Monday, June 21, 2010

Midwest Attractions - Navy Pier Chicago

Father's Day brought me a visit to Chicago's Navy Pier, noted by several sources as the number 1 tourist attraction in the city. I certainly believe that, judging by the volume of out-of-area visitors on the Pier on Sunday.

If I have my history correct, Navy Pier was originally known as "Municipal Pier #2" and was to be one of 6 such piers, with the goal of continuing Chicago's importance as a major international port. It was the only one actually built, however, and was renamed Navy Pier sometime later. (All that is left of Pier #1 is a string of worn wooden pylons, about 50 yards to the south of Navy Pier.)

It was unused for quite a while, and then the city began using it for concerts and events. The first "ChicagoFest" and a few subsequent ones were held on Navy Pier. It must have been in the later 1980's or even early 1990's that Chicago renovated it and turned it into a huge tourist attraction.

Yesterday we started our visit with lunch at the chain restaurant, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which is a fun place to eat (and drink). Their menu is, of course, mostly shrimp dishes, but they have a few other things as well, and some tasty non-alcoholic drinks to go with the stronger stuff. Other restaurants on the Pier are Riva, Harry Caray's, Charlie's Ale House, the Billy Goat Tavern, Capri's Italian Kitchen, and Dock Street Cafe. There is also a food court with a McDonalds and several other "fast" food type items.

We were thinking that a boat cruise sounded good yesterday, and had plenty of choices. Sea Dog cruises can take you on high speed cruises on the lake and up the river. Shoreline Cruises offer sightseeing rides, also on the lake and river. The Odyssey, Spirit of Chicago and Mystic Blue offer dinner cruises on the lake. Several charters sail from along Navy Pier. We decided to take a cruise on the tall ship Windy, a schooner that rides along the lakefront, telling architectural and pirate stories, and it was a very nice cruise out on the lake.

There are some rides at Navy Pier, including the huge Ferris Wheel, a swing ride and a carousel. There are some lesser rides, like a bouncy-type "frogger" ride and a motion simulator (not up on top like the rest of the rides) and a maze attraction that I wouldn't pay for ever again. (My kids were in and out of it in like 5 minutes.) You can play miniature golf, and there is an Imax theater and a Shakespeare theater, and Cirque Shanghai performs here. There is a stained glass museum, and the Chicago Children's Museum is located here.

Performances for the kiddies are in the main area, near the front by the Children's Museum and the Imax theater. More adult performances are located near the end of the (almost) mile long pier, in an outdoor beer garden.

Bikes are available for rental on the Pier also, and something new is a hot air balloon ride, which appears to be similar to what they've got at Downtown Disney.

How does all this connect up to Disney? Well, I guess it doesn't, except in the sense that perhaps there are ideas here for things that work to entertain and even educate visitors. But it was a fun day anyway, and we may try to get back there later this summer.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Navy Pier and Disney actually do have a history.