Visiting Cloud Gate, Chicago’s Iconic Bean

Updated on March 8, 2020
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate | Source

Prior to our first visit to the Windy City, we placed the Cloud Gate Sculpture, otherwise known as the Bean, firmly on our must-see list of things to experience. I’m not sure why it was so important for us to see it, but it was. So, no sooner had we landed at Midway Airport and taken the Orange Line into the city than we headed off to Millennium Park to see what all the fuss was about.

Beautiful Millennium Park
Beautiful Millennium Park | Source
Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate | Source

I must say that the setting for this one-of-a-kind structure is very impressive. Set in the beautiful Millennium Park with the soaring Chicago skyline behind, it just begs visitors to congregate around this fairly new, yet very popular landmark. Cloud Gate itself is actually much larger than I anticipated, and you can walk underneath it, which I guess I had not noticed from just seeing pictures of it. Anyway, as we eagerly approached the sculpture our anticipation of what one actually does when they get there began to set in.

You can look at yourself in the reflection
You can look at yourself in the reflection | Source

The Chicago Bean has created an interesting phenomenon in the Windy City. It draws visitors from all over the world and has become one of the most identifiable structures in a city full of interesting and historical architecture. Yet, in reality, it has become more of a destination for a photo opportunity for selfie enthusiasts than a work of art to be studied and appreciated.

Whatever the true intent of the sculpture was, and I do consider it to be a work of art, it has certainly been a huge success. The reflection of the Chicago skyline seemingly floating in the sky makes for quite a sight. If you get creative you can take some interesting photos using the reflection of the city.

Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate | Source

Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.

— Frank Lloyd Wright

What Exactly Is Cloud Gate?

The Chicago Bean is a stainless steel sculpture that stands 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, 66 feet long, and is located in the AT&T Plaza of Millennium Park. The design was created by artist Anish Kapoor following a design competition and was to be unveiled during the grand opening of Millennium Park in 2004. The sculpture was unveiled even though it had not been completed and was then concealed again until it’s completion in May of 2006.

The sculpture is shaped like a kidney bean, hence the name Bean, and was inspired by of all things, liquid mercury. Despite having 168 steel panels welded together, the Bean has no visible seams and is highly reflective due to an intense polishing process, which makes it a magnet for every selfie enthusiast that visits Chicago.


What to Do at Cloud Gate

Once you arrive at the Chicago Bean, the next logical thing to do seems to be taking photos of it. It really reminded me of our time in Pisa at the Leaning Tower where everyone seems to be posing in front of a singular object of intense fascination. People certainly come up with all sorts of creative and interesting photo opportunities, and I suppose this is what Cloud Gate is all about. It offers visitors a beautiful venue in which to let their creative and playful side shine. It also provides incredible reflections of Chicago’s skyline in its highly polished surface.

Having fun at the Bean
Having fun at the Bean | Source

Crown Fountain

When you have exhausted all of your creative energy posing and taking photos of the Bean, be sure to check out the Crown Fountain. Located just a stone’s throw from the Bean, the Crown Fountain has two 50-foot towers that continually project the faces of 1,000 Chicago residents. I wonder how many of these folks have gone down to the fountain and actually seen their image?

The faces appear to spout water when they open their mouth creating a very unique and creative fountain. The two glass towers are set at opposite ends of a black granite reflecting pool that provides welcome relief to kids looking to cool off and escape the summer heat. It’s just one more reason why Chicago’s Millennium Park draws locals and visitors alike.

