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Navy Pier picture in Chicago
Centennial Wheel picture in Chicago
Navy Pier from the Water picture in Chicago
Fireworks picture in Chicago
Navy Pier picture in Chicago
Centennial Wheel picture in Chicago
Navy Pier from the Water picture in Chicago
Fireworks picture in Chicago

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • Free
  • 10 a.m.-7, 8 or 10 p.m. daily, depending on day and season

Details

  • Amusement Parks, Sightseeing Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Local Experts Scorecard
Based on 10 interviews

  • Must-see
  • Recommended
  • If You Have Time

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

Extending out onto Lake Michigan, Navy Pier offers plenty in the way of family-friendly entertainment. The first thing you'll spot once you set foot on the pier is the towering Ferris wheel (which stands 196 feet tall); you'll also find a swing-seat ride and a carousel. Once the kids have had their fill of thrill rides, you can spend some time practicing your putt at the 18-hole miniature golf course or spend a few hours exploring the Chicago Children's Museum, with hands-on exhibits ranging from treehouses to firetrucks.

But you don't have to be a kid to enjoy a visit to Navy Pier. Grown-ups can catch a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, flex some credit card muscle at a variety of shops or grab a drink at the Miller Lite Beer Garden. And be sure to check Navy Pier's website for a list of events: Concerts are often held here, and during the summer (and New Year's Eve), impressive fireworks displays are the norm.

While many visitors appreciated Navy Pier's picturesque water views and plentiful kids amenities, some bemoaned the prices charged for rides, food and souvenirs. But, if you have a Go Chicago Card, you'll enjoy complimentary rides on the pier's Centennial Wheel and tickets for select thrill rides.

The Navy Pier complex is located a few blocks east of The Magnificent Mile and is open year-round from 10 a.m. to as late as midnight, depending on the day and season. You don't have to pay to enjoy the pier (or its evening fireworks), however, individual attractions along the pier charge $5 to $50 per ride. In addition to the pier's rides, shops and eateries, visitors will find restrooms, a parking garage and a cruise dock (where travelers can climb aboard one of the city's sightseeing and dinner cruises) available on-site. An L station is not situated within walking distance, so visitors should plan on driving, taking a bus or riding on the attraction's free trolley – which has multiple stops along State, Monroe and Illinois streets and Columbus and Grand avenues – to Navy Pier.

Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
Loews Chicago Hotel

Loews Chicago Hotel ...

  • 0.5 Miles Away
  • 4.5-star Hotel Class
Sheraton Grand Chicago

Sheraton Grand Chicago ...

  • 0.5 Miles Away
  • 4.0-star Hotel Class
W Chicago - Lakeshore

W Chicago - Lakeshore ...

  • 0.4 Miles Away
  • 4.5-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in Chicago »

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#1 Art Institute of Chicago Home to one of the country's most impressive collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art (plus works from numerous other genres), the expansive Art Institute of Chicago features more than ... Read more » Tom Ipri / Flickr

#2 Chicago Architecture River Cruise A visit to 360 CHICAGO or Skydeck Chicago will give you a good overview of the city's layout. But if you want to learn more about Chicago's sky-high ... Read more » Shobeir Ansari / Getty Images

#3 Millennium Park A first-time visit to Chicago isn't complete without a stop at Millennium Park. Situated in the Loop just north of the Art Institute of Chicago, this 24.5-acre space ... Read more » A Ryan / Flickr

#4 Shedd Aquarium Shedd Aquarium is one of the world's largest indoor aquariums, housing around 32,000 creatures. While you're here, you can feel stingrays float beneath your fingers, listen to ... Read more » Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

#5 Wrigley Field Any fan of "Saturday Night Live" knows that Chicagoans take their love of sports very seriously. So for a real taste of Chicago culture, head north of the Loop to ... Read more » Mr Hicks46 / Flickr

#6 Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain Often referred to as "Chicago's front yard," Grant Park is a 319-acre swath of green space that starts at the eastern edge of the Loop and stretches down to ... Read more » MattFrankel / Getty Images

#7 The Field Museum This extensive natural history museum occupies half an acre of Grant Park's Museum Campus and houses extensive exhibits that showcase artifacts from multiple eras and destinations, making it a ... Read more » Robert Glusic / Getty Images

#8 The Magnificent Mile If you can feel your credit card burning a hole through your wallet, make your way to The Magnificent Mile. This portion of Michigan Avenue – which stretches between Lake Shore ... Read more » Christopher.F Photography / Getty Images

#9 Navy Pier Extending out onto Lake Michigan, Navy Pier offers plenty in the way of family-friendly entertainment. The first thing you'll spot once you set foot on the pier is the ... Read more » Westend61 / Getty Images

