure with a mirror surface. It looks like a blob of mercury if you were part of the generation who had the dubious pleasure of playing with some at school. An art critic said it was amongst the greatest pieces of public art in the world. There were huge crowds when I was there, many trying to take selfies of their reflections. It’s perfectly positioned to mirror the surrounding skyscrapers.
After seeing the Crown Fountain and The Bean, I walked through the charming Lurie Gardens before joining hundreds of people at a free classical concert in Millennium Park.
On my return to the hostel, I briefly took in the Taste festival for foodies in Grant Park (it was too hot to stick around).
I made a quick meal at the hostel then decided to see the Chicago skyline at night. To see Chicago from above, there are two main choices: the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Center. I chose the John Hancock Center because, although it’s less popular, it’s closer to the lakeside. This gives a view of a greater continuous expanse of Chicago. The Willis Tower being more central gives you good 360 views but of course you can’t see the Willis Tower itself!
I was not disappointed: the skyline was spectacular.