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Millennium Park Is The Midwest's Top Attraction

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 6, 2017 6:02PM

Photo: Scott Olson

If you've ever felt a persistent, almost magnetic pull toward Millennium Park while hosting out-of-town visitors, you're apparently not the only one. The downtown park is not only the biggest tourist lure in the city, it's tops in the whole region. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Thursday that the Bean and company are the No. 1 attraction in the Midwest, supplanting erstwhile winner Navy Pier.

Along with Choose Chicago, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Millennium Park Foundation, the Mayor touted the park's record draw on Thursday. In a six month stretch last year, the downtown favorite saw almost 13 million people, according to the mayor. To compare, Navy Pier—what with its ongoing lack of the Blues Museum—brought in 9.3 million in 2016. The statement also says MP ranked among the Top 10 in the country for most-visited destinations.

“Millennium Park has become part of the cultural fabric of Chicago, bringing children and families together from all parts of the city to experience world class culture for free,” Emanuel said in a press release. “With 12.9 million visitors to the Park in just the second half of 2016, I am proud to see it become the #1 attraction in the Midwest.”

Millennium Park, often through DCASE, has no doubt beefed up its cultural programming in recent years. But the dramatic uptick in visitors may also be in part due to a better crowd-measuring technique. Attendance was determined using "passive electronic sensors" that, according to the Trib, count individual cellphones. The final number then factors in the remaining holdouts without cellphones.

With violent crime on the national radar, Emanuel is quick to big-up the city’s tourism bona fides as counter-narrative. Last April, the mayor touted the city’s 2015 travel numbers—which passed 50 million domestic tourists for the first time. It looks like, especially in the Loop, the people are hearing the call.