Monday, June 29, 2009

My Town Monday -- Navy Pier

Navy Pier, a family friendly attraction and gathering place, is due east of Chicago's Magnificent Mile (shopping district). (Photo above from Construction of the pier, which was called the Municipal Pier in those days, began in 1914, with the intention of utilization as a cargo facility for lake freighters and a port for travelers. It also contained a few public gathering spots and became known as a popular place for young lovers. The mass production of cars and trucks began to take a toll on the pier's capacity as a shipping hub and it proved far more useful as a public gathering space.

In the 1930s the pier contained various recreational facilities such as picnicking areas, dining pavilions, a dance hall, auditorium, and children's playground. Then during World War II the city leased the pier to the US Navy and it was used for training manuvers. Because of this, the pier's name was changed to Navy Pier.

After the war, Navy Pier was leased by the University of Illinois for a two-year undergraduate program to educate returning veterans. During this time, Navy Pier was the site of various public events including the International Exhibitions of the early 1960s which drew attractions from around the world. In 1965, the University moved to the Chicago Circle campus, leaving the pier an unused eyesore.

In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control over the pier and decided to return the pier to it's status as a family friendly attraction. (photo below from wikiepedia)

At the start (which is the bit connected to the mainland in the picture) is a mall-like area with shops, random live entertainment events, a food court and several sit-down restaurants. It also contains an IMAX with two screens. Typically it shows current family friendly movies. Towards the back there is a green house area called the Crystal Gardens with lush plants and water arches (photo to the right, from It's a great place to relax for a minute! My nieces enjoyed standing under the arches and trying to grab the water. Actually, I remember visiting Chicago back in college and doing the same thing :).

Inside this first building is also the Chicago Children's Muesum. This was actually started by the Junior League, but then was turned over to the community and eventually moved here to Navy Pier. It's a nice little place with some activities and learning for the kiddos.

Between the Crystal Gardens and the Pepsi Skyline Stage (mentioned below) is Pier Park, a landscaped area with various attractions including a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, a musical carousel, an old-fashioned swing ride, and an 18-hole putt-putt course. Of all these attractions the only one that I have been on is the Ferris wheel. While it's $6 per person, it's a great view of the city. In an effort to do more of the "touristy" things around the city, we decided to give the wheel a try a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was on a hazy day, but it was still nice. Beautiful view and all around fun :)

Also, there is a 4000 square foot fun house maze, a stained glass muesum and various exhibition halls. Once when we went with some friends to the Pier we decided to check out the exhibition halls and ran across a Turkish culture festival. Total surprize and a extra nice afternoon.

Every Saturday and Wednesday night you can view fireworks from the Pier. There's also a beer garden with live music and a theater called the Pepsi Skyline Stage. Right now you can see Cirque Shanghai and during the summer Shakespeare plays can be seen.

And if you continue past all of this and walk all the way to the end, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.

Visit the 3-d google earth model for a virtual experience of Navy Pier.

The Pier does have so much to offer. Much of it I've looked at, but not had time to go to. I think that I'll have to make another trip to the Pier and change that!

My Town Monday is the brain child of Travis Erwin. For other locations to visit please go to Travis' site here.

10 tidbits:

stu said...

You know, somehow I don't think this would work so well with Hull.

Lauren said...

Ours is only really usable for a fraction of the year...besides that main building. Still fun though :)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

This looks huge! A really grand scale - wish we could come across from Giraffe World and visit - I'd love a ride on the Ferris wheel!

Rune Eide said...

I see I have to do more than stop at the airport the next time I come to Chicago!

Charles Gramlich said...

That stained glass museum certainly sounds intersting.

Lauren said...

@raph- I just googled it. According to wikipedia, the pier is 3300-foot (1010 m) long and is 50 acres in total.

@rune- I think that it's fun :) I'm biased since I live here, but there really are alot of fun things to do...during the summer months anyways :)

@charles- the stained glass museum is one of the things that I've not gotten to yet, but I think I'm going to take my parents the next time they come to Chicago. I'll blog about it if I do.

Barrie said...

That ferris wheel made feel a little motion sick!

Robyn Campbell said...

Ooh, that ferris wheel looks like FUN! Love seeing the pics from Chicago. My nephew lived there.

Looks like there's a lot to do. I must visit there. :)

Lauren said...

@Barrie- it moves super slow, but never stops moving so you have to hop on as people hop off and it inches by you. Very...interesting...

@Robyn- If you do come back to Chicago the Ferris wheel is fun. It took me nearly three years of living here (albeit some of it part time) until I was willing to plop $6/person down for it, but it's totally worth it :) Also, the rest of the park and Pier is fun too :)

Ms Alex said...

Aie, I missed the pier when I was in Chicago in March (write up here), totally have to see it next time I am over. :)

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