Navy Pier in Chicago

Chicago's Navy Pier is a 3,300 foot-long pier on the shoreline of Lake Michigan that features parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, and other attractions.

The historic Navy Pier is one of the most visited destinations in the world. With its premier entertainment venue, thrilling attractions, local art and culture, and eclectic dining options – no trip to Chicago is complete without a day at the ‘People’s Pier!’

In 1995, the Pier reopened after an epic renovation and has hosted more than 186 million visitors since.

Navy Pier is located between Illinois and Grand Avenue, between the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago’s northside.

The Pier comprises over 50 acres of outdoor attractions that include the Pepsi Wave Swinger Ride, the Light Tower Ride, remote control boats, teacups, and the Centennial Wheel, to name a few.

Fun Fact: The Pier once housed the Great Lakes’ largest passenger ship, the SS Aquarama. This converted U.S. Navy ship carried 2,500 passengers, 160 automobiles, and cruised at 22 miles per hour.

The famed Pier draws more than two million visitors annually and is named one of the most visited destinations in the Midwest.

The Chicago Children's Museum is a part of the Pier's mystique, as is the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze, IMAX theater, and the Crystal Gardens, a one-acre botanical garden with a six-story glass atrium.

The original Pier, built in 1916, served as a dock for freights, passenger traffic, and recreation. Known as the Municipal Pier, the city held events, expos, and pageants.

Today the Navy Pier is still known for its free public programs, art events, and local culture.

With so much to do in so little time – here’s a quick visitor’s guide to experiencing Navy Pier in all its splendor!

Experience thrills on the Centennial Wheel or the Pepsi Wave Swinger in Chicago, Illinois, USA

Experience thrills on the Centennial Wheel or the Pepsi Wave Swinger!

Pier Park Activities & Attractions

Rides & Games

Centennial Wheel

The Centennial Wheel, a 200-foot tall Ferris wheel/gondola ride, is an iconic part of Chicago’s skyline and history. The new state-of-the-art DW60 Ferris wheel is the first of its kind in the United States.

Photo Alert: Nothing says Chicago like the famed Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Snap a photo air-born for incredible Windy City shots.

Tickets are $15 for adults or $35 for a day’s pass of unlimited rides. Single rides for children and the military are $12. The Wheel operation from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. through the week and is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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S&S DoubleShot™

If you dare, experience the thrill of this high G-force launch and sudden free-fall back to the ground, immediately followed by another launch and a few bungee-like bounces to acclimate you back to the ground.

Other Navy Pier games and attractions are the Pepsi Wave Swinger ride, carousel, teacups, the Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze, the Atomic Rush Game, and the Time Freak Game.

Pro Tip: Check the website for details on Pier Perks Day special discounts where you can buy one free Play the Park pass and get one free.

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Wide shot of the entrance to the Chicago Children's Museum and their gift shop in Chicago, Illinois, USA

photo credit: Chicago Children's Museum via Facebook

Cultural Attractions & Public Spaces

Visit this diverse cultural district for an enriching history lesson on the Chicago experience. Here are a few of the Navy Pier’s beloved attractions:

Chicago Children’s Museum

This museum offers three floors of fun for families to explore. Kids can dig for bones on a dinosaur expedition, scale a three-story schooner, or paint, sketch, and sculpt in a real art studio.

Pro Tip: The Pier also offers many free activities, one of which is the self-guided walking tour along the boardwalk. There are usually free cultural events and concerts, art exhibits, and Pier’s spectacular fireworks show synchronized to music.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

This international theater company, recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award, is dedicated to creating remarkable historical productions, new works, and family programming.

The East End Plaza

The East End is the furthest public space on the Pier, where visitors can enjoy a full panoramic view of Lake Michigan. The plaza also features art exhibits throughout the year.

Photo Alert: Capture the moment here at the East End with iconic Lake Michigan shoreline vistas.

