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  • Christine Klemmer
  • "Chicago: Is Navy Pier, the Bean, and Willis Tower really worth seeing?"

Christine Klemmer

Austin, Texas

Chicago: Is Navy Pier, the Bean, and Willis Tower really worth seeing?

I will be in Chicago for my first time in the spring and there are a few "tourist traps" I'd like to check out. Was going to walk Michigan Ave and check out the Bean. Debating about Willis tower, or the John Hancock? What about Navy Pier?

Are they actually worth visiting and if not, what tourist spots are? 

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11 Answers

Most Mentioned Places for this Question

  • Hancock Building (attraction)

    Chicago IL 60611 (312) 751-3680

    7 mentions

  • Willis Tower (attraction)

    233 South Wacker Drive Chicago IL 60606 (312) 875-0066

    7 mentions

  • Navy Pier (attraction)

    600 E Grand Ave Chgo IL 60611 (312) 595-5282

    7 mentions

  • Eric Papczun

    top answer by

    Hi Christine-

    I would consider skipping Navy Pier, unless you're planning on using it as a launching point for a lake or river cruise. It's way too crowded and is full of cheesy entertainment (zombie containment), poor chain restaurants (Bubba Gump), and loads of souvineer shops. It's saving graces are a Navy Pier IMAX Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows and Navy Pier Beer Gardenat the far end. But overall it's a "trap". Instead, take a lake criuse to view the skyline at a distance (stunning) and an archetectural river cruise to view it from a whole new perspective (an absolute must).

    For tall buildings, the Skydeck at Willis Tower is pretty cool (glass ensclosed boxes that hang outside of the building) but I'd recommend that you skip the expensive tickets, and long line for these and instead reserve a table for brunch in the Hancock Building's The Signature Room at the 95th. On a clear day the views are amazing and you can enjoy them in comfort as you sip a memosa and eat crab legs.

    Cloud Gate and Millennium Park are well worth a visit - and free.

    Enjoy!

    Eric

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    • Sharon D.

      Sharon D.

      Totally agree with this response. I've lived here my whole life...in the city and the suburbs. I've been a tourist in my city many times and think this advice is good. The Hancock building is also in an area where there is lots of shopping. Don't forget to go to Garret's for the Chicago mix and a visit to the world renowned Art Institue of Chicago just south of Grant Park. · (1 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Navy Pier (attraction)
    2. Navy Pier IMAX Theatre (attraction)
    3. Chicago Shakespeare Theater (attraction)
    4. Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows (attraction)
    5. Navy Pier Beer Garden (restaurant)
    6. Willis Tower (attraction)
    7. Hancock Building (attraction)
    8. The Signature Room at the 95th (restaurant)
    9. The Bean (attraction)
    10. Millennium Park (attraction)

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  • Kristi Dabertin

    answered by

    I like the Bean, it's a great spot to take photographs. Pop across the street into the Chicago Cultural Center, it's a cool old building, on the 2nd level there's a beautiful Tiffany dome and there's also a tourist info center and instagreeter service. A couple of blocks over, inside State Street on State Street (formerly and better known as Marshall Field's), go over to the Clinique counter and look up, another beautiful Tiffany ceiling, this time done in mosaic.

    Visit the The Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building, for the price of a drink, you still get the view. Inside the ladies room, there's another great view. Haven't been up the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) since they added the ledge.

    Navy Pier? Only go there if there's something going on at the theater, they've removed the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows so I wouldn't take someone there unless they insisted.

    Definitely go for a walk along Michigan Avenue, there's some great architecture including the Water Tower Place and the Pumping Station: One, the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, the Tribune Tower which has rocks from all over the world imbedded in it.

    If the weather is warm enough, take a walk/bike along the Lakefront Trail or take a boat ride on the River or Lake.

    All of the museums and Shedd Aquarium are great, if the weather is nice the Lincoln Park Zoo is free although a small zoo compared to the larger one in Brookfield. There's the Lincoln Park Conservatory nearby which is also free, the Chicago History Museum is within walking distance (there are always Groupons for the CHM for 1/2 price for two)

    The Chicago CityPASS is a great idea if you are here for a longer period of time, just have a look and make sure it makes sense for what you want to see.

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Chicago Cultural Center (attraction)
    2. State Street (attraction)
    3. State Street (attraction)
    4. The Signature Lounge (attraction)
    5. Hancock Building (attraction)
    6. Willis Tower (attraction)
    7. Navy Pier (attraction)
    8. Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows (attraction)
    9. Michigan Avenue (attraction)
    10. Water Tower Place (attraction)
    11. Pumping Station: One (attraction)
    12. InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile (hotel)
    13. Tribune Tower (attraction)
    14. Lakefront Trail (attraction)
    15. Shedd Aquarium (attraction)
    16. Lincoln Park Zoo (attraction)
    17. Brookfield (city)
    18. Lincoln Park Conservatory (restaurant)
    19. Chicago History Museum (attraction)
    20. Chicago CityPASS (attraction)

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  • Brady Hahn

    answered by

    Navy Pier is awful if you tend avoid touristy areas. Cloud Gate is interesting, but I would plan something nearby (such as lunch), as it is not like you would spend the entire day with the bean. Willis Tower(Sears) has a great observation deck, but many say that they prefer the observation deck of the Hancock Building better despite it not being quite as tall as the Willis tower.

