Pretty much everyone knows about Buckingham Fountain at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway, overlooking Lake Michigan. It’s one of the great, free, visual spectacles for families (though the parking meters are pricey). And when the wind is blowing in your direction, you get a free shower.
Pretty much everyone knows the fountain runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., April till mid-October, and that in the evening, every hour on the hour for 20 minutes, it is accompanied by spectacular lights and music (last display at 10 p.m.).
And if you go to the Chicago Park District/Buckingham Fountain Trivia website, you’ll find out that the fountain’s capacity is 1.5 million gallons, that 14,100 gallons of water per minute shoot through 134 jets at its peak, and that the central geyser rises 150 feet in the air.
But what not everyone knows is that one of the best times to see the fountain is when the Honeywell Excel-Plus computer in the adjacent pump house gets the whole mechanism started.
If 8 a.m. is too early for you, Park District of Chicago spokesperson Marta Juaniza says they restart it each day at 11 a.m. in sequential order, beginning with the central jet on top that produces the geyser. Next come the 36 jets pointing upward in the top basin, followed by 12 jets in the upper trough that arc up into the top bowl, then 12 jets in the inner trough that arc into the upper trough, then 12 more jets in the lower trough that arc into the inner trough, followed by the eight jets spouting from the seahorses’ mouths, plus 20 sundry other jets.
When the fountain is full, it all stops, then starts again in reverse order.
It shows kids how the whole thing works. Quite a sight. Worth a trip.