Built during World War I, this 3,000-foot-long pier was a Navy training center for pilots during World War II. Now, the military aura is long gone, replaced with a combination of carnival attractions, a food court, and boat dock, making it a bustling tourist destination (whether or not that's a good thing depends on your tolerance for crowds). If you do make it all the way to the end of the pier, though, you'll be rewarded with great views of the city.
Midway down the pier are the Crystal Gardens, with 70 full-size palm trees, dancing fountains, and other flora in a glass-enclosed atrium; a carousel and kiddie carnival rides; and a 15-story Ferris wheel, a replica of the original that made its debut at Chicago's 1893 World's Fair. The pier is also home to the Chicago Children's Museum, a 3-D IMAX theater (tel. 312/595-5629), a small ice-skating rink, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The shops tend to be bland and touristy, and dining options include a food court, an outpost of Lincoln Park's popular Charlie's Ale House, and the white-tablecloth seafood restaurant Riva. You'll also find a beer garden with live music; Joe's Be-Bop Cafe & Jazz Emporium, a Southern-style barbecue restaurant with live music; and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. & Market, a casual family seafood joint. Summer is one long party at the pier, with fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows may sound dull, but decorative-art aficionados shouldn't miss this remarkable installation of more than 150 stained-glass windows set in illuminated display cases. Occupying an 800-foot-long expanse on the ground floor of Navy Pier, the free museum features works by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, John LaFarge, and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
If the noise and commercialism get overwhelming, take the half-mile stroll to the end of the pier, where you can enjoy the wind, the waves, and the city view, which is the real delight of a place like this. Or, unwind in Olive Park, a small sylvan haven with a sliver of beach just north of Navy Pier.
You'll find more than half a dozen sailing vessels moored at the south dock, including a couple of dinner-cruise ships, the pristine white-masted tall ship Windy, and the 70-foot speedboats Seadog I, II, and III. In the summer months, water taxis speed between Navy Pier and other Chicago sights. Allow 1 hour.
- © Frommer's 2013
User Reviews for Navy Pier
Editorial review from Citysearch
Check their website for many free events for the family. Highly recommend for everyone.
- posted on 11.02.12
- by by Fatherhood USA at Citysearch
- Recommended 2009
- visit website
- tel: 800/595-PIER (outside 312 area code)
- send email
- 600 E. Grand Ave
- At Lake Michigan
- Chicago, IL 60601
- Summer Sun-Thurs 10am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-midnight; fall-spring Mon-Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-7pm
- No Sweat