This iconic attraction located at Navy Pier is one of the most interesting parts of the Chicago skyline as it juts up against the shoreline of Lake Michigan. At nearly 200 feet high, the Centennial Wheel provides 360-degree views of the city and the lake that are quite unlike any other. This low-key ride typically lasts for about 15 minutes and allows visitors to take in picturesque sights in comfort and ease.
With enclosed gondolas, the Centennial Wheel is able to operate year-round even in less-than-optimal weather. Cushioned-seats, heat/air-conditioning and space for up to eight people in each pod allow you to be comfortable during your three smooth turns around the wheel. Expect the ride to go around a few times and don’t forget to bring your camera so that you can get some incredible photographs.
Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Amenities
The Centennial Wheel’s location at Navy Pier makes it the perfect place to take advantage of restaurants, gift shops and other activities that the pier has to offer.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a wider variety of restaurants all in one place than what is available at Navy Pier! No matter what you and your family are in the mood for, you’re likely to find it here. From fine dining to a Chicago-style hot dog on the go, check out these and other restaurants:
- Riva Crab House
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
- Giordano’s Pizza
- Lalo’s Mexican
- Freshii (health-minded food)
- America’s Dog & Burger
- Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge
Scattered throughout Navy Pier you’ll find quaint gift and souvenir shops to help you mark the occasion of your Centennial Wheel ride. Oh Yes Chicago, Navy Pier’s Signature Store, Garrett Popcorn, and Sweet Home Chicago all offer a bit of the Windy City to take home for yourself or to give to friends.
- Because of the large, fully-enclosed cars, Centennial Wheel is accessible for wheelchair users.
- No smoking, pets or large pieces of luggage are allowed.
- Service Animals are welcome as defined by the ADA.
Nearby the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel
At Navy Pier, you’re near so many other things to do in the heart of Chicago. Just staying within the pier brings you options such as the Children’s Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Tall Ship Windy and the Miller Lite Beer Garden Grove.
If you want to leave the pier, then you’ll find even more to see and do, including:
- Maggie Daly Park
- Millennium Park (with “the Bean”)
- Chicago Segway Tours
- Odyssey Chicago River Boat Tours
- Polk Bros Park
- Big Bus Tours
- Chicago Riverwalk
- Chicago Bike Tours
- Architectural Cruises
- Boat Tours
Getting to the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel
Located in the heart of Chicago right on the lake, Navy Pier is easy to get to.
When driving to Navy Pier, the most difficult part is usually the traffic! Take Lake Shore Drive or Illinois Street to find parking at either the East or West indoor garages. Both garages are connected to Navy Pier.
One of the most fun ways to get to Navy Pier is on the water! Use Shoreline Water Taxi between May and September to avoid the traffic. Take the Lake Route from Museum Campus or use the River Route between Willis Tower/Union Station.
A quick and easy way to travel in Chicago is using public transport. Hop onto a CTA bus (#29 State, #65 Grand, #66 Chicago or #124 Navy Pier) and enjoy the ride!
When the weather is nice, you can get some exercise and enjoy the scenery on your way to Navy Pier by taking advantage of Chicago’s Divvy bike share program. You’ll find several stations located around the area, with Streeter Dr & Grand Ave as the closest.
When to go to the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel
Hours of operation for the Centennial Wheel vary depending on the season. As usual for tourist attractions , weekends (especially holiday weekends) throughout the summer will be busier than weekdays.
Summer Hours: Sun-Thurs 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10am-Midnight
Spring/Fall Hours: Sun-Thurs 10am-8pm; Fri-Sat 10am-10pm
Winter Hours: Sun 10am-7pm; Mon-Thurs 10am-8pm; Fri-Sat 10am-10pm
Check the website for extended hours on Memorial Day weekend and closures on holidays such as Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Insider Tips
Things you might want to know before your visit to Centennial Wheel:
- Children aged 2 and under ride for free.
- Jump to the front of the line by purchasing as Fast Pass ticket.
- Centennial Wheel is an option included as part of the Chicago Go Card or Chicago Explorer Pass.
- Photographs of your ride are often available for purchase afterwards so be ready to smile!
- From Memorial Day to Labor Day, take advantage of the free trolley that runs from State Street to Navy Pier.