Whether you want to ride a ferris wheel or lean toward seeing some Shakespeare, Navy Pier has every kind of enjoyment you can imagine. Open to the public since 1916, the area was revitalized in 1995. Ever since, it has attracted visitors from all over the world – over 8 million in 2005 alone.
Don’t worry about crowds, though. There’s so much to do and see that lines are rarely a problem. There is a dock with ships to see and restaurants to sample, just like Pier 39 in San Francisco. Or you can just sit and enjoy the fountain at Gateway Park, with 240 jets, all computer synchronized.
The Ferris Wheel is modeled after the world’s first, constructed for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition. Forty-four feet high, with 36 hand-painted animals, it’s a delight for kids and adults alike. You’ll get a great view of the Skyline Stage, a 100-foot high roof structure used as an ice skating rink in winter, and a 1,500-seat outdoor theatre during the summer.
If it’s theater you’re after, though, don’t miss the seven-story Shakespeare Theater. With 525 seats that rarely go empty, you’ll find a show of the type that has pleased audiences for over 400 years.
Navy Pier has an IMAX theater too, of course, for those who like their entertainment fully modern. With the giant 6-story screen, featuring scenes of enormous volcanoes, waterfalls, and dozens of special films, you’ll sometimes wish it weren’t so lifelike!
Come visit the Smith Stained Glass museum and get a look at these multi-colored wonders. You’ll see designs like no others anywhere. Gothic cathedral through modern portrait, there are 150 different styles. Then head to TransPIERency to purchase a small replica as a memento of your experience.
For the kids, there’s the Children’s Museum where everything is oriented toward the curiosity of the younger crowd. Treehouse trails and canoes rafting down a pretend river will keep them delightfully occupied.
Shopping at Navy Pier is in never-ending supply. You can attend a Build-A-Bear workshop and design your own stuffed animal. Or head to Sitara to pick out some Indian clothing or handmade crafts from Bali. Visit Go! The Game Shop and find more board games than you knew existed.
You’ll be hungry by now, so stop in at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., named after the fictional character’s business. Offering more than just crustaceans, the menu includes baby back ribs and lots more. If you like your southern food with a little jazz, try Joe’s Be-Bop Cafe and get some jambalaya and ribs.
If you’re just thirsty, check out Charlie’s Ale House with over 70 different beers to choose from. During the spring and summer, it seats over 150 guests, inside and out. Try the Billy Goat Tavern for one of the best cheeseburgers in the city. Or, go to RIVA for a more chic atmosphere with great steak, pasta, and seafood.
Not far away is the famed Hancock Tower and many other attractions, so be prepared for a long day of great entertainment.