Chicago is well known for being the “windy city”, but Chicago has some magnificent sights and activities for young and old alike. One place that showcases the fun for both children and adults is Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. Navy Pier, a premiere family entertainment center, is located at 600 East Grand Avenue in downtown Chicago. Navy Pier was originally opened as a shipping and recreational facility in 1916 and later was used as a U.S. Navy training base in the 1940’s. In the mid 1960’s, it was used as a 2 year undergraduate campus for the University of Illinois. From 1978-1982, this area was used to host ChicagoFest and drew millions of people. In 1995, a $150 million redevelopment project began that improved nearly every part of the area including adding meeting space, parking garages, exhibition halls, and the Navy Pier Park.
Navy Pier has something for everyone, young and old alike. Activities ranging from a 1920’s carousel to dinner cruises, you will find it here. There are several types of rides, restaurants, and activities along the pier that can be enjoyed while visiting. There is plenty of shopping available if you prefer to shop while the others in your party enjoy the sights and sounds of the pier.
Rides and Attractions
1. A 15 -story Ferris wheel – modeled after the first Ferris wheel which was built for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.
2. A musical Carousel – exclusively designed for the Navy Pier. This carousel recreates the Gold age of the 1920’s.
3. Wave Swinger and Remote Control Boats – Fun for kids of all ages.
4. Kiddie Train – located in the South Arcade – fun ride for the little ones.
5. Navy pier Aero balloon – see the Chicago skyline from 35 stories in the air.
6. The Links – an 18 hole miniature golf course that weaves around the base of the Ferris wheel.
7. Chicago’s Funhouse Maze – a full -sensory maze that will thrill young and old alike.
8. Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows – an 800-foot-long series of galleries that is dedicated to the art of stained glass. Free Admission
9. Two stages for musical entertainment – The Pepsi Skyline Stage and Bud Light Stage
10. Imax Theater – Chicago’s largest flat screen movie. 60 feet X 80 feet and 6 stories.
Tours and Dining Boats
1. Tour Boats – four choices – Seadog Speed Boats, Shoreline Sightseeing, Shoreline Water Taxi, and Tall Ship Windy
2. Dining Cruises – three choices – The Odyssey, Mystic Blue, and Spirit of Chicago
3. Charter Boats – four choices – Anita Dee I , Anita Dee II, Kanan Cruises, and Shoreline Charters
1. Billy Goat Tavern and Grill
2. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Marketplace – a must see for fans of the movie, “Forrest Gump”
3. Dock Street Café
4. Navy Pier Beer Garden – Burgers, Brats, Beer, and Live Music
5. McDonalds – The Future – interesting place to eat, light shows every 20 minutes
6. Harry Caray’s Tavern Navy Pier – family friendly, excellent menu, and great spots museum
7. Haagen Dazs Café – if you eat here, you can’t forget the ice cream for dessert
8. Riva – a fine dining experience that features fresh seafood, steaks, and pasta
9. America’s Dog
10. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
11. Connie’s Pizza
12. Greek Delight
13. Charlie’s Ale House – neighborhood saloon with home cooking
14. Twisted Lizard
Many more restaurants are located on the Pier.
Shopping abounds here too. There are several small shops located on the pier and plenty to keep everyone busy. Shops like Build-a Bear, Dog E. Works, Making History, Navy Pier Signature Shop, Varsity Stop Outfitters, and East West News. Of course, there are also many shopping places in downtown Chicago that are located within walking distance, a bus ride, or even a short taxi ride from the pier.
Also, for the kids, there is a neat little fountain across from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. that they can play in to cool off on hot summer days, It shoots several different streams of water out of it and is neat to watch as well as to play in. If they are into hands on experiences, I recommend that you are sure to get them into the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Funhouse Maze, both located on the Pier. Both of these attractions charge an admission charge, but both are well worth the price that you will pay.
Transportation to the Navy Pier is easily accessible. You can get there by car, public transportation, bike, taxi, or even trolley. If you are staying at a local suburb hotel, you could ride the passenger train into Union Station and proceed to Navy pier from there by taxi, buss, or even walking if you would prefer. If you arrive by car, there is an indoor parking garage that will hold 16,000 vehicles. There are 7 bus lines that bring visitors to the Pier. There is seasonal bike rental available at various sights along the lakefront that will allow you to access the Pier by bike. There are plenty of taxis available throughout Chicago that you can ride into the Pier area. The Navy Pier Trolley is available seasonally between Navy Pier and State Street. Just look for the signs along the route. No matter how you decide to travel to the Pier, just be sure to make this one of your stops in Chicago, you won’t regret it.