It's been 20 years since fans flocked to Chicago for the first Lollapalooza music festival to catch a glimpse of Ice-T and the Violent Femmes. After struggling in the late '90s as bands lost interest in festivals, Lolla's now stronger than ever thanks to a sturdy partnership with the city's park district. If you're one of the 225,000 fans visiting Grant Park in August to hear headliners Eminem and Coldplay, you'll need a few breaks from the crowd. Here's where to take them.
1. Millennium Park
One of former Mayor Richard Daley's crowning achievements, this park opened in 2004, replacing a rail yard and parking lot with public art and gardens. Check out Yvonne Domenge's abstract sculptures, or make like a true tourist and take a photo of your reflection in the park's giant stainless-steel bean, Cloud Gate, created by sculptor Anish Kapoor to reflect the Chicago skyline.
2. Graham Elliot
If you're still hungry after sampling the festival feast organized by Graham Elliot, Lollapalooza's culinary director (last year's hits were lobster corn dogs and Asian pork belly sliders), head to his namesake restaurant for indoor treats like sweetbread empanadas or cocoa gateau with "chocolate gel."
3. Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum, which boasts pieces by Chuck Close and Jenny Holzer, will conveniently host its monthly First Fridays cocktail party this weekend, offering festival-goers a break from the music and sweaty crowds.
4. Big Star
This taco joint and bar lives inside a former gas station, where the Schlitz is cheap and the tacos are tasty — especially those filled with tilapia.
5. The Second City
Thank this comedy company for Bill Murray and Tina Fey. Current show "South Side of Heaven" explores "the divide between Cubs and White Sox fans" and "the delicate distinction between dancing and stripping."
Chef Grant Achatz's latest venture is an ever-changing ode to specific locations and times. This month, enjoy Thai food inspired by Bangkok, 2060. But plan ahead: Tickets are required for entry.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.