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Soon to be 100: Navy Pier takes on a new look

CHICAGO – Navy Pier will be 100 years old next year. While things have changed at the pier through the years, its basic concept remains the same – a combination of business and entertainment.

Today, the pier is in the process of evolving. A renovation project has been undertaken to make it a little greener and a little more modern. Some of the changes already in place or underway include:

• East-to-west movement on the south dock to reach the Ferris wheel, outdoor dining, sightseeing cruises and amusement rides

• Three elevator locations: the Family Pavilion, between the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Haagen Dazs, and new interior hallway, making the Ferris wheel wheelchair accessible

• South dock outdoor staircases across from the Seadog speedboat ride, east of McDonald’s and outside Haagen Dazs.

• New food space in the interior hallway with Big Bowl Chinese Express and Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice (open in December)

Even with all the changes going on, plenty of familiar attractions still remain. The Ferris wheel is open. The cost of a standard ride, which includes the light tower ride, wave swinger or the carousel, is $6. Other pricing options are available.

Summer fireworks are presented at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 10:15 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 5.

Those who would like to get out on Lake Michigan can access cruises from the pier. The cruise (and phone numbers for more information) are: The Tall Ship Windy (312-451-2700), Shoreline Sightseeing (312-222-9328) and Seadog Cruises (888-345-3880).

For a different experience, the Spirit of Chicago, Odyssey or Mystic Blue offer dining “at sea.” Call 1-888-957-2634 for more information.

Among other stops are the Chicago Children’s Museum (312-527-1000), stages and theaters, the Landshark Beer Garden, and a large choice of shops offering toys, gifts, clothing and Chicago souvenirs.

Art fanciers don’t have to go to the Art Institute of Chicago to see statues. Crack the Whip, made of bronze, shows eight children playing a game; and the bronze Captain on the Helm demonstrates the stance of a ship’s captain at the wheel of his vessel. The heavy hitter among the Pier’s attractions: An 8-ton anchor from the USS Chicago.

While the pier is a busy place, it’s well worth a visit with plenty to do, whether the preference is being with the crowd or finding a bench where you can sit and gaze at the lake.

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