Tall Ship Windy Downtown
Navy PierFor a different type of boat ride, hop aboard one of these sailboats for a tour of Chicago’s skyline along Lake Michigan. Families can learn about the centuries-old sport of sailing while viewing some of Chicago’s best architecture. Special jazz-themed sails are also available for music-loving families.
Enjoy The Carnival Rides At Pier Park
Navy Pier is home to Pier Park, a kid-friendly collection of carnival rides.
The Pier Park rides resemble the classic feeling of what a pier should look and feel like.
Likewise, the brightly colored rides and carnival music amplify both nostalgia and fun!
Additional planning tips: Please note that Pier Park rides are seasonal and are open from late spring to early fall.
During this time, they occasionally close due to weather-related conditions such as lightning, high winds, and extreme cold.
Tickets can be purchased at the Pier Park box office or online.
In addition, tickets can be purchased individually or bundled in a Play the Park Pass for added convenience and value.
Guests may call 312-594-PIER to inquire about prices and the operational status of Pier Park rides and attractions on the day of your visit.
Your Guide To Chicago Lake And River Cruises
One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the water. The city is home to two stunning waterfronts the Chicago River and Lake Michigan and each offers plenty of cruise options. Admire the skyline on a lakefront cruise, learn about the citys iconic architecture on a Chicago River cruise, enjoy dinner and dancing aboard an all-glass vessel, sip cocktails on a tiki-themed boat, paddle your own kayak the options are truly endless. Heres your guide to Chicago lake and river cruises, boat tours, dinner cruises, and beyond.
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The Best Seats In The City
You dont want to miss the Chicago skyline at night, and its even better with an up-close view of the Navy Pier fireworks! Join us for an unforgettable night-time cruise on Wednesday and Saturday evenings in the summer. You have the choice to start your night off with all the sights of our Architecture River or Skyline Lake tours and end the evening with the best seats in the city for the fireworks display, right from one of our boats.
Watch The Free Fireworks
Another one of the best things to do at Navy Pier Chicago is to watch their free fireworks.
Perfectly synchronized to music over Lake Michigan, the Navy Pier fireworks show takes place every Wednesday at 9:30 PM and every Saturday at 10:15 PM.
The fireworks are seasonal from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
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Night Boat Tours And Firework Cruise Discounts
Like most metropolitan cities, Chicago looks entirely different after dark.
Several cruise companies offer services at night, allowing you to get a good look at the lights from the city while youre drifting down the river.
Some of these opportunities are only offered during the summer months, but they often include fireworks.
There are currently 3 different discounts available for the following Chicago night boat tours:
- Group Rates
- Discount Sites
- Kids are Free
If youre looking for the best opportunity to save money on a night boat tour or cruise, discount sites will likely provide your best chance at a good deal.
Major discount sites tend to feature all the latest fireworks and holiday cruises.
Depending on whether or not they have additional coupon codes, you could end up saving even more than you would with group rates.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, consider checking these discount sites to find a service that fits your needs.
Enjoy impressive views of Chicagos skyline from Lake Michigan, with an uninterrupted view of the weekly fireworks display.
Tour-goers love to watch the reflection of the lights on the water, as well as the buildings!
Reviewers say to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the tours start time, and this is well worth the money!
Attend A Performance At Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a non-profit, professional theater company located in the heart of Navy Pier. With rave reviews regarding both production value and its exceptional staff service, Chicago Shakespeare Theater is also praised for its physical grandeur.
CST has an entire series of productions specifically designed with family enrichment and entertainment in mind. The CST Family Series presents a mixture of kid-friendly Shakespeare productions, timeless fables and fairy tales, interactive music concerts, and musical theater.
For these reasons and more, Chicago Shakespeare Theater is consistently rated as one of the best things to do at Navy Pier Chicago with kids.
Click here to discover plays, events, and ticketing information.
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Admire Architecture With Chicagos First Lady
Around the world, Chicago is known for its outstanding architecture, and its easiest to admire the citys legacy from the water. By partnering with the Chicago Architecture Center, Chicagos First Lady offers the most comprehensive tour of the skyline docents must train 100 hours before they can lead tours.
