Navy Pier#6 in Best Things To Do in Chicago
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.
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#1 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 is used to showcase cutting-edge art, architecture and landscaping; it also acts as a backdrop for concerts and festivals. Most visitors come to Millennium Park to see the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, better known as "The Bean." Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain features two 50-foot towers that face each other at opposite ends of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers' LED screens project the faces of 1,000 different Chicago residents, which are perfectly aligned with spouts so that it appears they are spitting water on passersby. Cloud Gate – created by British artist Anish Kapoor – is a 110-ton bean-shaped sculpture forged from stainless steel. The Bean's elliptical shape reflects the Chicago skyline.
There are plenty of other reasons to visit Millennium Park: You can see a concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, stroll through the Lurie Garden or the Boeing Galleries (where contemporary sculpture is displayed outdoors), or sign up for a Segway tour at the McDonald's Cycle Center.
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