When visiting any city, it's nice to have an experience that both exposes you to the city's everyday culture and also is a unique activity that could only happen there. For me this could be a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal, homemade pasta sitting on a balcony in Tuscany or, as I experience this New Year Eve's, skating at the McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink inside Chicago's famous Millennium Park!
The skating rink is located just off Michigan Avenue inside Millennium Park. Millennium Park is a beautiful area to visit while you're in the city as it's only a couple of blocks from the lake and faces the city's most awe inspiring architectural masterpieces. The park was built to celebrate the millennium (hence the name), but the actual construction didn't finished until 2004...but nonetheless the park's beauty and almost perfect urban landscaping won over everyone despite its late bloom.
As it was New Year's Eve the line up for Skate Rentals was a bit long, but we were lucky enough to get there right before the rush. Skate rental were $8 a piece and lockers cost $1 (a must if you're wanting to skate about on the rink without having to carry around all your travel gear).
Here we are putting on our skates we wait for the ice to finish getting all smoothed out for us!
The rink was amazing. The Zamboni was there just before we arrived so the ice was nice and smooth. Although there were lots of people there, they do a good job of staggering people inside the rink so it's never too crowded. For the most part it was an incredibly relaxing, romantic and all around beautiful experience. Getting to hold the hand of someone you love while whizzing around on the ice, seemingly just gliding without effort across the rink feels almost like flying. There's nothing like it, especially while you get to take in all those gorgeous Chicago sites!
The rink faces sandwiched between the Michigan Avenue Architectural skyline and the infamous Chicago Cloud Gate or "The Bean" as it is better known.
Cloud Gate is a three store tall sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor. The steel shell is made out of more than 160 steel plates all welded together and polished to give it a seamless appearance that reflects back the viewer, themselves against the city all around them.
As you skate about the rink, you can gaze at you at the Cloud Gate and see yourself skating around below. It's quite a magical thing. On the opposite side from the Bean, you can gaze out at what is called the "Streetwall" along Michigan Avenue. The streetwall consists of some of Chicago's most interesting and historical architectural buildings.
What I am always taken aback by, when I'm in Chicago, is the Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque styles of architecture found throughout the city - and all of it is present on the "Streetwall".
If after you finished skating up a storm - take a break and enjoy some delicious dining at the Park and Grill Cafe. One of the greatest people watching spots in the city, perfect for relaxing while watching the skaters fly by....