With the opening of the Chicago Children's Museum last weekend, a five-year, $200-million refurbishing of Chicago's landmark Navy Pier is just about complete. Only a handful of retailers have yet to open their doors.
The 79-year-old pier has seen service as a shipping center, festival site, military facility and even a University of Illinois branch campus. It fell into disuse in the '70s and was rescued by Chicago's Pier and Exposition Authority, the same organization that oversees the McCormick Place convention facility. It set about creating a facility that residents--and tourists--would visit.
Today, the 50-acre complex (pictured left) on Lake Michigan is part shopping mall, part exhibition center and part observation deck. Towering over all is the 150-foot Ferris wheel, which offers, for $2, a slow trip in a glassed-in gondola above Chicago's muscular skyline. Other features include a carousel, exposition center, skating rink, grand ballroom, glass-enclosed botanical garden with illuminated fountains and walkways.
Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave., just north of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan. Visitors may arrive at 6 a.m.; activities, shops and restaurants are open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Entrance is free. Admission to Children's Museum is $5. Information: (312) 595-PIER.