10+ Navy Pier Attractions & Things to do Nearby During Your Next Trip to Chicago

With bright lights, colorful buildings, and bustling crowds, Navy Pier is the life of the party when it comes to the Chicago tourist scene.

There’s so much to see and do here that you can practically spend an entire weekend at and around this hot destination. There are plenty of fun Navy Pier attractions to check out, from amusement park rides to museums and restaurants.

So, if you’re looking for some great Navy Pier attractions and things to do atnearby during your trip to Chicago, check out our list of the best local activities and attractions, including…

  • Navy Pier Centennial Wheel & Rides
  • Architecture River Cruise
  • Chicago Children’s Museum
  • 360 CHICAGO
  • And more!

Save on Navy Pier Attractions Admission

Admission to many of these top Chicago attractions and activities and more are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.

See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.

Attractions & Things to do at Navy Pier

Centennial Wheel & Rides

Navy-Pier-4These activities are among the star attractions of Navy Pier. Although it doesn’t boast a full amusement park, this carefully curated selection of rides makes for a delightful afternoon spent with the kids.

Ride to the top of the iconic Centennial Wheel for excellent views of the Chicago skyline, soar in the air on a wave swinger, and take a leisurely spin around a classic carousel.

The Centennial Wheel really is the Navy Pier attraction that you absolutely must check out.

Getting In: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel tickets & rides are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Architecture River Cruise

architecture-river-cruiseBoarding at Navy Pier, the popular Architecture River Cruise is one of Chicago’s top attractions.

Chicago is famous for its significant architectural landmarks, from the grand Carbide & Carbon Building and the Art Deco Chicago Board of Trade Building to the stunning Aqua skyscraper.

See many of these distinctive buildings on your route while enjoying the stories of how they came to be built in the Windy City.

Getting In: Chicago Architecture River Cruise tickets are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Classic Lake Tour

Shoreline-Classic-Lake-Tour-1A comprehensive 40-minute tour that covers the entire Chicago waterfront skyline, the Classic Lake Tour is another favorite with first-time visitors.

You’ll see all the major waterfront sights, too, from Navy Pier itself to the Lighthouse to Museum Campus.

Professional tour narration makes this excursion informative as well as entertaining, and the whole family will treasure the experience.

Getting In: Chicago Classic Lake Tour tickets are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Tall Ship Windy

tall-ship-windy-chicagoFor those of you who’ve always dreamed of sailing the open seas on a traditional vessel, or even just those who love the idea of historic ships, the Tall Ship Windy is a must.

This 150-foot, 4-masted schooner is the pride of the Chicago waterfront, offering several sails each day, included themes like storytelling or (my favorite) pirate cruises.

Getting In: Tall Ship Windy tickets are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Bike & Roll Chicago Bike Rentals

bike-and-roll-chicagoIf you love the great outdoors, or are looking for a little bit of exercise on your vacation, then a bike rental is a great way to explore Chicago.

Pedal around the waterfront on 26 miles of lakefront trails, or head inland to the major parks. Whichever way you choose to roam, you’ll find something new and exciting to see on your route.

Getting In: Bike & Roll Chicago Navy Pier Bike rentals are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago-Children-s-Museum-5This top destination for kids and their families is an educational experience like none other.

With tons of hands-on exhibits, free daily art classes, live demonstrations, and more, every kid is bound to find something that will amaze and inspire her.

Be sure to check out the “Dinosaur Expedition” exhibit! This Navy Pier attraction is one of the most popular family things to do in the area.

Getting In: Chicago Children’s Museum tickets are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Fans of Shakespeare – or of theater in general – should not pass up the opportunity to take in a performance at this well regarded and charmingly situated venue.

From your Shakespearian classics like Hamlet and Macbeth to innovative adaptations in other languages and from other countries, you’ll find a wide array of performance options to choose from.

Getting In: Admission to Chicago Shakespeare Theater performances is separately ticketed and not included on the Go Chicago® Card. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit the attraction website.

Navy Pier IMAX

Everybody loves a good IMAX film! From made-for-IMAX classics like the space-driven A Beautiful Planet to silver screen films adapted for IMAX viewing, there’s a diverse selection of shows to choose from at any one time.

These shows all combine stellar sound quality and crystal clear pictures into one amazing movie.

Getting In: Admission to Navy Pier IMAX shows are separately ticketed and not included on the Go Chicago® Card. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit the attraction website.

Crystal Gardens

This stunning, one-acre indoor botanical garden is a gorgeous setting any time of year.

Featuring more than 80 palm trees, verdant foliage, and picturesque fountains, its six-story glass atrium contains some of the most beautiful natural scenes in all of Chicago.

No wonder it’s so popular for weddings! If you aren’t attending a wedding (or planning your own!), you can still pop in for a stroll and a serene experience.

Getting In: Admission to the Crystal Gardens is free. Event space rental is separately priced, however.

Attractions & Things to Do Near Navy Pier


360-Chicago-John-Hancock-Tower-5If you’re in search of another unique perspective on Chicago, look no further than 360 CHICAGO, a premier observation deck that provides views an astonishing 94 stories above ground level.

The sunny observation space provides amazing panoramic views of the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan, and the city below.

Located on the Magnificent Mile, 360 CHICAGO is also a convenient stop on a busy day of explorations!

Getting In: 360 CHICAGO tickets are included with the Go Chicago® Card.

Museum of Contemporary Art

chi-mca-Peter McCulloughThe MCA is one of the top art museums in the city, and is particularly renowned for its creative and cutting-edge collections of the most recent developments in contemporary art.

Often focusing on the work of living artists, you’ll see exhibits that won’t be found anywhere else, featuring everything from sculpture to painting to cartoons.

Their frequent rotating exhibits also make it an easy place to visit again and again.

Getting In: Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art tickets are included with the Go Chicago® Card.

Historic Water Tower & Pumping Station

The second-oldest water tower in the US, the historic Chicago Water Tower is a charming piece of old architecture in the middle of a bustling and colorful modern district.

Today, it’s actually an art gallery featuring the work of local artists, and it’s a nice break from the rush of Michigan Avenue.

Don’t forget to also check out the nearby shopping mall that shares its name!

Getting In: Access to the Historic Water Tower is free.

Michigan Avenue / Magnificent Mile

Image credit: Magnificent Mile Facebook page.

Image credit: Magnificent Mile Facebook page.

Anyone who wants the true Chicago experience should at least walk a few blocks along Michigan Avenue.

Featuring everything from high-end couture brands to fast fashion to Target, there’s something to meet every shopping budget in this neighborhood.

Whether or not you want to buy anything, it’s worth it just for the creatively decorated windows and the people watching.

Getting In: Access to Michigan Avenue is free.

Remember to Save on Attraction Admission

There you have it – a few great recommendations for great Navy Pier attractions and things to do nearby during your trip to Chicago.

Don’t forget that many of these great attraction options and more are included on the Go Chicago® Card, where you can save up to 55% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.

We hope you consider adding a few of these fun options to your Chicago vacation itinerary.

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