The Harris Theater for Music and Dance is located in the heart of downtown Chicago — known as the Loop — on the north edge of Millennium Park. The Loop is named for being encircled by Chicago’s public transit system, affectionately called the “El” by Chicagoans since the completion of the Chicago Union Elevated Railway in 1897. The Loop is a vibrant area featuring numerous hotels, restaurants, shops, theaters, parks, and iconic structures including Willis Tower, Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), Buckingham Fountain, and more.
The Loop is also home to a lively arts scene. Historic theaters in the area include the Auditorium Theatre (1889), Chicago Theatre (1921), CIBC Theatre (1906), James M. Nederlander Theatre (1900s), and the Cadillac Palace Theatre (1926). In addition, museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and the American Writers Museum add to the cultural heart of the neighborhood. Other nearby destinations include Navy Pier, Chicago Architecture Center, the Lakefront Trail, Riverwalk, Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile, Maggie Daley Park, and of course, Millennium Park.
Millennium Park is a 24.5-acre park, conceived by former Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley and opened in 2004. The goal was to convert what was a railway and parking lot into outdoor space for all Chicagoans to enjoy.
The Harris was constructed jointly with and underneath the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The performance seasons alternate for the two venues, allowing shared dressing rooms and backstage space connecting the venues. Directly south of the Pavilion is the Great Lawn, which can accommodate up to 7,000 people. The Pavilion does have sliding glass doors to enclose the stage in the winter. This is where the Harris Theater’s Beyond the Aria performances are held. With the Great Lawn and city as the backdrop, guests sit on the Pritzker Pavilion stage while Artistic Director and pianist Craig Terry is joined by three opera singers.
The Harris also features a rooftop used for a variety of city events in Chicago’s warmer months. In 2018, the Harris Theater presented its inaugural Summer Jazz performance on the Harris rooftop featuring Mike Reed’s People Places and Things and continues to expand into summer programming on the rooftop.
While the Pritzker Pavilion and Harris Theater anchor the north end of the park, the additional two blocks of park to the south feature significant public art works and park space.
The Crown Fountain was designed by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. The fountain’s twin towers alternate images on their glass screens as water cascades from the top. The images are 1,000 faces and 100 nature images from the Chicago area that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago procured. They recruited volunteers from some 100 cultural groups representing a cross section of the city.
The Lurie Garden is a three-acre, year-round garden that is split into two sections by a long wooden boardwalk. Lurie Garden provides a healthy habitat for a wide variety of plants, animals, and insects and is a leader in landscape architecture, garden design, responsible maintenance practices and dynamic public programming in an urban environment.
Cloud Gate, commonly referred to as “The Bean," is a 110-ton kidney-shaped sculpture created with 168 stainless steel plates pieced together like a puzzle and welded shut by artist Anish Kapoor. The mirror-like surface is designed to reflect Chicago’s skyline and the park. Visitors can walk through a 12-foot-high concave area underneath the sculpture and is a favorite photo opportunity for locals and visitors alike. Beneath Cloud Gate sits the McCormick Tribune Plaza, which houses the restaurant Park Grill. Open year round, Park Grill expands onto the plaza in the summer for outdoor seating but is indoor only during the winter when the plaza becomes an ice-skating rink right in the heart of the Loop.
Additionally, just east of Millennium Park and the Harris Theater is Maggie Daley Park, which opened in 2014. Created to welcome families, Maggie Daley Park was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to be accessible and accommodating with a variety of programming. The park includes an ice-skating ribbon, rock climbing, miniature golf, tennis courts, a play garden, and much more.