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The Centennial Wheel at sunset

Illinois

Chicago, Illinois Landmarks: Navy Pier and The Centennial Wheel

By: Amy Nance

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  • States:
    Illinois

A trip to Navy Pier is on any Chicago visitor’s bucket list.

With museums, theaters, parks, gardens and the iconic Centennial Wheel, it’s a perfect complement to the rich history and vibrant energy of Chicago. Navy Pier welcomes new events and features to its beloved location on the Lake Michigan waterfront, reflecting a dynamic city that continues to reinvent itself. It’s no surprise that over nine million people visit each year, including locals, who consider the People’s Pier a native treasure that keeps getting better. There’s something for everyone here, whether you like to shop, ride, sightsee, cruise or stroll.

Year-Round Fun

Navy Pier’s most recognizable attraction, the Centennial Wheel, is accessible every season. Enclosed gondolas let you take in the city and Lake Michigan even in the middle of winter. At Pier Park, you can ride the carousel, climb walls, drive boats, drop from towers or just enjoy the waterfront. Head to Chicago Children’s Museum for interactive fun and learning, or catch a show at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (for a dazzling big-screen experience, see a movie at IMAX). Walk through The Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass, or warm up in the Crystal Gardens, an indoor botanical garden. Take a boat tour or shop the boutiques for collectibles and souvenirs. Navy Pier has an open design with so many appealing, year-round things to do that anyone can feel at home here.

Exploring the attractions at Chicago's Navy Pier

Exploring the attractions at Chicago's Navy Pier
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An Eventful Destination

Along with its many family-friendly attractions, Navy Pier plays host to some of Chicago’s most notable events. Watch a sport competition like America’s Cup, or see the towering vessels sail in during summer’s Pepsi Tall Ships. Celebrate the snowy season at Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest, when you can go ice skating or take the family on an Arctic Express Train Ride. Enjoy flower and garden shows, cultural festivals, the Aon summer fireworks and art and design shows. Get a taste of the city during Restaurant Week, or do some free yoga in the park – there’s always something to get involved in at Navy Pier.  

Fireworks lighting up the sky at Navy Pier

Fireworks lighting up the sky at Navy Pier
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The People’s Pier

Though it’s a historic landmark that has attracted world-wide attention, Navy Pier’s legacy – and its future – belongs to Chicago. Today, Navy Pier continues to evolve, offering new features all the time such as the modern food area overlooking the lake. From bakeries to barbecue, some of the city’s most classic cuisines are represented here, making it easy to get a real taste of what this city’s about (like a slice of deep-dish pizza). Look for more room to play, too: The city is transforming 20 hectares of lakefront space into a green oasis that encourages visitors to enjoy the great urban outdoors. Admire the Polk Bros Park at the Navy Pier entrance and updated Centennial Wheel. Future plans include new performance spaces, pavilions and more, so plan your return visit now.

The Beer Garden at Navy Pier overlooking the Chicago Harbor

The Beer Garden at Navy Pier overlooking the Chicago Harbor
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Getting There

Navy Pier is located in downtown Chicago. The city is easily reached from international destinations via Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW).