Chicago is such an amazing city. There are a plethora of things to do, places to see, food to eat, but such little time if you are just visiting. Here is one way to see a lot of Chicago in just one day.
1. Park at Navy Pier
Parking in Chicago is INSANE! If you can find a parking spot on the street, expect to pay between $2 to $6.50 per hour. Yes, that is $6.50 an hour at a meter! The closer you are to downtown, the higher the rates. Moreover, you will most likely have to go back to your car to repay the meter if you want to stay longer. Parking garages will run you anywhere between $11 and $45 a day. Prices will vary depending on which garage you park in, what time you arrive, what time you depart, and how long you are parked for. Some garages have early bird specials, and some allow for you to get a discounted rate if you get your card stamped at certain restaurants or stores. Some garages accept only cash, some accept exact cash/no change given, and some accept credit cards. Navy Pier parking for regular cars is a flat rate of either $22 for weekdays or $25 on the weekend (including Friday) for 24 hours. The rates are slightly higher for large trailers and valet, but lower for motorcycles. (All rates were as of May 2015, according to navypier.com). By parking, at Navy Pier you can begin and end your Chicago excursion here. So, let’s begin.
2. Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a wonderful and fun place for adults and kids alike. Included in the main building are stores, kiosks, the Children’s Museum, the Landshark Beer Garden, as well as several other exhibitions. In the mood for a movie? The IMAX theater is a great place to spend a couple of hours. Hungry? There are several different restaurants ranging from McDonalds and Starbucks to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Harry Caray’s Tavern. Outside, you can hop on the 150 ft Ferris wheel or wave swinger ride. Perhaps some mini golfing if you have the time.
Navy Pier is also the go-to location for various tours of downtown Chicago. Off the pier, you can catch sightseeing tours on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, or enjoy a relaxing dinner cruise while experiencing the amazing views from the lake. You can also rent a bike or choose to go as a group on the “bike and roll”. How about hop on and hop off the Chicago Trolley or double-decker bus tours.
One can easily spend most of their day at Navy Pier, but to see more of Chicago make sure to decide what you do and do not want to do at Navy Pier. Also, remember that some of the attractions and tours are seasonal, and some are dependent on weather, and most have a fee.
3. Willis Tower
For those of you who do not know… Sears Tower is now Willis Tower. Take the water taxi from Navy Pier to Willis Tower. The dock is about a block from the building. The water taxi gives you a nice boat ride up and down the Chicago River, and is basically a river tour without the tour guide. There are a couple water taxi companies, so make sure to look for the destination you want. They also offer single passes or all-day passes. At Willis Tower, you will embark on an elevator ride all the way up to the 103rd floor. Step out onto the 4-foot glass balcony called the Ledge, and experience breathtaking views of the city from 1,353 feet up in the air.
There is a charge to go up to the Skydeck. As of May 2015, general admission is $19.50 per person for 12 years old and up. The Skydeck is open all year round; however, hours of operation differ in the summer and winter. From Willis Tower, hop back on the water taxi and take it to the Michigan Avenue Bridge. This is for those who want to shop and just experience the Mag Mile. You can walk up and down Michigan Avenue soaking up the shopping experience…whether it be actually spending money or just window shopping. If you get hungry for some brunch or lunch, there are several places to stop and eat. Or, stop into Eataly, on Ohio Avenue between Rush and Wabash, for a snack or meal.
4. Millennium Park
From Michigan Avenue walk to Millennium Park. On the way, you might even catch a food truck where you can purchase a delicious cupcake or brownie. Once at Millennium Park make sure to check out the famous Bean statue. Hopefully, the orchestra will be rehearsing, and you can sit in the lawn of the pavilion and relax to the sound of music…for free. There is also a garden, great architectural statues, various exhibitions, walkway bridges, and don’t forget about the Crown Fountain.
5. Buckingham Fountain
A short walk from Millennium Park in Grant Park, home of Buckingham Fountain. I still cannot see this amazing fountain without the “Love and Marriage” song from the show “Married with Children” popping into my head. From April to October, weather permitting, the city turns the water on. Every hour for about 20 minutes the fountain displays a beautiful water show with its numerous jets. A quick walk across Lake Shore Drive will get you to the lakefront.
From Buckingham Fountain, you can either take a long stroll back to Navy Pier, or head back to the dock at the Michigan Avenue Bridge to board the water taxi back to Navy Pier. Make sure to check hours of operation for the water taxi and for any exhibits or stores you would like to visit. And remember, you do not have to follow this precisely. Maybe you want to go to Buckingham Fountain before wandering the Mag Mile. Or maybe you would rather roam around Millennium Park before embarking to Willis Tower. Wear comfortable shoes, have a bit of a plan, start early, and these can all be accomplished in one day.