Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is located in
the Streeterville neighborhood of the Near North Side community area.
Navy Pier opened to the public on July 15, 1916. Originally known as the “Municipal Pier”, the
pier was built by Charles Sumner Frost, a nationally known architect, with a design based on
the Plan of Chicago (1909) by Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett Its original purpose was
to serve as a dock for freights, passenger traffic, and indoor and outdoor recreation; events
like expositions and pageants were held there.
In the summer of 1918 the pier was also used as a jail for draft dodgers. In 1927, the pier was
renamed Navy Pier to honor the naval veterans who served in World War I.
In 1941, during World War II, the pier became a training center for the U.S. Navy; about 10,000
people worked, trained, and lived there. The pier contained a 2,500-seat theater, gym, 12-
chair barber shop, tailor, cobbler shops, soda fountain and a vast kitchen and hospital.
In 1946, as the Navy was winding down from its mission, the University of Illinois at Chicago
held classes at the pier. Though the maximum capacity was exceeded the school outgrew the
pier and the university relocated to Circle Campus.
You can’t truly experience Chicago without a trip to Navy Pier. This 50-acre playground of
entertainment, museums, activities, restaurants, and shops is the perfect place for some family
First on the list is a trip to Pier Park for a ride on the 150-foot Ferris wheel, which offers great
city and Lake Michigan views and is open year-round. Also check out the whimsical musical
carousel, Wave Swinger lift-and-twirl ride, miniature golf course, remote control boats, and
Next, grab the kids and go explore educational wonders at the Chicago Children’s Museum.
Discover dozens of lively interactive exhibits such as BIG Backyard, Dinosaur Expedition,
Inventing Lab, and the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner. Then get lost in Amazing Chicago’s
Funhouse Maze where you’ll be entertained by the Mirror Maze, Spinning Tunnel, and more.
See a blockbuster on Chicago’s largest movie screen at the IMAX Theater. Or take a dynamic
high-speed motion thrill ride to Antarctica, the moon and more on the Transporter FX.
And during the warmer months, it’s prime time for the Pier’s boating season. Get off the
shores and board one of the many sightseeing and dining boat cruises. Take your pick of
vessel, all lined up along the waterfront, from Seadog and Shoreline to The Odyssey. The
views of Navy Pier and the Chicago skyline can’t be beat.
Not limited to a specific season, entertainment at Chicago Shakespeare Theater delights
year-round. Catch cutting edge performances and classics at this highly-regarded cultural
institution, where their tradition of excellence has been recognized with the Regional Theater
Tony Award, three Laurence Olivier Awards, and 70 total Joseph Jefferson Awards.
The year-round calendar of special events will surely keep you busy.
During the summer months, take a boat, bike, and even a Segway tour, all of which launch
from Navy Pier, and many other places throughout the city for that matter. Hear the city’s
hottest bands at the free admission Miller Lite Beer Garden from Memorial Day through Labor
Day, and be dazzled by free fireworks displays on every Wednesday and Saturday night
during the summer season. Holiday fireworks are particularly festive, with Fourth of July and
New Year’s Eve shows lighting up the skies to the tune of patriotic music.
The fall is also packed with Pier activities, including Oktoberfest celebrations, Halloween
activities, and fireworks. Plus, EXPO Chicago will give you a reason to buy an extra suitcase.
So will the Chicago Toy & Game Fair where you can discover the newest toys in all the land.
Every winter, Navy Pier becomes a winter wonderland during Winter WonderFest with 170,000
square feet of indoor fun that includes rides and ice skating for kids of all ages.
Spring is synonymous with flowers in Chicago and the Chicago Flower and Garden Show has
your ticket to wash the winter blahs away.
FUN AND FREE THINGS TO DO IN CHICAGO AT NAVY PIER
Looking for fun and free things to do in Chicago? There’s always something going on at Navy
Pier! From cultural programming and seasonal celebrations to special events, festivals,
fireworks and more, discover fun and free Chicago events at Navy Pier all year long.
FREE EVENTS & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
Navy Pier, Chicago’s mission-driven cultural district, proudly offers free events and public
programming year-round. See a full listing of Navy Pier’s ongoing free events and public