Navy Pier

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Navy Pier "Self-dubbed Chicago's ""lakefront playground,"" Navy Pier is one of the city's busiest tourist destinations, entertaining nearly nine million visitors a year with a plethora of amusement park rides, theaters, boat cruises..." Chicago United States 41.891975 -87.599123
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Navy Pier - Outdoor Activity | Shopping Area in Chicago.
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Party Earth Review Self-dubbed Chicago’s “lakefront playground,” Navy Pier is one of the city’s busiest tourist destinations, entertaining nearly nine million visitors a year with a plethora of amusement park rides, theaters, boat cruises... ... read full review

  • Hours:

    M–Th, Su 10am–10pm, F–Sa 10am–midnight (Friday before Memorial Day–Labor Day)
    M–Th, Su 10am–8pm, F–Sa 10am–10pm (Tuesday after Labor Day–Oct 31 and April 1–Thursday before Memorial Day)
    M–Th 10am–8pm, F–Sa 10am–10pm, Su 10am–7pm (Nov 1–March 31)

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot
    • Night Spot

Navy Pier Videos

Chicago Navy Pier Lake Michigan
Chicago Navy Pier Lake Michigan
Seadog Extreme at Navy Pier - Chicago
Chicago Navy Pier Fireworks - Lonely Planet / Globe Trekker Theme Music
Too White Crew Navy Pier Chicago June 3 2009 Part 01
Giant Ferris wheel at Navy Pier Chicago Thanksgiving Night
Display of Fireworks at Navy Pier, Chicago (31st Dec '08)

Party Earth Navy Pier Review

The Scene

"Self-dubbed Chicago's ""lakefront playground,"" Navy Pier is one of the city's busiest tourist destinations, entertaining nearly nine million visitors a year with a plethora of amusement park rides, theaters, boat cruises..."

Self-dubbed Chicago’s “lakefront playground,” Navy Pier is one of the city’s busiest tourist destinations, entertaining nearly nine million visitors a year with a plethora of amusement park rides, theaters, boat cruises, and beer gardens.

Jutting out a half mile into Lake Michigan, the Pier is busiest during the summer when it fills to the brim with young college types showing off their bathing suit bodies and fun-loving girlfriends clamoring to book a cruise on the lake.

Cubs fans chill out at baseball shrine Harry Caray’s Tavern early in the afternoon, or join the throngs of young professionals who flood LandShark Beer Garden after work for steins of beer and live music.

An old-fashioned Ferris wheel is the area’s most recognizable icon, though it fights for skyline views with the tethered Aeroballoon that carries passengers three hundred and fifty feet into the air.

Dozens of shops line the main promenade, selling everything from handmade jewelry to tourist kitsch, while culture buffs can choose from several movie and theater options, from Hollywood blockbusters at the IMAX to classics at the renowned Shakespeare Theater and major performances at the Pepsi Skyline Stage.

For dinner, drinks, or a summer day of outdoor fun, Navy Pier’s fifty acres of attractions promise a year-round escape from the real world.

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Tip from Emma:

The vibrant twice-weekly fireworks show in the summer looks great no matter where you are on Navy Pier, but it’s especially impressive from the top of the Ferris wheel. On one side you get a close-up of the fireworks and on the other a dazzling view of the city at night!

  • Crowd

    Fraternity and sorority types, fun-loving college students, Midwestern families, beachgoers, escapists, and a sprinkling of artsy types, all ages.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Highlights include:

    Amusement park with Ferris wheel and other rides.

    Funhouse and maze.

    IMAX theater.

    Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

    Various shows and live performances on the Skyline Stage, Pavilion Stage, and Dock Street Stage.

    Lake and river cruises, as well as dinner cruises.

    Fireworks in the summer every Wednesday and Saturday night.

    Various art installations.

    Air and Water Show in August.

    Numerous events throughout the summer. Check the online calendar for a schedule.

    See for details and pricing for Shakespeare Theater.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Several bars and restaurants along the Pier, including Harry Caray’s Tavern, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and the LandShark Beer Garden.