Naperville Paddleboat Quarry Naperville
Naperville RiverwalkHave your kids do the work as you enjoy a boat ride in Naperville’s Paddleboat Quarry along the west suburb’s riverwalk. Paddleboats, paddleboards, and kayaks are available to appeal to kids of different ages, and life preservers are required. Families can choose to rent any of these watercraft for $10 for 20 minutes or $15 for 40 minutes.
All photos courtesy of the companies
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Most Popular Chicago Boat Tours
- The #1 Booked Experience listed above? Yeah, thats where Shoreline Sightseeings boat tour comes in. They offer a guided boat tour of the Chicago River. Youll hear some of the story, of Chicagos most influential architects as you cruise past their works of art. If you get the Chicago Go Card, a Chicago tourist attraction discount pass, this tour is included.
- Sea Dog is a pretty well known company when it comes to high speed boat rides, but they do also offer an Chicago architecture tour. If youre looking for something that really gets the adrenaline going, this could be the best boat tour for you.
- Tall Ship Windy is a sight for sore eyes on the lake with its billowing sails and beautiful aesthetic. You get the old time allure of a pirate ship with modern conveniences to make your experience memorable . Its a great thing to do in Chicago on family vacation. Your kids will love the pirate ship, and you will love the full bar. Hopefully you dont have to say but, why is the rum gone? Get outta here if you dont get the Pirates of the Caribbean reference.
Dine On The Water With Odyssey Cruises
Odyssey dining cruises are the perfect way to create a memorable moment in Chicago. Choose from a river or lake dining cruise, complete with delicious cuisine, cocktails, and entertainment.
Their glass-enclosed river vessel is particularly stunning. It offers passengers panoramic views of the citys most iconic buildings as you glide along the Chicago River. They also offer a lakefront dinner cruise option that departs from Navy Pier.
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The Chicago Water Taxi
For a fast and cheap cruise on the River, hopping on a water taxi can be a convenient way to travel for local commuters and travelers.
Many of Chicagos popular attractions can be seen along these routes, and each of the station stops offer fantastic things to do, see, and eat.
NOTE: Due to the pandemic, Chicago Water Taxi is currently only available on Saturdays and Sundays. Cash is no longer accepted and you must purchase tickets with a debit or credit card.
While there are no guides on these boats, the sights are comparable to the ones on any of the sightseeing cruises listed above, and at a huge discount!
Duration: 15 to 30 minutes
- Chicago Avenue
There are a few deals available for senior citizens and members of the military. If this describes you, chances are you’ll be able to save a lot of money on tickets.
- 50% off one-way tickets for Seniors & people w/ Disabilities.
- Active Duty military w/ ID ride for free.
SHORELINE WATER TAXI SERVICE
Another affordable taxiing service is Shoreline, which offers a route on the lake as well as the river.
We like this service for their unique lake route, which is the cheapest way to view the skyline while on Lake Michigan notably the Museum campuses.
Duration: 15-40 minutes, depending on the chosen route.
- Taxis operate 10 am-6 pm, at least every 20 minutes
Price Options and Packages:
There are no reservations for Shoreline taxis, as they are a commuter service. Tickets can be bought on site.
Directions To The Navy Pier
We highly recommend utilizing public transportation to get to the Navy Pier. You can use this for directions to the Navy Pier.
If you are considering purchasing a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket to transport you around Chicago, keep in mind that the Big Bus Company has a stop at the Navy Pier and a 2-day ticket to ride their double-decker buses is included with the Go Chicago Card. If you must drive, you can find and reserve parking in advance by using Parking Panda.
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Visit The Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze
A less talked about thing to do at Navy Pier Chicago is to visit the Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze.
Plan to get lost, feel dizzy, play games, and be surprised throughout this 4,000 sq ft. interactive play area.
The endless mirrors and flashing lights may be scary for little ones, however. Likewise, the experience can be too intense for those with sensory sensitivities as it does contain strobe lighting and lasers.
Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze is located halfway down the pier past Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The maze is self-paced and takes approximately 15-25 minutes to complete.
About The Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours
Chicago is known around the world for its architectural feats, both inside and outside of the buildings. From the 100-year-old Art Deco, Neo-Classical, and Gothic Towers, to some of the tallest modern-day skyscrapers, Chicago is where old meets futuristic architectural endeavors. It has something for everyone in a way that no other city replicates today.
