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One of Chicago's most visited destinations, the Navy Pier, has hosted many activities for over two decades. The landmark is home to most of the city's iconic tourist attractions, attracting over eight million visitors annually. Travelers visit the area to explore the diverse and inclusive range of activities in store for them.

Furthermore, the area is a boardwalk of a rich gastronomic tradition, highlighting various cultural enclaves around the city. To further amplify the ethnic ties experienced throughout the city, Navy Pier features various cultural programs that indulge visitors in the multiple ethnicities in the metropolis.


Since its inception over 100 years ago, the area has had a significant stake in the city's history, including the two World Wars. Today, it serves as a recreational and learning center frequented by everyone, regardless of age.

Why Was The Navy Pier Built?

Previously known as the Municipality Pier, the landmark initially served as a shipping and recreational facility. Its construction was part of Daniel Burnham's master plan for Chicago, overseen by Charles Summer Frost and opened in 1916.

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The pier would act as a temporary base for military personnel during the wars. It served as a barracks for recruits while housing the Red Cross, Home Defense, and several soldiers. Immediately after World War I, the landmark resumed its freight and entertainment operations.

Unfortunately, the shipping business suffered a massive economic hit during the Great Depression. Entertainment was, however, booming, with the public flocking to the pier to explore and enjoy the multiple cultural activities in play. Ten years after the war, the area was renamed Navy Pier to honor the Navy veterans housed there during the war.

During the Second World War in the 1940s, Navy Pier converted back to being a military base. This time around, it primarily served as a pilot training orientation zone. According to the landmark's official website, over 150 WWII planes used for training lie at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

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The pier also served as a training ground for the Navy's metal smiths, aviation machinists, and engine technicians. The US Navy would relocate from the area immediately after the war in 1946. Military withdrawal led to fewer activities on Navy Pier, turning the area into a University of Illinois undergraduate campus and Chicago's primary convention center until 1965.

Due to its rich history, the site was recognized as a Chicago landmark in 1977, positioning it as an unforgettable destination globally. The landmark then experienced a redevelopment worth $150 million seventeen years later, reopening to the public a year later with year-round attractions, shops, restaurants, and exhibition institutions.

Through its Centennial Vision put forth by Navy Pier, Inc., a nonprofit organization entrusted with its operations, the area unveiled the iconic Centennial Wheel and other striking attractions. It further incorporated a 220-room Hilton hotel and Offshore Rooftop and Bar, the biggest in the US. Since its reopening, Navy Pier has served more than 180 million guests.

Why People Adore The Navy Pier

Besides its rich, unfiltered history, Navy Pier offers various exciting events and programs throughout the year. Its calendar of events features everything from celebrations to art exhibits, live music, dance performances, free fireworks, kids' activities, and lake cruises.

Tourists also flock to the area in droves to enjoy some top attractions in the city, including the treasured Centennial Wheel that offers a perfect skyline vista of the metropolis. Additionally, Navy Pier also houses a rich directory of retail stores selling collectibles, convenience items, apparel, and accessories. So one of the activities to do in Chicago is collecting souvenirs.

The landmark also lies on Lake Michigan's shoreline, offering a perfect view of the city with a relaxing breeze. Also, along the lakefront are various restaurants that serve snacks perfect for relaxing while viewing the lake. Furthermore, the area has a vibrant culinary culture that caters to everyone, including children.

Attractions At The Navy Pier

Over nine million guests visit the Navy Pier annually. These visitors explore the area to enjoy several of Chicago's most iconic attractions, perfect for everyone from solo vacationers to couples, friends, and families.

Things for tourists to explore in the area include the various rides and games. A good instance is the famous Virtual Rush: Chicago, a groundbreaking VR adventure that takes visitors through a futuristic Chicago cityscape. Other exhilarating games include Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze.

The landmark also offers lake cruises that take travelers through the city's sights on the Chicago River or Lake Michigan. These cruises range from the relaxing sightseeing ilk to private charters and elegant dining rides. It also incorporates city tours that let visitors explore Chicago by land or water.

Travelers can also explore several of Chicago's most beloved attractions, including Polk Bros Park, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and the Chicago Children's Museum. Furthermore, the area evolved with time into a community-focused cultural district supporting an eclectic blend of public art and exhibitions.

The multiple events, attractions, and cultural programs blended with a line of various business establishments attract millions of visitors to this area annually. Therefore, tourists must convey several important tips before visiting the landmark, including the following.

  • Admission: Operating and admission hours vary depending on seasons and may be subject to change. There are no admission fees for entry into Navy Pier. However, sites within the landmark may have prices.
  • Guest Services: Navy Pier offers assistance to visitors through its Guest Services team, donning aqua blue shirts and located at the front of the pier
  • Parking And Accessibility: Navy Pier is accessible by public and private transportation modes. It also has adequate parking spaces for visitors.

Chicago is home to some of America's budget-friendly tourist destinations with rich, eclectic traditions worth exploring. One of these places is the Navy Pier due to its rich history that defines an essential American milestone. Apart from that, the various attractions in the area make it an ideal destination for everyone.