Dubbed Chicago's ultimate playground, the 50 acres Navy Pier along Lake Michigan shoreline has diverse attractions and fun activities awaiting visitors. It reopened in 1995, and since then, over 180 million have visited the Navy Pier. Regardless of age, this sprawling lakefront treasure caters to everyone's recreational whims. There are shops, restaurants, historical attractions, parks and exhibition facilities, and activities like water sports at one of Chicago's top attractions. The Navy Pier is free and open all year to the public and has many Instagrammable places to explore.
Family Fun In Navy Pier
Navy Pier has places where families with children, friends, and groups can visit and have collective fun or soak in the Chicago ambiance while relaxing. These are:
- Polk Bros Park: This 13-acre green space has manicured lawns with trees. It also has a tiny bleacher where visitors sit and watch bands, or other performance acts in action and mini-water fountains kids love.
- Pier Park: This park has the 200-meter-high Centennial Wheel, where visitors take spinning rides offering 360-degree Chicago views. Visitors can also swing round and round on the Pepsi Wave Swinger. There is a carousel that's 36 feet in diameter and a ride that glides up and down on a Light Tower. The park also has Virtual Rush Chicago offering visitors 4D Virtual Reality futuristic Chicago views.
- Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze: This sensory maze has 4000 square feet of mazes, mirrors, turns, and tunnels, combining fun and scare. Over 2 million people have gotten lost in this maze.
- Chicago Children's Museum: This museum fosters children's lives by creating a playful and learning environment, even for babies. There is an art studio, museum, 'kids' town' dinosaur, a tinkering DIY lab, tree house trails, a story hub, and waterways.
Sightseeing From Lake Michigan Waters
From the Navy Pier, visitors can go on sightseeing tours to witness the scenic and iconic Chicago skyline and the 156 miles of Chicago River. They last 40 to 90 minutes, and guests learn about Chicago's rich history and architecture. These are:
Shoreline Skyline Lake Tour
On this 40 minutes tour that commences at the Navy Pier's west end, visitors get panoramic views of Chicago's iconic skyline from Lake Michigan. Shoreline Skyline Tour passes through the lakefront with the city's landmark buildings and attractions like Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium, and Buckingham Fountain. Visitors on tour also listen to a recording narrating Chicago's history and architecture. During the summer, visitors go on night tours to witness the beautiful Navy Pier fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday evening. Visitors can check the calendar tours and buy tickets here, which cost from $27.
Lakefront Speedboat Tour
The 30 minutes speedboat tour is the best to view Chicago from Lake Michigan. It combines the speedy ride on the shoreline with an informative and quirky description of the famed Chicago skyline. Visitors learn about the Navy Pier and lakefront. Then the music is turned up, and the speedboat races to the Museum Campus and stops, so visitors can learn about and take in Chicago's lakefront landmarks, history, and architecture.
Tours speed north past the Navy Pier to the Magnificent Mile, where visitors get great views of Sears Tower, Grant Park, and Buckingham Fountain. On this speedy and open boat, visitors have little chance of getting wet. Visitors can bring their choice of beverages to imbibe while speeding past Chicago's iconic waterfront. Tickets cost from $22:95 to $38, and tours start and start from 11 am to 8 pm.
Tall Ship Windy-Chicago Skyline Sail
Aboard a traditional and tall dhow ship, visitors enjoy spectacular views of Chicago leisurely from Lake Michigan waters. On this slow 75-minute tour, visitors also watch the beautiful sunset over Chicago. The differently-themed tours start at 1 pm, 3 pm, 5 pm, and 7 pm for the sunset and skyline tour. On the first sail every Tuesday, kids are not charged. Tours are charged from $17 to $49 for adults in the VIP section, and they can be booked here online.
Seadog River and Lake Architecture Tour
To get the best and up-close views of Chicago's astounding architecture and famed landmarks, this narrated 75 minutes cruise is the best to take aboard the yellow Seadog vessel. It passes through the historic Chicago Harbor Lock and Chicago River. Visitors get up-close views of famous bridges on the Chicago River. They also see the backgrounds of iconic buildings like the Tribune Building, Willis Tower, Lyric Opera, and Merchandise Mart. On the lakefront, visitors will pass Grant Park, Chicago Harbor, Chicago's Museum Campus, and the famed Buckingham Fountain. Tours can be booked here and cost from $42:95 for children to $52.95 for adults.
Wine And Dine On Navy Pier
On Navy Piers, there are about 57 drinks and dining outlets. They include fast food outlets, ice cream outlets, bakeries, craft chocolate makers, and restaurants that serve all rich and authentic Chicago's eclectic cuisines under one roof. To spice the food experiences, brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises on Lake Michigan are also offered. Among the standout food outlets one can dine at the Navy Pier are:
- The Billy Goat Tavern
- Potbelly Sandwich Shop
- The Great American Lobster Fest
- Lirica Restaurant
- Tiny Tavern
- Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Bar and Grill - Chicago
- Harry Caray's Tavern Navy Pier
- Giordano's Pizzeria
- Offshore Rooftop
Free Music Events On Navy Pier
Free live musical events are hosted at the Navy Pier at various months yearly, which visitors can attend while touring. These are:
Other Places To Tour And Experience Around Navy Pier
Navy Pier has other places worth visiting, which are: