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Guide To An Affordable Navy Pier Visit

Navy Pier
600 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL

Every kid loves Navy Pier. The rides! The shows! The IMAX Theater! The Children's Museum! The shops! The snacks! Moms and Dads know it's a fabulous way to spend the day, but they also know that Navy Pier tends to empty your wallet. Here are some tips for a fun, affordable day at Navy Pier.

Arctic Air Mass Brings Deep Freeze To Midwest, Northeast
(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

To Park or Not to Park – That Is the Question

Parking is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to Navy Pier. On weekends, flat rate parking is a whopping $24. Your best bet is to take public transportation. If you're coming from the suburbs, take the Metra and then connect with the CTA's #124 bus, which provides direct service from Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station to Navy Pier. If you do drive and you plan on catching a movie at the IMAX, be sure to get your ticket validated at the IMAX ticket desk for a $3 discount. In the wintertime, Navy Pier often offers occasional parking discounts – check their website at for details.

Crystal Garden
(credit: Thinkstock images)

Dine on a Dime

Crystal Garden
600 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL
(312) 595-5546

The second biggest expense at Navy Pier? Food. While the dining is on the fast food side, it remains pricey. Consider packing your own sandwiches and drinks, which you can enjoy in the lovely Crystal Gardens. Tables are available. You'll be surrounded by fountains, greenery and if you're lucky the sun shining through the glass rooftop, brightening up a winter's day.

Navy Pier
(credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Catch Some Free Entertainment

The Family Pavilion Stage, at the center of the pier, offers daily, free entertainment. The hilarious Navy Pier Buccaneers battle it out for the pirate's booty in a short comedic show at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. The Variety Showcase, on stage daily at 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm and 4:30pm features some of the city's best family magicians and circus performers.

Check out the Annual Toy and Game Fair!

For loads of fun and games -- literally! -- plan a visit to Navy Pier during the annual Toy and Game Fair, held this year on November 19-20. Your kids will have the chance to test out hot new toys and games and even meet their inventors at this largest toy and game fair in the U.S. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Sunday is Grandparents day, and any attending grandparents get in for free. Boy and Girl Scouts in uniform are also gratis! Visit the Chicago Toy and Game Fair website at for info on exhibitors and special events, including an out-of-this-galaxy Star Wars breakfast.

Navy Pier

Chicago Shakes at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
(312) 595-5656

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is the cultural gem of Navy Pier. Vibrant, affordable productions strive to render the Bard kid-friendly through abridged storylines and post-show Q and A sessions, and the theater also hosts other plays written with children in mind. The theater itself, with its courtyard seating, will give you a taste of what it was like once upon a time at the Globe. Consider becoming a Chicago Shakespeare Theater subscriber: three play packages start at just $37 per play and include a 40% discount on pier parking.

Amy Bocchetta is a writer, a teacher, and a mom to two kids. She lives in the city and blogs at
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