Make the Most of Chicago's Navy Pier

Chicago's Navy Pier was once a Lake Michigan dock and warehouse, but since 1995 it has become one of the city's most popular fun destinations for adults and children.
By: Alan Solomon
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Photo By: Bernt Rostad, flickr

Photo By: Entertainment Cruises, Chicago

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Colleen Kelly, flickr

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Tim Newhouse, flickr

Photo By: Earl, flickr

Photo By: Eric Allix Rogers, flickr

Local Delicacies

Parents: Chicago-style Vienna hot dog with everything (yellow mustard bright green pickle relish chopped onions sliced tomatoes tiny sport peppers and a dill pickle spear on a steamed poppy seed bun topped with celery salt) at LandShark Beer Garden.

Kids: Corn dog (a delicacy invented in downstate Springfield, ILwith or without mustard at LandShark Beer Garden.

Boat Rides

Parents: A Lake and River Architectural Tour 75 minutes of gentle sailing on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Kids: Extreme Thrill Ride 30 minutes of high speeds 360-degree turns and inevitable splashes.


Parents: Double-cheeseburger, Billy Goat Tavern & Grill

Kids: Cheeseburger Happy Meal, McDonald's.

Thrill Ride

Parents: Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, 150 feet high, a slow, sweet rotation providing one of the best of all possible views of the Chicago lakefront and skyline. 

Kids: Transporter FX, a dynamic high-speed simulator not recommended for pregnant women, people prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia -- or moms.

Backup Ride if Those Lines Are Crazy Long

Parents: Musical Carousel -- just what it sounds like.

Kids: Wave Swinger -- kind of like Disney's Flying Dumbo ride with the nausea but without the elephants.

Indoor Diversion

ParentsChicago Children's Museum a wholesome collection of interactive exhibits geared toward increasing young people's understanding of the world and the way things work.

Kids: Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, a collection of tunnels drops lights noises and tight squeezes of incidental educational value.

Live Shows

Parents: Chicago Shakespeare Theater productions. Some are kid-friendly; many are literally Shakespearian.

Kids: Productions on the Skyline Stage under a big white tent. Rock shows sometimes. In summer Cirque Shanghai's acrobats contortionists and roaring motorcycle stunt-drivers are in residence.

Dinner Entree

Parents: Ahi tuna filet baby bok choy king oyster mushrooms Thai demi-glace at Riva Restaurant

Kids: Shrimp po' boy Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. 


Parents: Fried dough, topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar at Massa.

Kids: Dough a la mode: Fried dough topped with gelato, hot caramel, apple topping, whipped cream and nuts, Massa.


Parents: Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. A permanent exhibition of stained glass designed by masters of the art including Louis Tiffany Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright much of it salvaged from demolished homes and churches. Near the Pier's east end. Free.

Kids: The Chicago Sports Museum. Relics of famous athletes and artifacts including 2 from the Cubs' 2003 season: a shattered corked bat used illegally by Sammy Sosa and a mangled baseball that arguably had been snatched from the grasp of a Cub defender in a playoff game -- at great cost to the home team -- and was later ceremonially mangled by explosives. Inside Harry Caray's Tavern. Free. 

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