  • Prices

    Pier admission, summer fireworks, and shows on the smaller stages are free. Amusement park tickets for single and multiple rides $5–$15. Amazing Chicago Funhouse $7–$11. IMAX tickets $13–$20 depending on movie.

    Boat cruises generally $20–$40/person, more for dinner cruises. Shakespeare Theater tickets usually $20+ depending on the show.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual: shorts, cutoffs, t-shirts, tank tops, baseball caps, flip-flops, sandals.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Any nice day or night in the summer.

  • Close By

    Magnificent Mile (North Michigan Avenue) offers more shopping and restaurants, as well as excellent city views from the John Hancock Observatory (875 North Michigan Avenue).

Navy Pier User Reviews

Average rating:
Beyond the Magnificent Mile
Jacquelyn G. Aug 27, 2013
Just beyond the Magnificent Mile is a place teeming with tourists and natives alike. Navy Pier's 3,300 foot boardwalk is host to numerous unrivaled attractions. Situated along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier offers a stunning view of Chicago. For the dauntless, Navy Pier is home to the much renowned Ferris Wheel, towering 140 feet above the ground. The nightlife at Navy Pier features a brilliant fireworks display twice a week throughout the summer that can be enjoyed on the boardwalk, atop the Ferris Wheel, or aboard an Entertainment Cruise. Tourists and natives need not be afraid of prices as many tickets can be purchased at a discounted rate in conjunction with other Chicago attractions or through the increasingly popular site Groupon. As if that was not appealing enough, Navy Pier also boasts of their savory restaurants and sensational bars. Bubba Gump hails to America's all- time favorite movie Forrest Gump, dishing out mouth-watering seafood. Or, you can unwind at Margaritaville, a tribute to Jimmy Buffet. Maybe a Hurricane before you go insane? I am sure it's 5 O'clock somewhere! Parents do not need to worry about finding a babysitter; Navy Pier also has lively amusements to keep the kids busy! Build-A-Bear, or check out the Fun House Maze and carnival mirrors. Essentially, Navy Pier can be a tourist "trap" or it can be a trip! Either way, it is a must-go for tourists or natives alike.
It's a trap (of tourist sorts)
Andrew P. Aug 7, 2013
Navy Pier, where to begin? If your NOT from Chicago, you're either one of the many squids descending down on this place from Great Mistakes training base, or your a tourist, that has bought the Chicago Tourism Departments propaganda, hook, line and sinker. This is a great place to take kids, maybe if your ready to spend their entire college fund on build a bear. If your bringing kids, the McDonald's here is great, however, if your bringing a 21+ crowd, they do have a beer garden, and other places. I highly recommend going to Chicago's Shakespeare Theater, and Ship Day, if you really want to get the most from The Pier. Otherwise, there are better spots to hit in the city.
A view of Navy Pier
Ray S. Aug 6, 2013
Going to Navy Pier can be fun, depending on what I intend to do. If you have a problem with walking or crowds, then this may not be the best place for you. However, it's not impossible to have a good time, besides looking out at the vast lakefront, there are also a number of shops to buy souvenirs, and plenty of cool restaurants to grab a bite. On top of that, the botanical garden is a lovely site to see, especially in the summer time. The main attraction is the Ferris Wheel, if you don't have a problem with heights then I highly recommend taking it for a spin, the view you will see of the city would be one you will not forget. Along with that there are rides and games for the young one to play and enjoy, also a I-Max Theater that will blow your socks off. If you like sight seeing, this is one view you don't want to miss.
It's alright...
ashley j. Jun 18, 2013
As a kid, I went to Chicago every summer and I was always interested in going to Navy Pier. There are little shops, the beach and restaurants and as a tourist it's not...not...worth seeing. This past summer I went with some family from Texas, and it was great getting to be with people who were experiencing it for the first time. They stopped at Garret's popcorn, which is always amazing, and we also got to watch fireworks since it was around the fourth of July. It was a good time because of the company, but after two or three trips, you've done it all.
A "bored" walk on the pier.
Kimberly F. May 23, 2013
