Advantages Architectural River Cruise. Stained Glass Window Museum. Funhouse Maze . . .
Disadvantages Costs can mount up.
|Is it worth visiting?|
Navy Pier wasn't one of our planned sightseeing excursions during our stay in Chicago. We had however planned an architectural river cruise that was to depart from Navy Pier - booked for 4 p.m. It was a hot sunny afternoon and by 1 p.m. we were already tired and footsore from exploring the city so decided to head for the pier early and grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.It was a good choice.
Navy Pier is a 3,000 foot long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is home to numerous tourist attractions, restaurants and theatres. I suppose I had imagined the pier as a big amusement park - not really my cup of tea! There were elements of this on the pier but there was more to the pier than first envisaged. The advertising states that there is something for everyone at the pier - and there is.Now we didn't experience everything there is at the pier so I will write more detail on the parts we did and make reference only to the rest.
~~What's in a name?~~What a Navy Pier on a lake with no sea or ocean in sight? During World War ll, the US Navy began using the pier in 1942 (originally built to accommodate freight vessels and excursion steamers in 1916) for training purposes. The Navy moved out in 1946. The pier kept the name through its many uses from 1946 - 1977 until it finally settled to being one of Chicago's landmark areas.
~~Getting There~~By Foot: Navy Pier is located on Chicago's Lake Shore drive a few blocks from Chicago's city centre..
By Trolley: Navy Pier operates a free trolley service from many areas in Chicago running every 20 to 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pick-up points are indicated by "Navy Pier Trolley Stop" signs posted along the route.It is also one of the stops on the sightseeing trolley. The stop is at the front entrance and you can get on and off as you wish within your ticket limitations.
By rail: There is a station situated directly in front of Navy Pier with frequent trains running daily.By Car: There is on-site parking for 1,600 cars at Navy Pier. Parking fees are charged at a flat rate (Monday to Thursday of $19.00 and Friday to Sunday of $23.00). Not bad if you are staying for a full day but gets a bit expensive if you are there for a few hours only.
When you enter the pier, you are shepherded along into one of the multi-storey car parks by numerous yellow-coated attendants. There are disabled parking spaces on each storey of the car parks. Lifts take you into the family pavilion. A good place to start with maps of the pier indicating the locations of the various attractions.~~Opening Times~~
The Pier is open from 10 a.m. daily and doesn't close until midnight (summer months) and 10 p.m. the rest of the year. It is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.~~Eating and drinking~~
There are eight restaurants and a massive food court with eleven different food stations on the Pier! There are also a few stalls dotted around selling hot dogs or cinnamon coated roasted peanuts.For an evening meal, I can recommend Joe's Be-Bop Café. Live jazz plays every evening from 6 p.m. The food is southern style - prices are reasonable.
There are three basic options for boat trips from Navy Pier. The first a speedboat ride takes you whizzing across Lake Michigan at about 40 miles an hour whilst supposedly telling you about the Chicago skyline - though I'm not sure how much information you would take in!!The second is a dinner / firework cruise of about 3 hours duration costing about $88.
The option, that I took and was one of the highlights of our stay is the Architectural River Cruise. Narrated live (not pre-recorded!) by informative entertaining guides, who relate some of Chicago's fascinating history whilst you glide along the river chomping on complementary home made coffees and sipping complementary lemonade. Costs are £34 for adults and $22 for children~~Museums and Theatres~~
The Navy Pier Imax Theatre has a massive 6 storey high screen - 60 feet high by 80 feet wide with seating for 440 people. There is usually a choice of three films.Children's Museum is above the Imax Theatre. Permanent exhibits include the Inventing lab, Dinosaur expedition, Water Ways and tree house trails. Cost is £9 for adults and children alike.
Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze challenges visitors to find their way around themed areas of Chicago in 15 minute walk through a series of visual and audio special effects. Choose from Underground Chicago, The Great Chicago Fire and Above Chicago. We chose the Underground option - great fun! Cost is £12.95 for adults and $9.95 for children.The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows is a permanent display of 150 stained glass windows housed in an 800 foot long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall. It features both secular and religious windows and is divided by artistic theme into four categories: Victorian, Prairie, Modern and Contemporary. The museum is free and you can wander around in air-conditioned comfort. Plenty of chairs are situated along the corridors offering ample opportunity for rest.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier is the recipient of the 2008 Tony Award for excellence in regional theatre. Sadly we didn't get to see a play during our visit!~~Navy Pier Park~~
I cannot escape from mentioning the park. Several fairground rides will twirl you around, take you up dizzying heights. Somewhere I would normally avoid!!A trip to Navy Pier would not be complete however without a ride on the 150 foot ferris wheel - a slightly toned down replica of 250 foot original built in 1893 for the Chicago fair.
~~In Summary~~There is truly something for every possible taste at Navy Pier with opportunities from relaxing quietly at the side of the lake; wandering around a museum; listening to live music; taking a boat trip or taking a fairground ride.
The Pier was quite bust but not overly crowded and we were able to find quiet areas to sit and enjoy the sunshine and amazing Chicago skyline.The Architectural River cruise is not to be missed! The Maze is fun - albeit brief! The museum of stained glass interesting and cool!
Entrance to the pier is free but costs mount up as you experience its various attractions!!
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