A waterfront entertainment strip with fun diversions for both young and old, with shops, restaurants and even a Ferris wheel.
Well over eight million visitors flock to Navy Pier every year, whiling away the Chicago days in the parks, shops and restaurants gathered on this expansive corner of Lake Michigan. The pier is open throughout the year, but it peaks in the summer when you can visit the open-air souvenir stalls and watch the weekly firework shows.
First built nearly a hundred years ago in 1916 as a dock for passenger ships and a store house for freight vessels, the pier used to be home to a theatre, dance hall and dining rooms offering entertainment to visitors. During the Second World War, it was taken over by the US Navy, and it wasn’t until 1995 that the site was redesigned and ultimately reopened as an entertainment venue.
As soon as you arrive on the pier, you can’t help but notice the towering Ferris wheel, which offers scintillating views across Lake Michigan and over the Chicago cityscape. Take a seven minute ride at night when the wheel is lit up for a captivating view of Chicago. Meanwhile, if you’re visiting the pier with family, there’s so much to do, with a musical carousel, traditional swing ride, a mini-golf course and remote control boats. The Chicago Children’s Museum is always a big hit with kids, with fun and games spread across several floors.
The pier is also home to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, a 440-seat IMAX cinema, and other performance stages. You can head there to catch a circus show at the Pepsi Skyline Stage, and even get to visit Santa in the run up to Christmas over at the Family Pavilion Stage.
The pier is easy to explore on foot, or for a different view you can rent a bike or even roller skates to get around. Take one of the many boat tours on offer on the lake, from dinner cruises and private charters to an architectural tour of central Chicago.
If you find yourself looking for refreshments you’ll be spoilt for choice, with restaurants around the pier as well as a food court in the Family Pavilion. In the kiosks and shops dotted around the place, you can buy souvenirs, toys and much more. For a relaxed end to the day, head to the Landshark Beer Garden to watch the sun set over Lake Michigan. It is an ideal spot to watch the fireworks shows on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer. Perfect for all the family.