Things to do at Navy Pier Chicago. Chicago’s Navy Pier is undergoing a transformation in anticipation of it’s 100th birthday in 2016. It’s slowly converting from a “cheesy mall-by-the-sea” into something that may attract residents to visit on occasions other than taking their out-of-town guests there. Construction is ongoing.
There’s still a wide selection of tacky overpriced souvenir shops and junk shacks, fast food outlets, kiddie activities and wall-to-wall tourists in summer. It’s still essentially designed to empty the visitors wallet (mostly well-meaning parents). If you’re visiting Chicago without children and have limited time you should go to Eataly instead. As the transformation is progressing in addition to great views the Pier now has some decent restaurants here.
Navy Pier Booze Rules: People who purchase an alcoholic beverage from a licensed vendor at Navy Pier are allowed to carry that drink throughout the Pier’s indoor and outdoor areas in specially marked, disposable cups provided by the vendor. No BYOB allowed anywhere on the Pier.
When you enter the Pier the first thing you’ll see is the Guest Services Desk where you can collect a map. If you’re a member of AAA let the Guest Services person know and they will give you a sheet of discount coupons for attractions, dining and shopping. I’ve listed all the 2016 discounts at the end of this post.
Attractions and prices as of date of publication:
- Centennial Ferris Wheel: With the old ferris wheel you would wait in line longer than the ride lasted but the views were spectacular. The new ferris wheel is 50 feet taller than the old one and will have enclosed gondolas so it will run year round with heat and air conditioning. Uh oh. Previously rides were $8 per person. Rides on the Centennial Wheel are $15 adults and $12 hildren 3-11. Purchase here. Illinois Resident Rates with valid photo ID (Nov. 1- Mar 31 only) Adults $12 Walk-up Only and Children (ages 3-11) $10 Walk-up Only.
- Carousel: $5 per person
- Wave Swinger: $8 per person
- Light Tower Ride: $8 per person
- Toy Boats: These take quarters which you can get from the nearby cashier. I recall spending a small fortune per child.
The all-day pass allows unlimited access for one guest on all 3 attractions ( Funhouse Maze, Time Freak, & Atomic Rush) during their visit $12.99
- Atomic Rush
- Time Freak
- Here are other Free and cheap things to do with kids in Chicago.
Shakespeare Theater: There are actually three theaters in the building and a pub (which I’ve never seen open). The coupon sheet referenced above includes a 25% discount for up to four tickets coupon. You can check here.
Skyline Stage: This is being replaced.
Imax: Prices vary by movie length and you can sometimes find a Groupon. Prices range from $12/10 adult child for a short film and $16/$14 for a full length feature. You can check here.
Polk Brothers Park: 13-acre park space on the western side of the Pier features a lighted, interactive fountain with water jets and mist suitable for running through on hot days. In winter the fountain will be converted into an ice rink.
Skate by the Lake ice rink is the summer rink located in Polk Bros. Park. Tickets for the rink cost $10 for admission and $15 if you also rent skates.
Children’s Museum (Free admission days) If you collect a sheet of coupons upon entering the pier there is a $2 off one adult or child admission.
Richard H Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass: This is way out on the Pier past all the the dining options, past Riva and Exhibition Halls A and B. It’s eleven Tiffany Stained Glass windows. There used to be a separate museum that housed 143 stained glass panels. It was closed to make way for more retail. Some panels are in the Pedway outside of Macy’s at 111 N. State Street.
Souvenir shops and carts: Most of the gee-gaws and tchotchkes for sale on the Pier can be picked up at Walgreens for less than Pier prices. Most books such as Chicago Curiosities can be found for less on Amazon.
Landshark Beer Garden is open seasonally and has live music Wednesday through Sundays. Check schedule here.
East end: Nice views particularly in summer when the boats are out.
- Navy Pier Trolley
- Water Taxi’s
- Buses: CTA Route number 29, 65, 66, 124.
- You can use a parking app to find cheaper parking although you will have to walk several blocks.
2016 Navy Pier Discount coupons (all coupons expire Dec. 1, 2016, Terms and conditions apply)
When you enter the Pier the first thing you’ll see is the Guest Services Desk where you can collect a map. If you’re a member of AAA let them know and they will give you a sheet of discount coupons for attractions, dining and shopping.
Restaurants (does not include tax and tip)
- Greek Delight: 10% off any purchase
- Billy Goat Tavern: Free Chef’s Selected Dessert with purchase of any entree
- Giordano’s: $5 off an order of $25 or more or $2 off an order of $10 or more
- Riva Crab House: Free Chef’s Selected Dessert with purchase of any entree
- Goddess and the Baker: 10% off any purchase
- Bubba Gump Shrimp: Free Forrest’s Appetizer or Kid’s meal with purchase of two entrees.
- Margaritaville: $5 off $25 purchase.
- America’s Dog: 10% off any City Dog Meal Deal
- Harry Caray’s Tavern: 50% off Kid’s meal with purchase of one entrees.
- Ben & Jerry’s: Free Sprinkles with purchase of ice cream.
- Auntie Annies: Buy two pretzels get third free.
- DMK Burger: Free small Sea Salt and Pepper fry with purchase of burger or sandwich.
- Spirit of Chicago: 15% off dining cruises
- Odessey: 15% off dining cruises
- Mystic Blue: 15% off dining cruises
- Seadog: 15% off cruises
- Chicago Children’s Muesum: $2 off one adult or child admission
- Chicago Trolley & Double Decker: $2 off any downtown ticket.
- All the Time:15% off any purchase
- Faces in Focus: 15% off any purchase
- Strictly Sterling: 20% off any purchase
- The Cell Depot $2 off any cell phone case
- Magnetic Attraction: 15% off any purchase
- Sitara: 10% off any purchase