#10 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck One of Chicago's most notable attractions is its skyline, and one of the best places to experience it is at the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck. Formerly known as the ... Read more » ziggymaj / Getty Images

#11 Museum of Science and Industry Chicago's extensive Museum of Science and Industry pays tribute to the city's innovative roots, showcasing more than 35,000 artifacts and a variety of hands-on exhibits meant to ... Read more » benkrut / Getty Images

#12 Skydeck Chicago Nearly 2 million people make their way to Willis Tower's Skydeck Chicago each year, and it's easy to see why. Occupying the 103rd floor – that's nine floors ... Read more » Courtesy of Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower

#13 Lincoln Park Zoo Located 2 miles north of the Loop in the North Side neighborhood of Lincoln Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo is home to dozens of species, such as zebras, sloths and ... Read more » JamesTung / Getty Images

#14 The Chicago Theatre Aside from Cloud Gate and Buckingham Fountain, The Chicago Theatre's red and yellow marquee is perhaps one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. Illuminating North State Street at ... Read more » VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm / Getty Images

# Chicago Crime Tours Read more » sfgamchick / Flickr

# Maggie Daley Park Read more » Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

# The 606 Read more » Courtesy The 606

Art Institute of Chicago picture in Chicago
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Shedd Aquarium picture in Chicago
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The Magnificent Mile picture in Chicago
Navy Pier picture in Chicago
360 CHICAGO Observation Deck picture in Chicago
Museum of Science and Industry picture in Chicago
Skydeck Chicago picture in Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo picture in Chicago
The Chicago Theatre picture in Chicago
Chicago Crime Tours picture in Chicago
Maggie Daley Park picture in Chicago
The 606 picture in Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago picture in Chicago
Chicago Architecture River Cruise picture in Chicago
Millennium Park picture in Chicago
Shedd Aquarium picture in Chicago
Wrigley Field picture in Chicago
Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain picture in Chicago
The Field Museum picture in Chicago
The Magnificent Mile picture in Chicago
Navy Pier picture in Chicago
360 CHICAGO Observation Deck picture in Chicago
Museum of Science and Industry picture in Chicago
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It's hard to miss the Art Institute of Chicago's entrance as you approach. Two tall bronze lions have stood outside the museum since 1894, the year after Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition. Tom Ipri / Flickr

One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the city and its famous architecture is to take an architecture river cruise on the Chicago River. Shobeir Ansari / Getty Images

Chicago's famous Cloud Gate sculpture – often referred to as "The Bean" – can be found in Millennium Park. A Ryan / Flickr

While Shedd Aquarium's main draw is its abundant aquatic life housed inside, step outside to enjoy scenic views of Lake Michigan and the downtown Chicago skyline. Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

Baseball enthusiasts cannot miss a chance to visit Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Mr Hicks46 / Flickr

One of Grant Park's standout features is the Buckingham Fountain, a large tiered fountain built as a tribute to Clarence Buckingham (an avid art collector who donated several works to the Art Institute of Chicago). MattFrankel / Getty Images

Excite your inner archaeologist by visiting The Field Museum, which features exhibits showcasing everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to dinosaur bones. Robert Glusic / Getty Images

The stretch of Michigan Avenue just north of the Loop is known as The Magnificent Mile. Here, you'll find a number of high-end shops and eateries, plus iconic structures like the Historic Water Tower, Tribune Tower and the John Hancock Center, where 360 CHICAGO is located. Christopher.F Photography / Getty Images

Whether or not you've got kids in tow, carve out some time for Navy Pier. In addition to rides, the pier is home to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Chicago Children's Museum and an Imax theater. Westend61 / Getty Images

From the John Hancock Center's 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck, travelers can take in panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. ziggymaj / Getty Images

One of the city's most popular family-friendly attractions is the Museum of Science and Industry, thanks in part to its variety of hands-on educational activities. benkrut / Getty Images

Skydeck Chicago in Willis Tower features glass viewing areas that extend outward from the building's 103rd floor. Courtesy of Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower

The beloved (and free) Lincoln Park Zoo houses an array of animals from around the world, including lions, chimpanzees and polar bears. JamesTung / Getty Images

Built in 1921, The Chicago Theatre was the flagship for the Balaban and Katz group of theaters. VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm / Getty Images

Anyone interested in Chicago's history of mobsters and gangsters needs to book a Chicago Crime Tour to get the backstory on the city's gritty history. sfgamchick / Flickr

This 20-acre park, located in the Loop, is a must-do for any travelers with kids. And in the winter, the park operates an ice skating ribbon, which weaves through the park’s undulating landscape. Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

This 2.7-mile elevated park and trail offers walkers, joggers and cyclers a great vantage of the city. Courtesy The 606

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