Navy Pier is a tourist trap, but very family-oriented. It's the home of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, as well as an IMAX and the Chicago Children's Museum. It features indoor shopping and dining as well as a small botanical gardens. There are "street vendors" outside when the weather is nice and most of the city's boat tours of the river and lake launch here. Navy Pier has an open air beer garden and offers concerts and other events throughout the Summer. The main attraction might be the large Ferris Wheel which offers an excellent view of the city from the top. Everything is overpriced on Navy Pier - so buyer beware. Parking on the pier is very expensive so I would recommend walking down or taking one of the free trolleys.
Unique Suggestions: They decorate the Pier seasonally and even feature special attractions, like a haunted house around Halloween. It's not nearly as exciting or fun as it claims to be, but it's worth checking out briefly if you're bored or want to see some of the boats up close.
Fun Alternatives: For Boat Tours - I suggest taking the ones offered on NORTH Pier (see my tip about these).
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is a great venue to see a show.
The view from the John Hancock is just as good as the one from the Ferris Wheel and can be had for free.
Too many fudge shops. Navy Pier has a remarkable location overlooking one of the most dramatic skylines in the world. It's disappointing that the city of Chicago and the developers weren't able to make better use of the Navy Pier space once it became open for redevelopment. Basically, this is the same "Festive Waterfront Reused Old Buildings Tourist Tat" that has become an urban cliche very quickly in the last 20 years.
Fun Alternatives: Go to one of Chicago's many authentic ethnic neighborhoods and have an inexpensive dinner in a 1950s-era restaurant with surly waitresses and home-made pies in the display case out front.
Navy Pier is one of the biggest tourist traps in Chicago. Stay away from this place if you hate huge crowds of tourists. Navy Pier feature a McDonalds (like everyother place on the planet), but if you walk all the way to the end of the Pier, there is a reward in the form of a Beer Garden!!!!
Unique Suggestions: Walk to the end and order yourself a beer.
Fun Alternatives: An alternative to Navy pier would be to save the money you would have spent there and buy a ticket to a cubs game, then buy yourself a beer.
We though Navy Pier was basically a waste of time and money. The Children's Museum was fun, but I would prefer any of the other Chicago museums to this one, even with kids. Food looked horribly overpriced and was standard food court cuisine. The money spent on this food and parking would have been better spent finding a neat, out of the way place out of crowds. My son thought the free balloon from the clown was the best part!!! (see picture)
Unique Suggestions: The Children's Museum or the IMAX theatre. Either would make it worth the visit, and would get you out of the throngs of people.
Fun Alternatives: If you want to see the lake, take a stroll around Montrose Harbor. If you like shopping, stay on MI avenue.
Any attractions offered at Navy pier. Navy pier is a real tourist environment. Any trips that are offered to take a view of the skyline by speedboat can be called a tourist trap. It'll cost you several dollars and it's definitely not worth doing.
NAVY PIER -- I can't overstate this enough... NAVY PIER IS A TOURIST TRAP. The only redeeming value on Navy Pier is the Shakespearean Theatre, and possibly Bubba Gump's and the IMAX Theatre. The ballroom has also been known to host worthwhile events from time to time, but those events are generally not open to the public. Everything else on Navy Pier sells knicknacks and trinkets that really have no value, not even as souveniers. And the ferris wheel is definitely for tourists only; Chicago natives know of far better ways to see the city.
The Navy Pier. Apart from the ferris wheel which we enjoyed apart from the excessive swaying bit I would recommend the short term visitor avoid coming here. It's nothing special. If you have kids they would probably enjoy.
Navy Pier. I don't really know the attraction, overpriced shops and restaurants and a big ferris wheel. The lakefront is nice but it stretches along the whole city, Navy Pier is hardly the prime spot for appreciating Lake Michigan. I suppose the ferris wheel may be fun, but the hordes of tourists don't provide a real sample of what Chicago is about.
I recommend avoiding Navy Pier. This is a total toruist trap and has nothing to do with Chicago, the prices are expensive, the food is so-so, and it is crowded.