I remember as little girl being so excited every time my family and I took a trip to Chicago's famous tourist trap: Navy Pier. The fun shows and Children's Museum was the highlight of my childhood. However, when I started to grow up, I realized that Navy Pier was starting to lose it's flavor. Once I realized that the items on the McDonald's menu there cost twice as much as the one in my neighborhood and how much my parents were actually paying in order to have a fun time, Navy Pier immediately lost it's charm. Every single attraction costs an arm and a leg, unless of course you're there for the Stain Glass Museum. (This is where I offer a very unenthusiastic, "yippee.") Yes, Navy Pier went from an exciting board walk, to a melancholy BORED walk. As many have stated in previous reviews, for tourists it's a fun time, for locals it's something you can easily skip.
Sure, everyone loves Navy Pier
Zemaya F. May 10, 2013
Navy Pier, as we all know is one of Chicago's biggest tourist attractions, but is it really what it's cracked u to be? To tourists, of course. For natives, not so much. Sure, there's a lot to see at the Pier. You have the IMAX theater, the ferris wheel, a variety of cruises, and tons of other activities to choose from, but all of which kills your pockets. Don't forget the lines, crowds, and on hot summer days, the heat! A tourist probably wouldn't have a problem with these types of conditions, mainly because they may never step foot on that land again. For us, is it worth it? Not a chance. Overall, Navy Pier is a great attraction but honestly it's worth the cost.
Is Navy Pier really that great? The parts you don't know about are.
Kevin C. Apr 10, 2013
Navy Pier is one of the premier tourist attractions of my home city Chicago, but is it a lot of hype? This critic says: "kinda". For tourists trying to get away from their regular day to day life, visiting Chicago's Navy Pier is a must, according to most people. Navy Pier's tagline should be "Do you love crowds? Do you love long lines? Do you love drunk Cub fans? Then come on out to Navy Pier today, we have all that and more." Navy Pier is well know for the Ferris Wheel, which lives up to its reputation, it is a Ferris Wheel. If going up and then coming back down a minute later is too exciting for you, I would avoid this thrill ride altogether. The IMAX theatre is truly a special experience, for movie lovers like myself it is a must do, but the problem is the limited selections of movies. The bar scene at Navy Pier is also enjoyable, it has a tendency to get a little out of hand on days the Cubs play but for the most part the bars are fashionable and have a fun vibe.For most people that's the Navy Pier experience, unbeknownst to the majority there is a lot more to do. Navy Pier has one of the finest collections of stain glass windows I have ever seen. Honestly, stain glass artists should be more well known because it is truly an art. After leaving the art gallery, visitors can walk outside and see this giant thing called Lake Michigan. What a view, on a sunny day is a sight to behold, I went there on a cold and rainy day and still found it to be magnificent. Navy Pier also contains a greenhouse that is the polar opposite of the usual weather outside. Walking around in a forrest of palm trees in Chicago in December is a trip. Last but not least is the Shakespeare Theater, designed to mimic the architecture of the day, Navy Pier's Shakespeare Theater brings the audience back in time as they watch some of Chicago's most talented actors perform Shakespeare's classic plays. Navy Pier is a great tourist attraction, its one of those places you can say you've been, but if you want more, Navy Pier offers more than just its surface attractions. Like anything else, the more times you experience something the more you learn about it and the more you can get out of it.
Summer Fun
Nikki S. Apr 4, 2013
Navy Pier is an ideal place for a day of summer fun. Grab your sunscreen and head to Streeterville! Sprawling more than half a mile out into Lake Michigan, the Pier hosts a vast array of activities- and there's something for everyone. Youngsters will love the Chicago Children's Museum and the fun house. The star attraction (and Chicago icon)- the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel- allows for an amazing view of the city, and is surrounded by an abundance of family-friendly carnival rides. Adults can enjoy a leisurely walk along the pier, soaking up the summer sun and taking in the stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, all while enjoying live music and a cocktail from one of the many drink stands or the Land Shark Beer Garden. For those itching to get off dry