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Christine
Austin (Texas)

Chicago

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? 


11 Answers

top answer by
Eric from Chicago

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. 

The Bean and Millennium Park are well worth a visit - and free.

Enjoy!

Eric 


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. Millennium Park (attraction)
  10. The Bean (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Dabs from Chicago

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.


Mentioned in this answer:

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


answered by
Brady from Manhattan Beach

Navy Pier is awful if you tend avoid touristy areas. The Bean 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.


Mentioned in this answer:

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


answered by
Jill from Bolingbrook

I've lived my entire life in Chicago, and would recommend The Bean 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!





Mentioned in this answer:

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


answered by
Laura from Honolulu

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!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Millennium Park (attraction)
  2. Hancock Building (attraction)
3 thanks


answered first by
Justin from Phoenix

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.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museum of Science and Industry (attraction)
  2. Revolution Brewing (restaurant)
  3. Geneva (Illinois) (city)
  4. The Merchant Mart (attraction)
  5. Old Town (attraction)
3 thanks


answered by
Rich from Chicago

The The Bean (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. The Bean


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hancock Building (attraction)
  2. The Bean (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Staci from Cleveland

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 The Bean. 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!! 


Mentioned in this answer:

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


answered by
Pete from Indianapolis

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


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Willis Tower (attraction)
  2. The Bean (attraction)
1 thanks


answered by
Cheryl from Wisconsin

A lot of your mentioned spots are free to view, so they aren't really traps because you don't pay anything. The Bean 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.


Mentioned in this answer:

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


answered by
Heidi from Wisconsin

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.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Navy Pier (attraction)
  2. Lincoln Park (neighborhood)
  3. Evanston (city)
1 thanks




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