This enormous art deco installation gives free regular water and light shows symbolizing the power and might of Lake Michigan.
Buckingham Fountain is a large and beautiful fountain along a pretty lake. Though inspired by one of the magnificent fountains at Versailles, Buckingham Fountain is twice its size, making it one of the world’s biggest fountains. Designed and installed in 1927, it is both an essential stop on any tour of Chicago’s waterfront and a glimpse into the desire for monumentality that categorized early 20th-century city buildings. You may recognize the fountain from the opening credits of TV’s Married…with Children.
Walk down the waterfront toward Buckingham Fountain to see alternating views of the lake and the city with the ever-approaching stone and metalwork in the distance. Stroll around it, identifying the four massive art deco seahorses which symbolize the states bordering Lake Michigan: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Admire the unique color of the pink Georgia marble, which contrasts so pleasingly with the oxidized bronze of other parts of the statue. Pause for a moment on one of the benches to wait for the top of the hour, when the bigger jets roar into action to put on a show.
Return to the fountain at dusk for an unforgettable experience. As the central jet spurts water 150 feet (45 meters) into the air, watch as hundreds of lights hidden in the ironwork turn on, spectacularly changing the color of the water over the course of the show. Let the fine mist from the powerful fountain spray your face. Listen to oohs and aahs of the assembled summer crowd, all enjoying this magnificent piece of Chicago’s history.
Find Buckingham Fountain on the waterfront of Lake Michigan, a 15-minute walk from Cloud Gate, commonly known as The Bean. Drive to the fountain in 30 minutes from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Lots near the park and surrounding streets have metered parking. Public transportation is available nearby.
The fountain operates only during the summer, between May and October. Major water shows are performed every hour on the hour from mid morning until late at night. Water and light shows begin at dusk. Visit the fountain and enjoy the show for free.