NFT Map: 3
Address: 600 E Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60611
Website: www.navypier.com or @NavyPier
Pier Hours: Summer, 10 am–10 pm Sun–Thur, 10 am–10 pm Fri–Sat; Off-season 10 am–8 pm Sun–Thur, 10 am–10 pm Fri–Sat (winter closes 7 pm Sun). Closing times of restaurants, shops, and attractions vary by season, holiday, and public exhibitions/events.
Skyline Stage: 1,500-seat outdoor performance pavilion in Pier Park, performances are May through September
IMAX Theatre: 312-595-5629 or @NavyPierIMAX
Free Fireworks: Memorial Day to Labor Day, Wednesdays (9:30 pm) & Saturdays (10:15 pm)
WBEZ Radio: NPR local affiliate, 312-948-4600; www.wbez.org or @WBEZ
Exhibit Space: Festival Hall, Lakeview Terrace, Ballroom Lobby, Grand Ballroom; 36 meeting rooms
With nine million visitors a year, Navy Pier is the quintessential Chicago tourist attraction. Yet save for an occasional Skyline Stage concert, speed-boat ride, or high-end nosh at Riva, most Chicagoans reserve Pier visits for those times when you have either very elderly or very young relatives in town. Knocked for years as a glorified mall on the lake, Navy Pier is undergoing a multi-multi-million-dollar "reimagining" that intends to refocus the visitor experience toward something more diverse, local-friendly, sustainable and in touch with the waterfront. With a boutique hotel. Phase I is scheduled for completion in 2015, with funding to follow for subsequent work.
Opened to the public in 1916 as a municipal wharf, the pier has also done time as a) the University of Illinois at Chicago's campus, b) a hospital, c) a military training facility, d) a concert venue, and e) a white elephant. In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority invested $150 million to transform the crumbling pier into an uninspired entertainment-exhibition complex that still somehow attracts three times as many visitors than the Art Institute of Chicago and Willis Tower combined. In addition to convention space (home to the annual Chicago Flower and Garden Show), Navy Pier also houses two museums, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Crystal Gardens, an outdoor concert pavilion, a vintage grand ballroom, a 15-story Ferris wheel, an IMAX Theatre, and, just for the hell of it, a radio station.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater has a 510-seat, courtyard-style theater and a 180-seat studio theater that are Chicago's sole venues dedicated to performing wordsmith Willy's works. In addition to the season's plays, the theater produces Shakespeare "shorts" for younger patrons. A bookstore and teacher resource center are also located on-site (312-595-5600; www.chicagoshakes.com or @chicagoshakes).
Chicago Children's Museum
The Chicago Children's Museum features daily activities, a creative crafts studio, and 15 interactive exhibits ranging from dinosaur digs and waterworks to a toddler tree house, safety town, and construction zone. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, and Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is $14 for adults and children, $13 for seniors and children under one. Children 15 and under get in free on the first Sunday of every month under the Free First Sundays program, and Thursdays 5 pm to 8 pm is free admission for all. (312-527-1000; www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org or @childrensmuseum).
Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows
Smith Museum is the first stained-glass-only museum in the country. The 150 windows installed in the lower level of Festival Hall are mainly from Chicago-area buildings and the city's renowned stained glass studios. Windows representing over a century of artistic styles include works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and John LaFarge. The free museum is open during Pier hours.
By Car: From the north, exit Lake Shore Drive at Grand Avenue; proceed east. From the southeast, exit Lake Shore Drive at Illinois Street; go east. Parking garages are located on the Pier's north side, and plenty of parking lots are just west of Lake Shore Drive in Streeterville.
By Bus: CTA buses 29, 65, 66, and 124 serve Navy Pier.
By L: Take the Green or Red Line to Grand Avenue. Board eastbound CTA Bus 29, or take the free trolley.
By Train: From Richard B. Ogilvie Transportation Center or Union Station, take CTA bus 124.
By Trolley: Free, daily trolleys that typically run every 20 minutes travel between Navy Pier and State Street along Grand Avenue and Illinois Street from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pick-up points are indicated by "Navy Pier Trolley Stop" signs along the route.
By Boat: Seasonal water shuttles travel between Navy Pier and the Museum Campus and along the Chicago River to the Sears Tower (312-222-9328; www.shorelinesightseeing.com or @ShorelineSights).
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