Embracing the Crowds at Navy Pier

navypierEvery city has one – one of those spots that tops the list of every tourist’s “must-do” list, yet where locals will only venture when they have no choice (or when they’re entertaining out-of-towners). In New York, it’s Times Square. In Chicago, it’s Navy Pier.

Navy Pier, originally built as a recreation center in the early 1900’s, did at one point during the 1940’s actually house Navy operations. In 1995 it was renovated and opened in its current incarnation as a 50-acre, 1.5 mile long lakefront playground.

It’s now home to the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, an IMAX Theatre, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, the Navy Pier AeroBallon, and Pier Park, a small amusement park featuring kids rides, putt-putt golf, and the famous Navy Pier Ferris wheel. There are a dozen restaurants, beer gardens, and fast-food vendors, including chains like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Ben and Jerry’s, Starbucks, and a huge McDonald’s. Starting to see why locals might avoid it?

Despite the Pier’s focus on consumerism, it can still be a fun place to go. The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre puts on quality productions, the Chicago Children’s Museum is one of the best places in the city to take kids, and everyone should ride the Ferris wheel at least once in their life. If you do decide to brave the mass of people on the Pier, try to go earlier in the day or later, around sunset, to avoid the bulk of the crowds.

>> more on things to do at Navy Pier

Admission: There is no charge to enter the Pier; each attraction charges a fee. Tickets to various attractions can be purchased in advance online.

Hours: Hours vary by season and attraction, but generally the Pier is open from 10am to 8pm on weekdays and 10am to 10pmn on weekends.

Getting there: The #29 bus serves Navy Pier from State Street. The #124 Navy Pier bus travels between the Pier and up and down Michigan Avenue. During summer months, a water-taxi ferries passengers form Navy Pier to the Museum Campus.

Photo by nouQraz