A Spirit of Chicago dinner cruise is an excellent way to spend New Year’s Eve in Chicago

Cruises & Tours

The best way to experience Chicago’s premier waterfront destination is on one of the fine Navy Pier cruises. Decisions can be dauntless with so many choices. Most cruises range in time from 40 to 90 minutes.

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Some of the most popular ones are the Architecture & Sightseeing Cruises, the Brunch, Lunch & Dinner Cruises, Specialty & Holiday Cruises, or private charters.

Guest can also take a ride on Chicago’s hippest ship, the Mystic Blue, to enjoy dining, dancing, and a view of the scenic Chicago River.

At Navy Pier, guests can also access several Chicago city tours, including the Chicago Big Bus tour, food tours, and helicopter tours.

Bike & Roll Chicago

At Bike & Roll, guests can rent bikes for solo traveling or a guided tour. The seasonal tours start on Memorial Day and last through summer. Bikes include free locks, riding maps, and free safety gear.

The blue iron entrance with brick planters and flower pots and white letters saying Navy Pier Beer Garden on a sunny day with building in the back ground in Chicago, Illinois, USA

photo credit: Navy Pier Beer Garden via Facebook


The Pier has several dining options, from cafes to pubs to upscale restaurants. There’s the LandShark Beer Garden or Harry Caray’s Tavern if you searching for a beer or margarita. Whatever you’re in the mood for, the Pier has it all.

Navy Pier Beer Garden

This legendary Chicago destination offers free outdoor live music, delicious American dishes, and local craft beer from the Tangled Roots Brewery.


Check out the Chicago Sports & Novelty shop for all your favorite Chicago team memorabilia, or the Art-K-Texture, a gift shop with items featuring Chicago’s unique architecture and design. Visit the website for Pier’s diverse directory of extensive shops and stores.

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Navy Pier Special Events

One winter month special event is annual the “Light Up the Lake,” an indoor light garden that features large, light-sculpture displays, an Alpine ice rink, holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, and a visit with Santa. This event begins on November 26 and lasts until January 2.

Watch the summer fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Additional shows may be added throughout the year.

Aerial view of the Sable Hotel on Navy Pier at dusk with boats along side it and the Wheel in the background in Chicago, Illinois, USA

photo credit: Sable at Navy Pier Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton (Chicago) via Facebook

Where to Stay at the Navy Pier

Let’s face it you'll need an extended stay here to take in all of Navy Pier’s activities. For an overnight getaway, check out the Sable Hotel at Navy Pier.

Sable Hotel

Hotel Sable offers luxury accommodations, fabulous dining options, and the nation’s most extensive rooftop bar, Lirica.  Lirica features delicious Latin-inspired cuisine, stunning lake views, and an expansive bar. Sable also has the largest rooftop bar in the country, with panoramic views of the Chicago skyline. The expansive 20,000 square feet terrace offers several firepits, nightly entertainment, and fantastic specialty cocktails.

Plan Your Visit

Navy Pier is open year-round while operating hours and admission depend on the season and may be subject to change. In addition, guests are encouraged to contact full-service restaurants, boats, and theaters for their extended hours of operation. Navy Pier is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pro Tip: As the Pier continues to evolve with the times, learn more about its history with the Windows to the World documentary, “Navy Pier: A Century of Reinvention.”

There is no fee to enter Navy Pier, though inside attractions may have admission prices. In addition, an adult or guardian must accompany all guests under eighteen after 5:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Parking at Navy Pier

Navy Pier’s two parking garages, West Garage and East Garage accommodate a total of 1,500 vehicles and offer complimentary electric vehicle charging stations. Parking proceeds go the Navy Pier’s nonprofit mission to keep the Pier viable and beautiful. Discounts parking rates of $15/day apply at local parking garages, including the Grand Plaza Park, Ogden Plaza, Millennium Park Garage ($13), and Cityfront Place Parking.

Navy Pier allows leashed dogs in outdoor areas only. Service animals are permitted for individuals with disabilities.

close up of Erin smiling on a sunny day

Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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