land, the pier is home to every type of boat tour/cruise imaginable (from architecture, to pirates and rum runners, and even a thrill-ride boat adventure courtesy of Sea Dog Boat Tours). To beat the heat the Pier offers showings at the IMAX movie theater, as well as a full season of live productions at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater ( presenting everything from great classics to modern fare- last summer's Murder for Two was a hit). Dining options abound from fast-food chains, beach-bum cuisine to fine dining. Of course, a day at the Pier wouldn't be complete without staying to catch the sensational firework show over Lake Michigan. All in all, Navy Pier is a must-see summer destination.
Love Navy Pier
Maggie R. Apr 1, 2013
As a Chicago native, I have always loved Navy Pier in spite of its touristy reputation. And I'll be honest--it's definitely really touristy. But there is so much to do here that I can't help returning again and again. The Beer Garden is by far my favorite spot in Navy Pier. There's always a band playing, and it's almost always a good one. The seating area is pretty spacious, and there's always a generally good vibe. It overlooks the waterfront, and it's the best place to watch the weekly fireworks during the summer. It's not a bad place to enjoy a drink or too, either! One of the best-kept secrets of Navy Pier is the Shakespeare Theater. I've seen several productions there, all of which have been absolutely incredible. The theater itself is incredibly classy, and reminds me of a modern version of London's Globe Theatre. The reception/lobby area is very nice as well, and is a lovely place to relax before the show starts and during intermission. I'd definitely recommend catching a show here. They have an amazing schedule of Shakespeare plays each year, and produce a few non-Shakespeare ones as well. There is a ton to do along the pier, including a children's museum, boat tours of the lake, the Air and Water show in the late summer, and a couple rides that are great for young and old alike. I will never tire of riding the Ferris wheel and absorbing the breathtaking views of the city, especially at night. The lines can get pretty long though, which can be a bit of a nuisance. The shops and restaurants inside the pier are super touristy and it's often really crowded, so I'd recommend sticking to the outdoor areas. Enjoy the sunshine and walk, bike, or rollerblade along the pier and people watch all day long! Snack on a pretzel or sugary nuts, sip on a lemonade or a beer in the Beer Garden, and enjoy Navy Pier!
Gloria L. Mar 13, 2013
I don't know if any of you get to see the fireworks in Navy Pier. I went to see twice in last summer, one time is on the shore, and the other time is on a small cruise. They have fireworks on every weekend during the whole summer which is kind of nice to the travelers because if you miss it one time, you still get another chance to see it. The fireworks is totally amazing, and they were just beautiful. I remember the first time I went there with my boyfriend after dinner, we were crowded by people and we didn't realize there would be a firework at that time until we saw them. The fireworks were so big and they got different patterns that I've never seen before even back in China. They usually lasts about 10-15 minutes. So it's definitely a place worth going to see. Me and my boyfriend also took the Ferris wheel in Navy Pier which to me was a romantic experience because we kissed in that private capsule:).
Navy Pier, not so much...
Esmeralda M. Jan 24, 2013
Living in Chicago means you have plenty of site-seeing and shopping to do. A well-known place where people can go shopping and get a good view of Lake Shore Drive is Navy Pier. At Navy Pier there are a bunch of stores from which you can buy souvenirs. The things being sold at Navy Pier are not far from the ordinary. It is clear the most of the stores at Navy Pier are meant to be for tourists. If you are low in cash and want to be entertained, I would not recommend going to Navy Pier. Even if you are looking for a place to hang out with friends, Navy Pier does not have many social activities such as drinking or watching a live performance. Navy Pier has a huge Ferris Wheel located at the end of the Pier along with some rides. The site seeing of boats , the ferris wheel, and the lake are the only attractions worth seeing at Navy Pier.
Its Alright
Bryan A. Jan 3, 2013
The Navy Pier is a nice place to visit when your downtown, but dont make it a highlight of your day. It is beautiful to see the city when your at the end of the pier put theres not much to do. There is the theater but I have that in my neighborhood. Check it out.. but don't stay there all day.
