Navy Pier, located on Lake Michigan east of Downtown Chicago, is a 3,300-foot long pier and one of the best tourist attractions in Chicago . Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a cargo facility for lake freighters and to provide docking space for passenger excursion steamers and also to serve as cool places for public gathering and entertainment.
In the 1900s the City of Chicago planned to build five piers into Lake Michigan to provide for the many passenger and cargo ships arriving in the city . The pier was built in 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million, equivalent to $90.5 million today , at that time being the largest pier in the world. The Pier was built both to handle shipping and as an entertainment site. Originally designed as both a shipping and recreational facility, the Pier also served as a military training site during two world wars, a venue for concerts and exhibitions, and the temporary home for University of Illinois Chicago campus. During World War I, the pier was home to Navy barracks, as well as a Red Cross Facility and Home Defense Units. As a result of this the pier was renamed Navy Pier in 1927 as a tribute to these soldiers. Navy Pier quickly became a center for entertainment and recreation.
In 1990 major renovation and construction began at a cost of US$200 million adding fast-food kiosks, shops, a ballroom, a concert stage, and convention exhibition halls.Today, Navy Pier showcases a unique collection of restaurants , shops , exhibition facilities and an entertainment area.
Navy Pier Attractions
Centerpiece attractions include a permanent 150-foot-high Ferris wheel which has 40 gondolas illuminated by thousands of sparkling lights, a 440-seat IMAX Theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children’s Museum with many different exhibits and activities for both children and adults to enjoy, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, and a statue of Bob Newhart. Navy Pier Park also includes the 1,500-seat Skyline Stage, which features musical performances , as well as dance, theater, comedy and film.
Festival Hall is housing Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, which is a permanent display of 150 stained glass windows housed in an 800-ft.-long series of galleries. Chicago’s dinner cruise ships continue to operate from Dock Street and on select summer evenings, fireworks entertain the Pier’s evening visitors. Navy Pier is home to 40,000 square feet of exciting restaurants and retail shops. Visitors can also discover the Crystal Gardens, a 32,000-square-foot indoor botanical park, which provides a year-round center for family activity and special receptions. The Crystal Garden tent is available for private parties and events with a capacity of up to 150 people.
In 2006, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority released plans for a major renovation of the pier which would include a monorail, a 260-foot (79 m) spokeless Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, floating hotel, and an 80,000-square-foot (7,000 m2) water park with a Great Lakes theme. The plan would include nearly double the current parking and a replacement theater with a greater capacity with a price tag of $2 billion. No concrete progress was made on those proposals as the crisis begun. The new study, released in 2010, recommends a more modest set of enhancements aimed at retaining the Pier’s role as a public space, rather than turning it into a theme park.