Chicago has so many architecturally significant buildings and public art that it would be hard not to see something to photograph and share. The challenge for art lovers is how to work in all the wonderful places within easy walking distance. These five selections mix familiar names with a few surprises within a doable walking route. A bonus is that they all are free to view. Tip: You’ll see some cafés along the route to stop and rest the feet and recharge your battery.
(Photo: Jodie Jacobs)

(Photo: Jodie Jacobs)

Art Institute Of Chicago North Garden Stanley McCormick Memorial Court
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600

Start your walking tour outside the Art Institute of Chicago. Yes, outside. A wall and trees almost hide the quiet sculpture garden on the north side of the famed museum. You will likely recognize the style of sculptors Henry Moore when you see his bronze “Large Interior Form” of a human figure and Alexander Calder’s signature red in his painted steel Flying Dragon. Click here to view the Calder before you go. There are more sculptures and great places to sit; view them and get away from the Michigan Avenue traffic. Of course, art lovers may also want to step inside the Art Institute to visit a favorite painting or period. If you’re not a member, your best bet is to visit on a Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. when admission is free to Illinois residents.

(Photo: Jodie Jacobs)

(Photo: Jodie Jacobs)

Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 742-1168

From the North Garden, cross Monroe Drive to Millennium Park (some roads east of Michigan Avenue around Grant Park are called drives, then become streets west of Michigan Avenue). Arguably Chicagoans and tourists have heard of the park’s “Bean,” the nickname of Anish Kapoor’s steel “Cloud Gate” sculpture that is so highly polished it mirrors the skyline and everyone who walks by it. However, look for recently added sculptures by Jaume Plensa, who designed the park’s permanent Crown Fountain with 1,000 rotating faces. Plensa added four tall heads that, with his original work, are called “1004 Portraits.” The additional sculptures are up through December 2015. Another sight is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion’s billowing, ribbon-like top and the steel lattice that stretches across the Pavilion’s audience lawn seating. It combines art and architecture the way only Frank Gehry can.  If in the park now through October, stop at the North Boeing Gallery walkway to see “Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs.” Curated by architect John Vinci, it has historical pictures of the park site and art photos.

(Photo: Jodie Jacobs)

(Photo: Jodie Jacobs)

Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-3315

After snapping sculptures in two outdoor parks, it’s time to wander inside the gorgeous Chicago Cultural Center across Michigan Avenue at Washington Street. The building itself is worth seeing for its stunning mosaic-lined staircase and walls, and its two impressive glass domes. But leave time to check out the small art galleries on the first floor and the big exhibit spaces in two galleries on the fourth floor. If possible, try to stop in before “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” leaves. An extraordinary exhibit of black culture, it is in the Sidney R. Yates gallery on Level Four through August 2015.

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Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph St., Suite 2-100
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-5322

Leave the Cultural Center from the Randolph Street exit to walk west to the James R. Thompson Center. A block-long building with a glass space-age look created by Murphy and Helmut Jahn, it houses some state agencies and the governor’s Chicago office. Pull out the camera to snap Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument With Standing Beast” at the Clark and Randolph Street corner. Inside, the towering atrium lobby is dotted with art works. Gape and snap photos, but then take the escalator up to the second floor to find the terrific Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery and the Illinois Artisans’ Chicago shop. The museum currently features “Footprints Through time: Artists Inspired By History.” If you catch it before it ends July 10, 2015, wander to the back room with its amazing, ghost-like images. Then, go next door to the Artisans shop where it is easy to find a treasure to take home.

The Marquette Building
140 S. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 422-5500

In Chicago, architecture is art, so choosing just one building to include on an art lover’s walk borders on the ridiculous. But about four blocks from the Thompson Center is a place that may not readily come to mind. It is The Marquette Building designed by Holabird and Roche. Completed in 1895, its entrance and interior celebrate Father Marquette’s journeys along the Mississippi River and in Illinois. Sculpted bronze panels by Herman A. MacNeil are above the exterior doors. Inside, snap photos of bronze panels over the elevator doors by Amy Aldis Bradley and Edward Keneys. The hexagonal railing you see around the building’s two-story, atrium-style lobby has Marquette journey scenes in Tiffany mosaics of “lustered” glass and semi-precious stones. They were done by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his designer, Jacob Adolph Holzer. The building is a National Historic Landmark and on the National register of Historic Places that has been conserved by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Related: Best Art Walks In Chicago

Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on