Guide to Chicago's Navy Pier - Chicago's #1 Tourist Attraction!

Chicago Skyline and Navy Pier

A Visitor's Guide to Navy Pier Chicago

by Jeffrey Sachs, Freelance Writer

Aerial View of the Navy Pier in Chicago IL

Aerial View of the Navy Pier in Chicago IL

Use Our Guide to Plan Your Day at Navy Pier!

Navy Pier is an adventure whether you’re a two-some or a ten-some. To see it all could take a couple days, so my goal is to help you make the most of your visit. Along the way I've incorporated some helpful hints so you can take advantage of all that Navy Pier has to offer. But I encourage you to be spontaneous. Splash around in the fountain. Run around in the park. Stop and smell the roses (literally and figuratively). And most of all…have fun.

TIP: Since there is so much to see and do at Navy Pier, your first stop should be inside the Family Pavilion. There you can find a map of Navy Pier, and brochures of the different activities and exhibits. You can even get some useful information about all that Navy Pier has to offer. The friendly people behind the counter are always willing to answer questions.

Food & Amenities

Chicago Navy Pier Boats

Chicago Navy Pier Boats

If your first order of business is eating, then you've come to the right place. The majority of the restaurants at Navy Pier are located right at the front in the Family Pavilion. You’ll find restaurants with themes inspired by the early Legends of Jazz, Southern Creole and even your neighborhood saloon. There are also plenty of fast food choices for visitors on the go.

If you’re with a big group, stick to the Food Court where there is something for everyone at an affordable price.

Before you do anything else, stop by the IMAX Theatre ticket booth located in the Family Pavilion to see what’s playing.

Hotels near Navy Pier Chicago

$800
$0
0
5
Hotel Info Nightly Rates*
MileNorth, A Chicago Hotel
4
Located in Gold Coast
View 1 Promo for this hotel -
 
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$215 you pay $182* Details
Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
4.5
Located in Gold Coast
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$210 you pay $189* Details
4.125
2 Reviews
The Silversmith Hotel & Suites
4
Located in Downtown
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$209* Details
Ivy Hotel
4
Located in Gold Coast
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$209* Details
Avenue Crowne Plaza
4
Located in Gold Coast
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$135* Details

Restaurants near Navy Pier Chicago

Attractions near Navy Pier Chicago

Venue Info Location
Hancock Center Located in Gold Coast CulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricMuseumSights of ChicagoRomanticScenicShopping

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Art Institute of Chicago Located in Grant Park ArtsyCulturalHistoricMuseumSights of Chicago

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Children's Museum Located in Gold Coast ArtsyCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricMuseumSights of Chicago

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Contemporary Art Museum Located in Gold Coast ArtsyCulturalHistoricMuseumSights of ChicagoRomantic

Attraction
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Chicago Family Fun Pass Located in The Loop Family FriendlyHoliday FunMuseumSights of Chicago

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Best of Chicago Pass Located in The Loop ActiveCulturalFamily FriendlyMuseumSights of ChicagoScenic

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Lakefront Bicycle Tour Located in Streeterville ActiveFamily FriendlySights of Chicago

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Bikes, Bites & Brews Tour Located in Streeterville ActiveHistoricSights of ChicagoScenic

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*Terms & Conditions: Offers, promotions and rates subject to change and may vary based upon date, length of stay and other factors. Some offers do not include taxes and fees. All offers based on availability and are subject to change without notice.

Navy Pier Imax Theatre

The words “Big Screen” have new meaning in this movie theatre, with a 6-story mammoth screen that’s 60 feet high and 80 feet wide (Chicago's largest flat movie screen). It has seating for 440. The IMAX Theater presents first-run movies and specially made IMAX films (in 2D and 3D) and has a massive sound system to match. The lineup is always changing so you are guaranteed something new with each visit. See What's Playing at the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre now.

After you've checked out the IMAX, head upstairs to the Chicago Children’s Museum. This kid-friendly attraction has brand new exhibits and workshops appearing daily.

Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children’s Museum's three floors of interactive exhibits and daily programs make learning about math, science, reading, the arts, and the city’s vibrant cultures come alive for kids through age 10 and their families.

Highlights include the Kraft Artabounds Studio, where families can explore art forms from around the world in daily, hands-on workshops, and the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner, three floors of ship-shape rigging that visitors can scale—from deck to crow’s nest!

TIP: Your admission to Chicago Children’s Museum buys you unlimited re-entry to the museum all day, so you can revisit as many times as you like. When you’re finished exploring the Museum, you’ll want to head up to Navy Pier Park, but before you do, look into signing up for a tour of Chicago…by boat.

Boat Rides

Tall Ships Festival Chicago Navy Pier IL

Tall Ships Festival Chicago Navy Pier IL

You have three choices for Navy Pier boat rides when it comes to cruising around Chicago. A speedboat ride will have you zipping across Lake Michigan at 40 miles per hour while you learn about the Chicago Skyline. If speedboats aren't your “speed”, then you can try an Architectural cruise. These relaxing rides will give you a more historical perspective of Chicago, but won’t go quite as fast.

And if you’re planning to stay later in the day, I encourage you to sign up for one of the nighttime fireworks cruises. There’s possibly no better backdrop for fireworks than the Chicago skyline. Fireworks cruises set sail Wednesday and Saturday nights from late May through early September, so plan accordingly. But no matter which boat ride you choose, don’t forget your camera.

And you’ll also need your camera for when you reach Navy Pier Park.

Weekend Champagne Brunch Aboard Odyssey Cruises

Enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne during Odyssey's Saturday and Sunday Brunch Cruises. Make your weekend unforgettable and enjoy a grand buffet, spectacular views of the world famous Chicago skyline, live jazz music, and outstanding service. Click here for more info.

Navy Pier Park

A must for young and old alike, Navy Pier Park will transport you back to the carnival of old, where you can ride the Musical Carousel, the Wave Swinger or take in the sights from the 150 foot tall Ferris wheel.

TIP: Invest in a Family Combo Pack instead of buying tickets for each ride individually. But if you only have time for one ride, make sure it’s the Ferris wheel – it’s the best!!

After you make your way back downstairs, head out towards the end of the Pier.

But keep your eyes open for what’s next.

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass

Chicago Childrens Museum Interior

Chicago Children's Museum Interior

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass just might be the best kept secret at Navy Pier. Odds are good you might miss this exhibit even though it covers nearly three football fields of maze-like corridors. The Museum is enclosed entirely inside the eastern half of the Pier, so stay alert, because you don’t want to overlook this beautiful collection of religious and secular pieces dating back to the 1870’s.

TIP: You can save your visit to the Museum for your walk back up the Pier. In the very least, the air-conditioned hallways offer an exceptional way to escape the crowds and the weather. But keep walking, because an oasis awaits.

Beer Garden

Towards the end of the Pier you’ll find the Beer Garden, a lively gathering place where you can relax and re-energize. Live music and premium beers are the highlights of this laid-back locale.

TIP: If it’s too crowded or too loud for you in the Beer Garden, make your way to the North side of the Pier where I found plenty of empty tables. Combine that with a view of the lake that can’t be beat, and your drink starts tasting a little better.

If you've reached the end of Navy Pier and you've had enough walking, preserve your energy by hopping on a trolley. Cross over to the North Side of the Pier right before you reach the Beer Garden. You can ride the trolley back to the front of the Pier or take it straight to your remote parking lot.

With all this new knowledge, I trust your day will be jam-packed from beginning to end. Besides, I never even got a chance to mention the Pepsi Skyline Stage, where big names play nightly.

In Summary

From the moment you walk onto Navy Pier, you're whisked away to a world built on fantasy and imagination. Whether you're frolicking around the Children's Museum, weaving the many walkways of Stained Glass, or just kicking up your heels at Navy Pier Park, there's something for everyone at this lakeshore landmark.

Map of Navy Pier

If you are a map person and want to visualize the layout of Navy Pier, the official web site has a Printable Map.