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Navy Pier (attraction)
    2. The Bean (attraction)
    3. Willis Tower (attraction)
    4. Hancock Building (attraction)

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  • Jill Spiller

    answered by

    I've lived my entire life in Chicago, and would recommend Cloud Gate and Millenium Park for sure. If you want the view of the city or love heights, then go to the observation deck at Willis Tower. But it's not on my list to take out of town guests because it's expensive. Navy Pier is nice but much more fun in the summer because of the entertainment available, so I would skip it in the spring. We have so many museums, all close by. If you plan to hit Michigan Avenue, shop and spend your time looking at the great architecture. And lots of yummy restaurants! Enjoy!

    Navy Pier


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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. The Bean (attraction)
    2. Millenium Park (attraction)
    3. Willis Tower (attraction)
    4. Navy Pier (attraction)

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  • Justin Schmid

    answered first by

    The Bean and the park is kind of cool. The rest? Meh. Navy Pier especially looks stuck in the 1970s. The Museum of Science and Industry is always one of my favorite museums anywhere. Since I'm a sucker for craft beer, I love Revolution Brewing. I can't honestly call myself the biggest fan of Chicago as a stand-alone travel destination ... it's amusing enough as a business trip, but the entire city overrates itself (especially about food). If you want to see a nicer side of the area, think about taking a train out toward Geneva (Illinois). It's just a nice bit of countryside that hasn't gone full suburbia just yet. Oh ...The Merchant Mart is also kind of cool and I like walking around the Old Town area.

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    2. Revolution Brewing (restaurant)
    3. Geneva (Illinois) (city)
    4. The Merchant Mart (attraction)
    5. Old Town (attraction)
    6. Revolution Brewing (restaurant)

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  • Laura Garcia-Halpin

    answered by

    If you're going to be in that area of Michigan Ave. anyway, you should definitely go to the Bean. It's in Millennium Park which also has art installations, gardens, and a big fountain all with the lake in the background. Just a really nice view of many parts of the city. The others didn't really "wow" me too much, though there is a nice up-scale cafe/restaurant at the top of the Hancock Building if you're interested in that. But, definitely take a stroll through Millenium Park, especially if you'll be heading to the art museum or going to the aquarium. (Btw, this is my opinion after living in Chicago for a few years.)

    Have fun!

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    2. Hancock Building (attraction)

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  • Rich Brown

    answered by

    The Cloud Gate (bean) is worth it. It will be crowded so get there early for a good picture in front of it. I would recommend (in order) 1. Architectural Tour of the river 2. Hancock Building - go to signature room for a drink rather than pay for 360 viewing area. 3. Cloud Gate


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    3. The Bean (attraction)

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  • Staci Nicole

    answered by

    Hi Christine! You're going to get some of the best views of the city at Willis Tower. Pay to go up on the Sky Deck and it's well worth your time. The Hancock Building now has an attraction called TILT that looks like it could be interesting! I haven't been there since TILT was opened, but would go and check it out when back in the city.

    You must walk up and down N Michigan Ave and browse the shops. It's what you do on Magnificent Mile! You must stop and see Cloud Gate. It's such a unique structure. Check out Millenium Park while you're over there.

    The Navy Pier is great if the weather is nice. If you want beautiful views of the city from a distance, go on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel.

    If you're going to hit any museums like the Field Museum of Natural History or Shedd Aquarium on top of visiting Willis and Hancock, purchase the CityPass. You'll save a handful of money.

    If you want a nice steak dinner, make a reservation at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. It's pricey, but the food is SO good. When I was there for a birthday, we went to The Underground.

    Hope you enjoy the city!! Navy PierThe Bean

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Willis Tower (attraction)
    2. Hancock Building (attraction)
    3. N Michigan Ave (attraction)
    4. Magnificent Mile (neighborhood)
    5. The Bean (attraction)
    6. Millenium Park (attraction)
    7. Navy Pier (attraction)
    8. Field Museum of Natural History (attraction)
    9. Shedd Aquarium (attraction)
    10. Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse (restaurant)
    11. The Underground (attraction)

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  • Peter Synk

    answered by

    I like to take a snapchat under the Willis Tower of me saying, "Whatcha talkin bout willis" but thats it, Cloud Gate is very underwhelming

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    2. The Bean (attraction)

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  • Cheryl Roberts

    answered by

    A lot of your mentioned spots are free to view, so they aren't really traps because you don't pay anything. Cloud Gate and Millennium Park are a must. The Navy Pier doesn't have much going on, but you can walk through it without spending any money, unless you want to take a ferris wheel ride. If you want a sky high view of the city, choose either Willis Tower or Hancock Building. John Hancock is nice because you can either pay for just the view, or you can go to the lounge on the top floor and pay for a drink. I prefer The Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building. If you are visiting other Chicago attractions, consider getting the city pass and you can choose between the Willis Tower sky deck or John Hancock 360 Chicago.

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    2. Millennium Park (attraction)
    3. Navy Pier (attraction)
    4. Willis Tower (attraction)
    5. Hancock Building (attraction)
    6. The Signature Lounge (attraction)

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  • Heidi Blanke

    answered by

    I agree with skipping Navy Pier, but do try to take the architectural river tour. Check the Web for special events-- fairs, festivals. All the museums are great if the weather is bad. Lincoln Park and Evanston are fun for walking around. If it's summer, catch a Cubs game.

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