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Plan your visit to the Navy Pier in Chicago

The Navy Pier in Chicago is a 3,000-foot-long pier that extends from Chicago east to Lake Michigan. The Pier was constructed in 1916 and is a famous Chicago landmark. Chicago, also known as the ‘Windy City,’ boasts the Pier as one of its most in-demand attractions attracting millions of visitors every year. Whether you are a local or a tourist, at the Pier you can enjoy a thrilling mix of games, activities, dining, shopping, and much more. Let us take a closer look at how the Pier came to be and what to expect once you get there.

History of the Navy Pier

The magnificent history of the Navy Pier leads us back to 1909 and to legendary architect Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago. Initially, the plan from Burnham was to build a series of piers along the Chicago lakefront that would serve a variety of services. But as it were, a substantial number of piers were never built. Municipal Pier No.2 which was opened in 1916 was 3,040 feet long and had cost about $5 million to build. The Pier became an immediate success with visitors and locals alike who saw it host a wide variety of festivals, events, and more. The Municipal Pier was renamed the Navy Pier in 1927 to honor the World War I Navy veterans.

Since the 1950s, the Navy Pier has come to serve a wide array of purposes. During World War II, it was a training facility for about 60,000 military personnel. By the end of World War II, the Navy Pier was extended to the University of Illinois as it served as a satellite campus until 1965. After that until 1995, the Navy Pier was on a decline, when on the heels of a $150 million renovation it opened to much excitement and fanfare. It is still to this day the longest public pier anywhere in the world and is one of Chicago’s topmost attractions.

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What is at the Pier?

The Navy Pier offers a number of fun and activities across several categories. This could range from taking your kids to have fun and relax, going on a shopping spree, looking for quality theater or simply having a fun night with friends. However, the most legendary part of the Navy Pier would be the Ferris Wheel, the Centennial Wheel. It has simply become one of the can-not-miss experiences of Chicago as it offers spectacular views of Chicago’s skyline. You can also enjoy various other games and activities including the carousel, Wave Swinger, climbing walls, and more.

If you are visiting the Navy Pier as a family member or a group of friends, one thing not to miss is the Chicago Children’s Museum which is also situated at the Navy Pier. It holds popular presentations and exhibitions such as the Dinosaur Expedition, Kids Town, and WaterWays which are all everlasting favorites of visitors. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day of the week except for Thursdays, on which it is open until 8 pm.

Another great tourist attraction at the Navy Pier is the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It is well known for its world-class production quality and has multiple performing spaces including an entire replica of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre not only produces Shakespeare but also has about 20 shows every season, most of which are not even Shakespeare.

The Amazing Chicago’s FunHouse Maze is a 4,00 square foot attraction where you can get lost. There are also countless games and a mirror maze. The cost of the maze is only $9.99, and it opens every day at 10 am.

You can also decide to see Chicago’s skyline from a boat as you take a cruise on Lake Michigan. There are many cruise ships at the dock and there are a variety of options for you to choose from. Some of these cruises and tours are the Mystic Blue, Odyssey Cruises, Seadog Cruises, Spirit of Chicago and several other bike and bus tours are available as well.

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Food & Shopping

At the Navy Pier, you will be able to find a wide range of styles and cuisines available with a wide variety of price points as well. If you are looking for a historic sit-down restaurant experience then you can go to Giordano’s, Harry Caray’s Tavern, Billy Goat Tavern, and much more. You can also find fast food restaurants such as America’s Dog & Burger, Potbelly’s, I Dream of Falafel, and more. You will also see many seasonal food vendors and kiosks at the Navy Pier specifically in the summer including Miller Lite Beer Garden which is open during May and October.

If you are a person who loves to go on a shopping spree whenever you get the time, you are in for an amazing time. The Navy Pier features dozens of stores and boutiques. At the Navy Pier, you shall be able to find a bit of everything, including things like Chicago-themed souvenirs, national chain brands, and vendors that specialize in distinct work of local artists.

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Some Tips to Get There and Timings

  • The Navy Pier is always open all year round and even though the operating hours may vary from season to season, it usually opens at 10 am and closes at 10 pm. Make sure you check the Navy Pier website before you decide to plan a trip to visit there.
  • The Navy Pier fireworks take place every Wednesday and Saturday evening between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
  • The address for the Navy Pier is 600 E Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611. It does not matter what your mode of transportation is, getting there is simple and convenient. If you have decided to take your car, there is an enormous on-site parking garage for up to 1,500 cars. The Chicago Transit Authority has a bus that goes straight to the edge of the Navy Pier. During the summer, there is also a free downtown trolley shuttle and a water taxi which ferries between Navy Pier, Museum Campus, and Union Station.
  • As mentioned above, the Navy Pier is home to some magnificent restaurants, you can still decide to have a picnic as there are many great spots available throughout the Navy Pier. Not only will you end up saving some money, but you can also enjoy your home-made lunch.
  • No matter what time of day, month, or year you decide to visit the Navy Pier, there is always some fun activity or event that is happening over there. Make sure you keep checking the Navy Pier’s official website for information on current exhibitions taking place. This helps you to plan your outing and spread out your day according to your choice.
  • When you decide to go to the Pier, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes or slippers so that you can just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. During summer, wear light clothes as it can get warm.
  • If you are not a local from Chicago, you can decide to stay at a 240-room hotel which gives you the option of staying at the Pier itself. Other hotels nearby include ACME Hotel Chicago, Doubletree by Hilton Magnificent Mile, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Loews Hotel Chicago, and Radisson Blue Aqua Hotel.
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