Why go to Chicago?
Navy Pier, where you're docked, is the most popular tourist destination in the Midwest
The only cruises that dock in Chicago are a small selection of ships on Great Lakes itineraries
Home to top art museums, sports stadiums and restaurants, Chicago is a world-class city
Chicago Cruise Port Facilities?
Navy Pier has an amusement park feel, with the iconic 150-foot replica of the 1893 Columbian Exposition Ferris wheel as a main attraction. The half-mile-long pier also hosts a carousel, outdoor stage, IMAX theater, beer hall, and plenty of shops and chain restaurants. Strolling performers and family-friendly entertainment add to the fun atmosphere.
The Chicago Children's Museum and highly respected Chicago Shakespeare Theater are also housed there, as well as the not-to-be-missed Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, which is free. Throughout the summer, Navy Pier has fireworks displays at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 10:15 p.m. Saturdays.
Good to Know?
Chicago is famous for its incredible architectural, culinary and cultural treasures. However, it's also famous for a dark history of crime, from the days of mobster Al Capone to present-day high crime rates. Tourist areas, including the Loop, Michigan Avenue and Lincoln Park are generally safe. Although non-touristy neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city are reachable via the El, make certain you're going to a safe area, or have a cab take you directly to your destination.
To the Pier: It's about a 30-minute, $40 cab ride from either of Chicago's international airports, Midway or O'Hare, to Navy Pier. You can also take Chicago's elevated subway, known as the El or the L, from either Midway or O'Hare to the Red Line's Grand/State Station. From there, you can take the free Navy Pier trolley one mile east to Navy Pier. The trolley runs every 20 to 30 minutes from May 23 to September 1. If you drive instead, parking is available for $21 for 24 hours at Navy Pier.
At Navy Pier:
On Foot: The pier is in a central downtown location, making it a breeze to access the museums, restaurants and tourist sites of the Windy City, even if you only have a few hours. It's a scenic one-mile walk along the Chicago River, from Navy Pier to the high-end shops of Michigan Avenue. Go in the other direction, and it's a 1.5-mile walk along the lakefront to Chicago's jewel, Millennium Park.
Taxis: Line up at the front entrance to the pier to get a licensed driver.
Free Trolley: Navy Pier offers a complimentary trolley that takes visitors to the shopping hub, Michigan Avenue. It leaves every 20 to 30 minutes from the front doors at Navy Pier.
Tourist Bus: If you want the "Chicago in a nutshell" tour, hop on Chicago's Big Red Double Decker bus (773-648-5000), which takes you to the major tourist attractions and allows you to hop off and on at your leisure. Buses leave about every 15 minutes from the front entrance to Navy Pier. Look for the folks with red vests standing at the front doors.
Pedicab: Chicago's version of rickshaws carry up to two people and are available at the front entrance to the pier.
Bicycle: Wondering who all those cheerful people zipping by on blue bikes are? Chicago has a very easy-to-use bike-share program called Divvy. Grab a 24-hour pass for $7 at any one of the hundreds of stations and enjoy the ride south along the lakefront to Chicago's Museum Campus, or north along the lake to the Lincoln Park Zoo or Wrigley Field.
Water Taxi: Another fun option is to take the shoreline water taxi (312-222-9328) from Navy Pier to the Museum Campus, home to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium. Frequent departures from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day; more limited departures in May and September; $8 for adult tickets.
English is primarily spoken in Chicago, but it's also home to a large Spanish-speaking population, as well as a large Polish population.