Touristy but totally worth it.
Lauren R. Dec 28, 2012
I've lived in Chicago my whole life and I can never get enough of Navy Pier. The legendary Ferris Wheel and Shakespeare Theatre are definitely must-visit attractions. The mall part of Navy Pier is quite small but it gets the job done. They have all the essentials for a tourist visiting Chicago for a day. The have the famous Garret's Popcorn, the popular Bubba Gump, and the famous Harry Caray's all the essentials to enjoy Chicago. And then after indulging in some great food you can enjoy a ride on the Ferris Wheel to see the city or take a boat tour to enjoy the beautiful skyline. The Shakespeare Theatre is also something you should definitely check out. All of the performances I have had the chance of seeing have been incredible. I recommend everyone to go and see a show. Overall, Navy Pier is one of the best things Chicago has to offer. Great food and great fun.
Non-impressive touristy trap
Stéphanie T. Dec 13, 2012
Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world but I just don’t understand what the fuss is about the Navy Pier. I found it a not exciting tourist trap. The small mall has nothing but cheap gift and souvenirs shops, not to mention the restaurant offering generic chain food. The only thing I enjoyed is the tropical garden indoors, maybe it was more to enjoy a bit of warmth during the cold spring. Walking the pier is ok but not special and does not offer an impressive view either. Nice to sit and watch people for a while, but definitely no must-see.
Craig B. Dec 11, 2012
I do not like tourist traps, so I guess take this review with that in mind. I was able to bite my lip and do the Magnificent Mile multiple times because there was always something I could wander into. But Navy Pier simply does not have that. There's an IMAX theatre, but that's about it. You've got your overpriced "Chicago" bars, your overpriced "Chicago" vendors, and for some reason people keep coming back. It completely baffles me. You'll get a better view of the lake (an unobstructed one, and one where your shoes won't be forever sticky after the fact) just walking along the paths beside Lake Michigan. Avoid this one.
Not worth it if you're visiting Chicago
Christina W. Dec 9, 2012
There is a lot to do in Chicago, and you will never ever run out of options if you are visiting this city. Navy Pier is not one of those options you should consider. Seriously. It's a complete tourist trap, a weird attempt at recreating a beach boardwalk in a city that is way cooler than your average beach town. Everything is expensive, it's loud and crowded, and the restaurants there are completely sub par. Even if you think it's a cool spot to visit at night, you'll end up battling crowds and paying $8 for a pint of crappy beer. The one upside is that you get a great view of the skyline from the end of the pier, which is especially cool at night. Even so, I wouldn't recommend adding this to your list unless you have really run out of things to see. (And let's be serious, you will never run out of things to see in Chicago.)
Busy but worth it
Jackie D. Dec 4, 2012
As a tourist, I really enjoyed walking around the pier for a couple hours. Granted, it is a massive tourist trap and there are tons of people there, but it has a decent amount of things to do and provides a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline. Most of the food there is your usual carnival fare with offerings like fried dough and corn dogs, but they also let you walk around with booze! As a college student, I thought it was pretty cool that you could order a Smirnoff slushie and stroll the pier with it in hand. They also have rides like the ferris wheel and carousel, but lines get really really long and the ticket prices don't really make it worth it. There are also a couple theaters and a stained glass museum (how random is that?!). Overall, I think it's a must for any tourist and is a good time during the summer.
Eleni S. Dec 2, 2012
I love the Navy Pier! I go with my family to Chicago almost every year and each time, we end up going to the Navy Pier. It is in the heart of the city and right by Michigan Avenue. They have a ferris wheel and it is right on the lake. It is beautifully decorated during Christmas time and it is definitely a tourist attraction. However, sometimes it gets kind of boring and you can only stay there for one or two hours at most! I went on the boat cruise as well and it was so fun! It takes you through part of the city and you get to see the city from a different angle. I absolutely love Chicago and I recommend visiting the Navy Pier! It is a fun place to go with family and friends :)