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Chicago Fireboat Tours Downtown
111 N. Lakeshore DriveClimb aboard a piece of Chicago history, the Fred A. Busse Fireboat, which assisted the city of Chicago in fire emergencies from 1937 to 1980. The boat offers lake and river historical cruises, along with fun sunset boat rides. The boat is operating at 25% capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions for the 2020 season.
Our Commitment To Your Touring Experience
We believe that tours should be entertaining, enlightening, informational, and perfectly organized, every single time. A tour shouldnt feel laborious in any way you should feel an effortless inclination to learn more about what we present at your fingertips. With our Chicago architectural tours, thats exactly what we strive to provide, basing each tour from the perspective of an expert with the real-life example in the background.
If youre thinking about booking a tour with us, know that our commitment to flexibility and accessible makes our Chicago Architecture Tours easy and convenient:
- Tours run daily:
- Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour:
- 10 am
- 3 pm *Not Available Friday thru Sunday Summer Months*
- 4 pm
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Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours
Welcome to Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours! Were proud to present you with an in-depth, expert architectural-based river boat tour that delves into one of the most remarkable American cities today. Known for unique, daring, and historical architectural pursuits, its hard to cover all of the design and building treasures that make up the Windy City today. If youre ready to learning more about the designs, people, and innovations behind these creations, throw on your captains hat and get ready to cruise along the Chicago River and see what architects from around the world travel to see in Chicago.
Take A Chicago Food Planet Tour
Chicago Food Tours has suspended their Navy Pier Signature Food Tour related to the ongoing effects of the worldwide pandemic. They do, however, still offer several other fun Chicago Food Toursthat we highly recommend.
Our personal favorite thing to do at Navy Pier Chicago is the Chicago Food Planet Navy Pier Signature Food Tour.
Not only did the food tour include a private host, educational commentary, and amazing food, but it allowed us immediate seating and service at the most popular Navy Pier restaurants.
Our Chicago Food Planet host did a phenomenal job maneuvering us through the crowds of Navy Pier to enjoy authentic Chicago delicacies.
A Chicago-style hot dog at AD& B, a Brown Sugar Bakery cupcake, Tiny Tavern cheese curds, Giordanos deep-dish pizza, and Chicago-famous Garretts Popcorn.
Of all of the Chicago Food Tours available, this one is the best for families and kids!
Though this activity may not sound appealing for toddlers, it is a great activity for families with school-aged kids as well as tweens and teens. The tour is fun, fast-paced, and the ambiance is entirely kid-friendly.
The Navy Pier Signature Food Tour is 2 hours in length and costs $50 per adult and $35 for youth 12-years-old and younger.
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Chicago’s First Lady Downtown
112 E. Wacker DriveThis boat company provides the vessels for Chicago Architecture Center’s architecture tours, but also offers a few interesting boat trips of its own. Board the Lady Grebe, a 48-foot vintage yacht, for a 90-minute tour with your group of 6 or less, or set sail on a 45-minute sunrise yoga cruise on Saturdays or Sundays.
What You Can Expect
Equal parts boat and buildings, this river cruise gives you a from-the-water perspective of Chicago skyline and up-close views of its most iconic structures. Board an open-roofed vessel and float with the current as an architecture expert shares the fascinating history behind the Windy City’s most renowned buildings.
Hop onto your vessel at Navy Pier, steer toward the Chicago Rivera 156-mile system of streams and canalsand cut directly through the heart of the city. Once vital to the early shipping success of Chicago, this winding body of water now offers the perfect platform for admiring its surrounding architectural marvels.
Your cruise takes you past more than 40 points of interest, including the Tribune Towera neo-Gothic building constructed in 1925and the Willis Tower, the second-tallest building in the United States. Crane your neck up at the John Hancock Tower, a skyscraper equipped with an impressive observation deck perched 1,000 feet high.
As you glide through the city, a knowledgeable guide and architecture buff shares stories about the distinctive designs, striking construction, and steel-and-cement feats created by world-famous architects like Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn, and Louis Skidmore. From the IBM and USG buildings to the Fulton House and Citicorp Center, this tour is the perfect snapshot of Chicago’s architectural gems.
Please note: all guests are now required to wear face masks
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