Millenium Park Becomes Top Draw, Web Study Shows

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Byline: Janet Liao Medill News Service

With Chicago's own Millennium Park topping Priceline.com's list as this summer's most-requested travel destination nationally, the area's tourism industry gets a promising boost.

Chicago destinations took the top two spots in Priceline's annual study of the top 50 summer destinations for 2006 released last week. Millennium Park ranked No. 1, rising from the 35th most popular destination last year.

North Michigan Avenue and its high-end shopping, which ranked second this year, moved up from fifth place.

"This is only our second full season, and the excitement about the numbers has not declined at all," said Karen Ryan, communications manager for Millennium Park, which opened in July 2004.

Increased park attendance can be attributed to the continuing popularity of "Cloud Gate" - a sculpture Chicagoans commonly call The Bean - plus unique fountains and a Frank Gehry-designed amphitheater.

The Priceline.com study sampled more than 100,000 hotel room booking requests by customers for the period between June 15 and Aug. 15.

"It was very important in the study to see where travelers wanted to go," said Priceline spokesman Brian Ek. …