We had a great time in Chicago and really enjoyed visiting some of the sights like Willis Tower, the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Millennium Park. However one of the more relaxing and enjoyable things we did in the windy city, was checking out the Navy Pier. It is quite a unique place and I am so glad we spent a few hours roaming around and seeing what there was to see.
When we first got there, we stopped at the information desk and asked for a brochure of the pier, shops, etc. We visited in June of 2016 and found out that it was their 100th year anniversary. It wasn’t actually until mid-July, but they were definitely getting ready for the event. We also learned that there was a free trolley that took you to different parts of the pier, as well as through certain areas of Chicago. I had been to the Navy Pier once before but never made it past the first few stores. Even though we enjoyed looking at the different shops and such, our main goal was to see the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse at the end of the pier.
We stopped a lot of times and took a bunch of pictures along the way. I guess that was why we didn’t really realize that the pier is actually over a mile long, at 3,300-foot. It probably would have seemed longer if you were walking and hadn’t stopped a few places here and there. We also didn’t realize that the Navy Pier encompasses more than fifty acres of parks. There are also gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions, and exhibition facilities. I also didn’t realize it’s the top leisure destination in the Midwest. Apparently the pier draws nearly nine million visitors annually. One of the most visited attractions in the entire Midwestern United States and is Chicago’s number one tourist attraction.
I also learned that the Navy Pier was originally named “Municipal Pier”, was built by Charles Sumner Frost, and opened to the public on July 15, 1916. Thus the 100-year celebration made us wish we had been there in July instead of June. Oh well, it would have probably been insane, lol. Anyway, the Municipal Pier was then renamed the Navy Pier in 1927 to honor the naval veterans who served in the First World War.
Today the Navy Pier attractions include sightseeing tours from companies such as Seadog Ventures, Shoreline Sightseeing cruises and Water Taxi service, and the tall ship “Windy.” There are also dinner cruises by Entertainment Cruises on their ships the “Spirit of Chicago,” “Odyssey II,” and “Mystic Blue.” The pier has fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer and Saturday nights during the fall. Sadly we weren’t around for the fireworks, but I’m sure they were amazing. It will definitely be on our list for the next time we are there during the summer months.
The one thing that we enjoyed the most, besides seeing the lighthouse, was spending time at their Beer Garden, duh. lol, It is located on the east end of the pier, right on the lakefront. You won’t find a better spot in Chicago to relax, unwind, and soak in summer fun. At least that’s what they say on their site, and I believe them. We had the best time, drinking, relaxing, listening to live music and of course, people watching.
Like I said earlier, the main reason I wanted to go back to the Navy Pier was to see the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. To our surprise, there were actually two. The first one was the Chicago Harbor Southeast Guidewall Lighthouse. This lighthouse marks the entrance to the Chicago River and an inland waterway leading to the Mississippi River. It is located on a guide wall on the south side of the river entrance, south of Navy Pier in Chicago. There were definitely good views from the south side of Navy Pier.
Once we made it to the end of the pier we saw the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. It is still an active and automated lighthouse and stands at the end of the northern breakwater protecting the Chicago Harbor. It was constructed in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition and moved to its present site in 1919. While at the end of the pier, you can’t miss all the American Flags. There is also an Illinois Flag and Chicago Flag. Gene also enjoyed seeing the 8-ton anchor on display from the USS Chicago. I liked the fact that it was there as a reminder of those who served in the war and those who trained on the pier. Seeing the pier meant a lot to me as my dad was in the Navy. A nice connection even though he was never stationed there (at least not to my knowledge).
I know this post was long, but we had one of the best days hanging out at the pier and taking a lot of pictures. I can’t wait to go back one day and maybe take a ride of their huge Ferris Wheel. Looks like a lot of fun and I am sure there are some great views from the top. Here is a link to their website for more info. if you have any comments or want to share your visit, please comment below. Love to hear from people.
Navy Pier Visitor Information
600 E. Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60611
There is no admission fee to enter Navy Pier. Attractions within Navy Pier may have admission prices and those prices can be obtained from each individual attraction’s box office.
Navy Pier parking garages are open with a flat rate of $29. Navy Pier’s two on-site parking garages, West Garage and East Garage, can accommodate a total of 1,500 vehicles. Best to take public transportation.
Wheelchair – There is no fee to rent a wheelchair. You may obtain a wheelchair on a first-come, first-serve basis by visiting the Guest Experience front desk at the main west entrance of the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion.
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