The Clarence F. Buckingham Fountain is a famous Chicago landmark in the centre of Grant Park that offers a unique hourly computerised water show. The fountain is one of the largest in the world, with 1.5 million gallons of water shooting 150 feet into the air during their daily shows.

The Buckingham Fountain was inspired by the Latona Basin at Versailles in France. The Chicago version of the fountain is twice the size of its French counterpart and recirculates 3 times the amount of water. Uniquely, the fountain was built in a baroque wedding cake style with 7 different tiers, and its large size is intended to symbolise Lake Michigan.

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago - one of the highlights of 10 Instagrammable Places in Chicago (Read all about Chicago here)

Highlights of Buckingham Fountain

There’s no doubt that the water fountain show is a unique experience, but even more impressive is the nighttime show. The show has 820 lights that are spread throughout the 7 different tiers of the fountain. The lower basin of the fountain contains 4 sets of seahorses in an art deco style, representing the 4 states that border Lake Michigan.

The donor of the fountain wanted to create a look of radiant moonlight and wasn’t content to leave the designers with that request. Kate Buckingham worked tirelessly with technicians to come up with the right colours and glass, adjusting the electrical current to produce blends that pleased her. In the end, her work paid off, as the light show has been described as being from a magical world.

History of Buckingham Fountain

The history of Buckingham Fountain begins with a fight over the land in Grant Park where the fountain sits. The disagreement over the land went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. Different architects fought for the privilege to create in the space. In the end, architect Edward Bennett was awarded to finish off Grant Park, which was the space where Buckingham Fountain stands today. He joined forces with philanthropist Kate Buckingham, who dedicated the fountain to her brother Charles, and the fountain opened on May 26, 1927.

Originally, the water show was offered twice a day, 3 days a week, as the fountain was operated manually by 2 engineers who worked 12-hour shifts. Due to the popularity of the shows, they started offering shows on a daily basis in the 1950s. The system became fully computerised in 1980.

Good to know about Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain is in the middle of Grant Park, and the park is another great tourist destination that’s worth checking out. Whether you’re interested in art, museums, sports, or just being outside, there is something for everyone in Grant Park. Spend several hours adventuring the park, enjoy an assortment of activities, and see both the daytime and nighttime shows of the fountain.

It’s been said that Grant Park is to Chicago what Central Park is to New York. The park is referred to as Chicago’s Front Yard and covers almost 313 acres of land in the state’s central business district. Grant Park is filled with amenities, such as baseball fields, tennis courts, a skate park, multiple museums and galleries, an amphitheatre, a lakefront trail, and harbours and marinas.

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

Location: 301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60601, USA

Open: May–mid-October: daily from 8 am to 11 pm

Phone: +1 312-742-3918