Crown Fountain
Crown Fountain | Source

Interesting Facts on the Cloud Gate Sculpture

  • Because of the sweat, dirt, fingerprints, etc. that accumulate on the Bean, it is cleaned daily. Depending on the season it is often power washed at night and twice a year it’s washed in 40 gallons of liquid detergent.
  • Cloud Gate was designed using computer modeling and was constructed in California by Performance Structures before being shipped in pieces to Chicago.
  • Surprisingly, the interior of the sculpture is made largely of wood.
  • The sculpture wound up costing about $23 million and was paid for entirely with individual and corporate donations.
  • During the design competition phase, Cloud Gate beat out a giant 90-foot slide that was designed by Jeff Koons.
  • The Chicago Bean weighs in at a staggering 110 tons.
  • The sculpture was designed to last at least 1,000 years, and this was actually stated in his Kapoor’s contract.
  • Cloud Gate has become so popular that it has a drink named after it. You can order a Cloud Gate cocktail at the Tavern at the Park Restaurant.
  • There is a copy of Cloud Gate in the Chinese city of Karamay. Supposedly it represents an oil bubble to commemorate the site of the first oil well in the city, but both Anish Kapoor and Chicago city officials see it for what it actually is, a blatant copy.
  • Creator Anish Kapoor apparently is not thrilled with his work of art being called the Bean.

The Bean
The Bean | Source
Looking up from under the Bean
Looking up from under the Bean | Source

I must admit that we had our share of fun while visiting the Bean. It truly amazes me the things that draw our interest and attention, and I mean that in a very positive way. Take a seemingly impractical hunk of stainless steel, shape it into a kidney bean, polish it up so it’s very shiny and reflective, and the people will come. Pure genius!

Anyway, if you are visiting the Windy City for the first time, make the effort to wander through Millennium Park to the Cloud Gate Sculpture, I think you’ll find it to be a refreshing and fun experience.

© 2019 Bill De Giulio


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    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      3 months ago from Massachusetts

      While I wasn't expecting much of our visit to the Bean I must say we really enjoyed it. The reflections are wonderful and people seem to have a lot of fun taking selfies and creative pictures. Certainly for anyone visiting Chicago it's worth visiting. Have a great day, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      3 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I can see why this Bean sculpture is so popular with people and photographers. The reflections viewed in it are fantastic, both of people and buildings. The Crown fountain would also be fun to see. Thanks for sharing your photos and information.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      11 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Nithya. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Have a great day.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      11 months ago from Dubai

      It is a fantastic structure and calls for many selfies. Great photos! I enjoyed reading about the Cloud Gate, thank you for sharing.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Pam. It’s a fun place to visit and definitely a great place for selfie enthusiasts who can get creative.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Lorelei. It is an interesting and unique piece of work. We enjoyed Chicago, it was our first visit.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      12 months ago from Canada

      Our world truly is an amazing place and our artists unique each in their own way. I had to look twice at this sculpture.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      12 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I really like your photos, especially the group selfie as everyone looks so happy. The Bean looks like a very interesting place to visit, and I appreciate all of your information.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Linda. It’s definitely an interesting site to visit.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The opening photo definitely attracts readers to the article! The Bean looks like an interesting item to explore. The photos and the relections are lovely.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Liz. The Bean is just that, an interesting photo opportunity. People definitely seemed to be enjoying themselves taking selfies. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I’m not a fan of crowds either, which is why a long weekend in the big city is usually enough for me. I did find the Bean to be an interesting site, still amazes me what draws our interest. Have a great weekend.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      12 months ago from Chicago Area

      Surprisingly for being from Chicago, though I've seen it from afar while winding my way through downtown, I have never actually been near the Bean. It's interesting, but I'd rather go to the Art Institute. Actually, I like the Picasso "Untitled" who-knows-what-it-is sculpture in Daley Plaza better. Guess we're prone to displaying unusual controversial art here. :)

      Thanks for continuing to share your Chicago tour with us!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      12 months ago from UK

      My daughter has visited Chicago so I have seen photos of the bean before. Your article gives a detailed explanation, aided by great photos. The nearest I have come to this is a wave-like reflective canopy by the old port in Marseille. They make for interesting photos.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, it certainly is unique. I've never been to Chicago. It's got that whole "crowded" thing going for it, and I don't do crowded. :) But thanks for a glimpse at something I probably will never see in person.

      Have a brilliant weekend, Bill!


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