Navy Pier on Lake Michigan

Getty Images

Navy Pier

Top choice in Chicago

Half-mile-long Navy Pier is one of Chicago's most-visited attractions, sporting a 196ft Ferris wheel and other carnival rides ($9 to $18 each), an IMAX theater, a beer garden and lots of chain restaurants. A renovation added public plazas, performance spaces and free cultural programming. Locals still groan over its commercialization, but its lakefront view and cool breezes can't be beat. The fireworks displays on summer Wednesdays (9:30pm) and Saturdays (10:15pm) are a treat too.

The Chicago Children's Museum is also on the pier, as are several boat-cruise operators. In summer, try the Shoreline Water Taxi ( for a fun ride to the Museum Campus (adult/child Monday through Thursday $8/4, Friday through Sunday $10/5). Polk Bros Park, at the pier's entrance, has a fountain you can splash in and performance lawns for free concerts and movies.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Chicago attractions

1. Chicago Children's Museum

0.04 MILES

Designed to challenge the imaginations of toddlers to 10-year-olds, this colorful museum near Navy Pier's main entrance gives young visitors enough hands…

2. Carousel

0.09 MILES

This beloved kiddie classic boasts carved horses bobbing to organ music.

3. Centennial Wheel

0.11 MILES

Unless you're an acrophobe, no visit to Navy Pier is complete without taking in the views as you ride the 196ft-tall Ferris wheel. The spin lasts about 15…

4. Centennial Fountain

0.44 MILES

Centennial Fountain shoots a massive arc of water across the Chicago River. It spurts for five minutes straight every hour on the hour, from 10am to…

5. Aqua Tower

0.65 MILES

Aqua made waves when it appeared in 2009. Local architect Jeanne Gang designed the 86-story tower (set to be surpassed in 2020, when her 93-story Vista…

6. Arts Club of Chicago

0.66 MILES

It sounds stuffy: a club for patrons of the arts, and it looks the part as men in fancy suits and women in furs drop by for lunch in the members-only…

7. Museum of Contemporary Art

0.72 MILES

Consider it the Art Institute’s brash, rebellious sibling, with especially strong minimalist, surrealist and conceptual photography collections, and…

8. Tribune Tower

0.73 MILES

Take a close look when passing by this 1925 neo-Gothic edifice. Colonel Robert McCormick, eccentric owner of the Chicago Tribune in the early 1900s,…