Regarded as one of the most famous attractions in Chicago, Illinois, Navy Pier sits on Lake Michigan. Also known as the People’s Pier, this attraction is distinguishable by the Centennial Wheel that is visible along the shoreline and from various buildings throughout the city. Offering an attraction that seems to provide a never-ending list of activities, this list of top things to do at Navy Pier will help guide your time spent in the Windy City.

Open year-round, Navy Pier is a must-see in Chicago for people of all ages. This attraction which draws millions of visitors each year, is a top choice for all budgets, as it’s stocked with trendy rooftop restaurants and more casual offerings as well as shopping and recreational space. Besides riding on the Centennial Wheel, visitors can enjoy Cirque du Soleil performances, a maze of mirrors, various rides, and cruises. Although the Pier is open year-round, some outside attractions are seasonal.

Navy Pier transitions into a Winter Wonderland in the colder months, complete with an ice rink, fun decorations, and holiday-themed activities for kids. There is over170,000 square feet packed with snowy-wonderland entertainment for all. During the summer months, there is no better spot to view fireworks. Enjoy this fantastic spectacle each Wednesday and Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor weekend. The below will guide you on some of the best things to do at Navy Pier.


Things to Do at Navy Pier, Chicago: A History of this Iconic Landmark

Navy Pier initially opened in 1916 and was known as Municipal Pier. The original purpose of the pier was a recreation and shipping center nearby the city. After about ten years, the name changed to Navy Pier due to Navy personnel stationed at the pier during WWI, and became a training center for the United States Navy; about 10,000 people worked, trained, and lived there.

About 50 years later, the pier became a designated Chicago landmark. After improvements to the pier in 1994, it shifted to one of the most well-known attractions worldwide. These improvements aided in creating a unique and eclectic spot that draws in large numbers of tourists and locals annually.


Chicago Attractions Around Navy Pier

The bustling city of Chicago does not lack activities and attractions. Below, you’ll find some top tours and things to do while visiting Navy Pier and the surrounding area.Whether you are looking for a romantic date experience or bringing along the family,the Navy Pier is the ultimate spot!


navy pier things to do on the water


Chicago Seadog Lakefront Speedboat Tour

If you have the need for speed and are looking for a thrill-seeking adventure, one of the top boat tours in Chicago is the Chicago Seadog Lakefront Speedboat Tour. This 30-minute tour takes off from Navy Pier and provides an exciting and scenic ride along the shore. This activity is ideal for families and people of all ages. As you race along the water, you’ll learn about the Chicago skyline in an amusing and informative way. It’s one of the top things to do at Navy Pier.

Inside the Loop: Chicago Architecture Walking Tour

Chicago is a highly walkable city, making a walking tour the perfect way to learn more about the area. Inside the Loop: Chicago Architecture Walking Tour is a top way to see some of the famous and impressive building designs around the city.This tour takes you through the Loop, known as the birthplace of the world’s first skyscraper, to explore the Art Deco buildings from the outside and inside.


Chicago West Loop Food Tour

Part of the appeal of Chicago is its diverse food offerings from various cultures.If you’re craving deep-dish pizza, visiting Chicago wouldn’t be the same without it, and locals will tell you, this is a must eat! Any respectable food lover will also tell you that Chicago is the city for a corned beef sandwich and this beloved creation is the perfect blend of the city’s Jewish, Irish, and African American community cultures. The Chicago West Loop Food Tour allows you to explore the local food options, from popular Chicago dishes to meals prepared by famous chefs. This tour takes you through the former meatpacking neighborhood, now known as a foodie haven. If you saved some room, you’ll get the chance to discover sweet treats to please your palate.The West Loop food tour includes a stop at 5-6 establishments with 7+ dishes you’ll taste along the way.Who knows, you may even bump into some famous residents on this tour like Oprah Winfrey!

navy pier museums


Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History Admission Ticket

Beyond its culinary treats and famous architectural sites, Chicago has a rich culture with some of the best museums in the state. The Field Museum,located along the iconic Lake Michigan shore, is one of the top options when visiting Museum Campus. This museum offers various exhibits that offer insight into ancient cultures. Artifacts, including jewelry and an ancient burial chamber, provide a unique, educational experience in the city.




Polk Bros Park

Outside Navy Pier lies the Polk Bros Park, now serving as the Pier’s “front door.”This park is an excellent spot for a relaxing break from the busyness of the city. The twenty-million dollar redevelopment of the park, which was generously gifted by the Polk family, provides visitors with 150 programmable water jets that simulate waves, fish, and birds and is designed to be walked through to enjoy.Lush greenery, water fountains, and free cultural and arts programs are found in the park. This family-friendly spot is a top attraction built to inspire and bring communities together.

Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion

In 2018, Navy Pier debuted its newly renovated Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion, a 200,000 square foot hub for over 50 Chicago-centric experiences showcasing the best that the city has to offer in dining and entertainment as well as retail stores. Here you can also find access to the Chicago Children’s Museum.

Centennial Wheel

Built in the 1800’s, the city’s first Ferris wheel ride is one of the oldest attractions.Your ticket will provide you with three rotations on the Ferris wheel allowing you ample time to enjoy the scenery on this one-of-a-kind experience with 360-degree views of Chicago’s skyline.Each gondola is enclosed allowing the ride to open all year long for visitors to enjoy.

Spend your evening after a long day of enjoying attractions onboard a Chicago Signature Dinner Cruise in an unforgettable way.Recap the day’s events while you admire this spectacular city’s picturesque views from the water enjoying a cocktail and a chef-prepared dinner.

navy pier things to do at night


Things to Do at Navy Pier: Planning a Visit

When considering what things to do at Navy Pier, it’s important to consider who will be traveling with you. The vast number of attractions appeal to various age groups, so determining who is visiting will aid in narrowing down the activity list. Also be sure to consider indoor vs outdoor things to do around the pier area.

If you’re traveling with children, you can include activities such as the Funhouse Maze, carousel, and a sightseeing boat tour. Adults will enjoy visiting the trendy rooftop bars and trying fun cocktails. In the summer, there are fireworks on Friday and Saturday evenings. This is one activity that is a must-see while at Navy Pier.

After considering the activities to include, schedule them, purchase any necessary tickets, and make reservations for tours and rides

Original Post Date July 26, 2022


Navy Pier Chicago Wave Swinger ride
Is it free to walk around Navy Pier?

Yes, the path around Navy Pier is free to the public and open year-round. Though, the activities and attractions have additional fees.

What is Navy Pier famous for?

One of the major reasons Navy Pier is famous is the Ferris wheel (Centennial Wheel), one of the tallest in the U.S. Beyond the Ferris wheel, Navy Pier is recognized for a variety of reasons, such as the 1920s-inspired carousel inside, the Pepsi Wave Swinger, and the stunning views of the Lake.

How long of a walk is Navy Pier?

The walk around Navy Pier is about 1.5 miles out and back, making it a great option for those who want to see what the pier has to offer. The full walk takes about thirty minutes and travels outside the buildings.

Is Navy Pier indoors?

Most of the attractions and the restaurants at Navy Pier are indoors. However, certain rides, shows, and activities occur outdoors during the warmer months. For example, boat rides are available along the pier outside the main Navy Pier building.

Are there carnival games at Navy Pier?

A few carnival-like rides and games at Navy Pier help keep people of all ages entertained. Besides the Ferris wheel, there’s also a Virtual Rush Ride. You’ll find the mirror maze inside the building, which you can explore for an additional fee (like the other rides/activities).

Is it worth the trip?

With cultural events, activities, and food to delight all ages, Navy Pier is a must-do when visiting Chicago.

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