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Navy Pier has been a Chicago landmark since it was built in 1916. The pier has had multiple purposes over the years, and presently is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago.
About the Pier
Navy Pier is a 3,000 foot pier extending into Lake Michigan in the northern Chicago neighborhood, Streeterville. It attracts more than 8 million people a year, and is home to several restaurants including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, and has art, live music, shops, the Crystal Gardens, a Children’s Museum, and tons more.
Uses of the Pier
Initially, in the early 1900’s, the Pier was built both to handle shipping and as an entertainment site. During World War I, the Pier housed many Navy and some Army personnel, the American Red Cross, and Home Defense units. It even had a jail for draft dodgers.
Later on, in the early 1940’s, Navy Pier was closed to the public and converted to a Navy training center. When World War II ended, Navy Pier became a site for education. With the war over, Navy Pier went to the University of Illinois, which used the facility beginning in 1946 for a two-year undergraduate program primarily serving returning veterans. During its University of Illinois days, Navy Pier was also the site of a string of public events. In the bicentennial year of 1976, opened by a concert by Fort Sheridan's 81st Army Band, Navy Pier began its fourth life as an area for public exhibits, when the East Buildings (furthest into Lake Michigan) were opened as exhibition halls. Special events including music and arts festivals began to draw crowds to the Pier despite its aging infrastructure.
Navy Pier now is home to tons of iconic Chicago attractions. Navy Pier attractions include sightseeing tours from companies such as Seadog Ventures, Shoreline Sightseeing cruises and Water Taxi service, and the Tall Ship Windy. There are also dinner cruises by Entertainment Cruises, on their ships the Spirit of Chicago, The Odyssey II, and the Mystic Blue. Other attractions include rides like the Ferris wheel along with many seasonal festivals for Halloween and Christmas. The Pier has fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer and Saturday nights during the fall.