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Half-mile-long Navy Pier is one of Chicago's most-visited attractions, sporting a 196ft Ferris wheel and other carnival rides ($6 to $15 each), an IMAX theater, a beer garden and lots of chain restaurants. Locals groan over its commercialization, but its lakefront view and cool breezes can't be beat. The fireworks displays on summer Wednesdays (9:30pm) and Saturdays (10:15pm) are a treat too.
The Chicago Children's Museum is also on the pier, as are several boat-cruise operators. Try the Shoreline water taxi for a fun ride to the Museum Campus (adult/child $8/4 Sunday through Friday, $10/5 Saturday). A renovation is bringing a hotel and additional amusements to the pier through 2018. Get the trolley from Grand.