Chicago's Navy Pier is a kid's dream destination: The Ferris Wheel! The IMAX Theater! The Children's Museum! The roasted nut cart! The funhouse! The churros! Summer just isn't summer without a few trips to one of Chicago's top tourist attractions. Here are eight ways to celebrate summer on Navy Pier.
Learn the ropes of the ship captain's life
The Chicago Children's Museum offers three floors of fun for families. This summer's special exhibit - Boats - fits right in with the museum's pier home. Step aboard for immersive nautical fun featuring a dock and bait shop, an assortment of boats and boating equipment, authentic signage and accessories such as captain's jacket, life vests, steering wheels, sails, buoys, fishing poles and Lake Michigan fish. It's all the fun of boating minus boarding an actual boat.
Insider Tip: On Thursday evenings, from 5 - 8 p.m., admission to the Chicago Children's Museum is free!
Meet Disney's "The Little Mermaid" and all her pals
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) will be bringing Ariel and all her pals to Navy Pier in Disney's "The Little Mermaid," a Broadway musical adaptation of the beloved film. Kids and kids at heart will love this fun, musical adventure. This new 75-minute production will hit the Courtyard Theater stage on July 3-August 16, 2015. At the end of each performance, guests will also have the chance to interact with the actors for one-on-one conversations and photos in the Lobby.
Catch a summer blockbuster at the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre
Why see a movie on a ho-hum screen when you can catch it on on the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre's six-story screen with exquisite digital surround sound and unparalleled acoustics? Visit imax.com/chicago to view the current film schedule, upcoming movies and to purchase tickets.
Go on a lightning-fast cruise
It's fast and furious aboard the 75-minute Seadog, which jets off from Navy Pier, speeds along the lakefront, then zips down the Chicago River. The fast-paced excitement makes it the most kid-friendly architectural cruise of all. Little ones love this bright red and yellow speedboat, which usually has dogs on board (bring your pet along!) and funny guides. Parents appreciate learning more about Chicago's most famous riverfront buildings, including the Tribune Building, Willis Tower, Lyric Opera and Merchandise Mart.
Ride the iconic Ferris Wheel
Taking a spin on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel is s Navy Pier must-do. Reaching 150 feet into the sky, you'll catch stunning views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan from atop.
Insider Tip: Pre-purchase ride tickets online and you'll save time and money, and it will be easier to avoid falling into the "Can we go on AGAIN?" trap.
Riva Cafe, the more casual version of Riva Crab House, Chicago's premiere seafood restaurant, offers a superb seafood menu, gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads. The café's outdoor seating area provides a beautiful view of the bustling pier and Lake Michigan.
Bike the pier and its environs
Bike and Roll Chicago at Navy Pier offers bikes for rent by the hour, day or week. Bike on your own or join a Bike and Roll Chicago guided tour. Bike and Roll Chicago tours depart daily starting Memorial Day from Navy Pier at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 7:00pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Insider Tip: Parking is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to Navy Pier. Your best bet is to take public transportation. Several CTA buses service Navy Pier directly from Metra and other rail stations as well as "L" stops. Visit Navy Pier's public transportation site to survey your options.
Cap an amazing summer day off with Navy Pier's grand fireworks display (pictured at top)
Every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:15 p.m. through Labor Day, Navy Pier sets off spectacular fireworks synced to music. View from the dock or on board an evening cruise. There's nothing like seeing a Chicago summer night alight with fireworks dancing through the sky.