Tourist Trap
Caroline c. Dec 1, 2012
If you have never been to Chicago and you are there during the summer, it is definitely worth a visit. It is really beautiful and the view of the water is amazing. There are lots of restaurants and things to do for families with kids. Beware though, it is very overpriced. Clearly, Navy Pier is a place for tourists and you will not see any locals there. If you are looking for something a little less tourist ... my family took a boat tour there which really made the experience fun! If you have extra time to kill while visiting Chicago, go to Navy Pier.
Touristy? Yes. A Must? Totally.
Amster M. Nov 19, 2012
Gotta love Navy Pier! It was my first night in Chicago, summer last year, and my good friend showed me the best intro I’ve ever had in a city. We even went for a boat cruise, which I’d highly recommend if you’ve never done Chicago before… the view on the water is amazing. We went at night and the skyline was beautiful, though I’m sure the day is great, too. Plus there's a bar on every boat, and I'd say it's worth the 20 bucks... or make it worth it and take a million photos. We spent a lot of time just waltzing around the pier because there is a LOT to be distracted with, and this fall I made sure to come back. They have some neat art displays, and overall it’s a fun time no matter who you’re with when the weather’s nice.
Tourist Attraction that's it
Sarah B. Nov 14, 2012
If you've never been to Chicago it's worth a visit. Lot's of fun little rides for kids however it is extremely over priced. It's all tacky, but a ride on the ferris wheel does provide great views of the city. There is also a great indoor garden and the wonderful Children's Museum. Won't find many Chicago residents there.
Total tourist trap but really nice city views!
Jessica S. Oct 4, 2012
Anybody who takes the time to read up on anything about visiting Chicago knows that Navy Pier is a huge tourist trap, just like Fisherman’s Wharf in SF or any other place where the locals never go. That said, when the weather is nice, it’s a great place to go, have a beer outside, people-watch, check the boats going along the pier, stare off into the endless lake, and ogle the towering city skyscrapers. Most of the establishments here are kitschy as hell and avoid it like the plague during any holiday, but if you got some free time mid-week and want to be a bit of a dork for the day, hop on the Ferris Wheel (preferably with a pot brownie in your pocket) and pretend like it’s your very first time in Chicago. Once you've lived in the city for awhile, you’ll never go here again unless you have friends in town who really want to go. But I’m not going to pretend like this place is hell on earth like some locals do. You got spots like this in every major city, it just is what it is. Might as well make the best of it.
Could be so much cooler
Nick T. Sep 12, 2012
The location and idea of Navy Pier is awesome. Located just north of the Loop, Navy Pier is a common destination for tourists, but really does not offer any special - lasting attractions. There is the giant ferris wheel that is cool, and the crystal gardens is a great place to hold a private event, but most everything else is average. If you are planning on going to Navy Pier, I would strongly recommend taking some kind of boat tour - the architecture tour is probably the most interesting but the skyline tours on the Lake are very enjoyable as well. I keep my fingers crossed that someone will come along and make Navy Pier a worthwhile destination, but until then I would guess most people would be disappointed by their visits here.
For Tourists only
Chris M. Aug 1, 2012
If you live in Chicago, visitors will ask to go to Navy Pier. You should convince them otherwise unless you are just going there to get on a boat for an architectural boat tour (those are awesome and a must for any visitor). Navy Pier is just like every other tourist pier (LA has Santa Monica Pier, SF has one) that has a BubbaGump and other tourist stuff. If you go for the theater or IMAX or some event, it is nice enough, but it is so commercialized and sterile. If you want to be near the lake, there are a hundred other places in Chicago to go. Head down to the museums, to Lincoln Park, to the beaches, etc. If you want good food, it is everywhere. If you want to watch the Cubs go to Wrigleyville. There is no good reason to go to Navy Pier.
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