Cloud Gate, aptly nicknamed ‘The Bean’ due to its peculiar shape, is one of Chicago’s most visited attractions and has quickly become a national icon. It is also completely free to visit so make sure to stop by when visiting Chicago.
Ticket Info & Opening Hours
This monumental work of art is found in the Millenium Park and is open to the public during the parks opening hours which are listed below:
- Monday – Sunday: 6am – 11pm.
- Free Entrance.
History & Info
The Cloud Gate is one of Chicago’s most visited attractions and one of the city’s most photographed attractions (it’s an incredibly popular spot for taking a selfie) but what is it? Who designed it? And how long has it been in Chicago?
In 1999, Millenium Park (Chicago’s second-largest tourist attraction after Navy Pier) officials decided that the park needed another piece of artwork and set to reviewing over 30 designs from local and international artists.
In the proposed designs was work by Jeff Koons, who erected to build a permanent sculpture of a playground slide, and the work of Anish Kapoor, an Indian-born British man, who wanted to build a stainless steel structure inspired by mercury. Kapoor’s design won and in 2004 work began on constructing what would be known as ‘Cloud Gate’ (a gateway to the heavens!).
The structure took two years to build and is made up of 168 stainless steel plates, each seamlessly welded together to make a polished exterior with no visible seams.
Kapoor, who initially disliked the finished structure (it wasn’t complete upon its first unveiling), was inspired by liquid mercury and wanted the sculpture’s surface to reflect the skyline whilst also distorting it.
Before the name for the structure was officially announced, Chicago locals dubbed it ‘The Bean’ due to its peculiar bean-like shape, and the nickname stuck! You’ll hear it referred to as both names, depending on who you’re speaking to.
Today, Cloud Gate is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millenium Park and is one of the most visited sights in Chicago. It’s so popular that cleaners come several times a day to wipe the fingerprints off the bottom six feet of the structure!
How to get to Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate is located inside Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue and is bordered by Randolph Street to the north, Columbus Drive to the east, and Monroe Street to the South.
201 E. Randolph St.
Michigan Ave. & Columbus Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
Convenient parking is located in the Millennium Park Garage found on Columbus at Monroe or Randolph street.
The closest train station to Cloud Gate is Chicago Union Station. From here it’s just a 25-minute walk. Exit the station and walk east down Adams Street (you’ll cross the river) before turning north on State Street, then east on Monroe Street. From here, enter Millenium Park and follow the signs for Cloud Gate.
The below buses all have routes that stop close to Cloud Gate:
From Chicago Union Station catch bus number 151 at Devon/ Clark and alight at Michigan & Randolph. From here it’s just a 5-minute walk to Cloud Gate.
Cloud Gate’s central location in Millenium Park means there’s plenty of things to do within walking distance of this famous attraction. Below are some of the most notable attractions that you can combine when visiting “The Bean”.
- Millennium Monument
- Chicago Cultural Center
- The Art Institue of Chicago
- Crown Fountain
- American Writers Museum
- Butler Field
- Chicago Skyline
- Harris Theatre
- Grant Park
- Maggie Daley Park
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra Center
- Pritzker Military Musem & Library
- The Chicago Theatre
Best time to visit “The Bean”
Crowds at the Cloud Gate vary depending on the day of the week and the weather. Weekdays and early in the morning are your best chance to beat the crowds, but if you have to go in the summer holidays or the weekend try to get here before 8am.
It’s worth checking Millennium Park’s website to see if any events or festivals collide with your planned visiting day as these also bring with them larger crowds.
Facts about the Cloud Gate
- It was created by using computer technology to cut into precise shapes 168 giant stainless steel plates, which were welded together.
- The Cloud is nicknamed ‘The Bean’ because of its bean-like shape.
- The cost for the piece was first estimated at $6 million; this had escalated to $11.5 million by the time the park opened in 2004, with the final figure standing at $23 million in 2006. No public funds were involved; all funding came from donations from individuals and corporations.
- Three-quarters of the sculpture’s external surface reflects the sky and the name refers to it acting as a type of gate that helps bridge the space between the sky and the viewer.
- Cloud Gate measures 10 by 20 by 13 meters (33 by 66 by 42 feet) and weighs 100 tonnes (110 US tons).
- Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate’s 3.7-meter (12-foot) high arch.
- On the underside of Cloud Gate is the “omphalos” (Greek for “navel”), a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections.
- Cloud Gate now serves as a famous symbol of Chicago and is one of the city’s most photographed attractions.
- Kapoor’s contract states that the constructed piece should be expected to survive for 1,000 years.
- The entire sculpture is cleaned and washed twice a year with 150 liters (40 US gallons) of liquid detergent. This process calls for the use of specialized equipment and safety features.
FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)
What is the inspiration behind this sculpture?
The artists were actually inspired by liquid mercury.
Where is the Bean located in Millenium Park?
It’s found in the center of Millenium Park in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois.
Do you have to pay to see Cloud Gate?
No payment is required and visitors do not need to book a slot to explore Millenium Park. This is a public attraction.
What time does Millennium Park shut?
Millennium Park is open to the public from 6am – 11pm daily.
How far is Cloud Gate from Navy Pier?
The distance between Cloud Gate and Navy Pier is just 1-mile.
Do you have more questions before visiting “the Bean” in Chicago? Leave a comment below!