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Fun and Free Things to do in Chicago at Navy Pier

Looking for fun and free things to do in Chicago? There’s always something going on at Navy Pier! From cultural programming and seasonal celebrations to special events, festivals, fireworks and more, discover fun and free Chicago events at Navy Pier all year long.

See also: free events & public programs

Navy Pier, Chicago’s mission-driven cultural district, proudly offers free events and public programming year-round. See a full listing of Navy Pier’s ongoing free events and public programs

Upcoming Events

Daily Cruises
Year Round

Enjoy lake and river cruises departing from Navy Pier’s South Dock and Polk Bros. Park. For cruise details visit website.

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Please visit the following pages for daily cruises, special events, and fireworks cruises:

Seadog Cruises Shoreline Sightseeing Odyssey Spirit of Chicago Mystic Blue Tall Ship Windy

Iván Navarro: This Land is Your Land

Free Public Program

Friday, July 27, 2018 - Monday, September 30, 2019

Artist Iván Navarro transforms three water towers into hauntingly beautiful sculptural objects, featuring infinitely reflective neon interiors.

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An image that has been a part of the upper realms of Chicago’s landscape comes “down to earth” to Polk Bros Park. Three hauntingly beautiful water towers are transformed as sculptural objects with neon interiors. Viewers are invited to stand beneath them and gaze above to experience. 

About This Land is Your Land

Originally debuted at New York’s Madison Square Park in 2014, the three sculptures – BED, Ladder and ME/WE – are composed of neon-lit interiors with infinite reflections of each structure’s respective design. One tower consists of a limitless repetition of the word, “BED;” another features the boundless image of a ladder; and the third displays the words, “ME” and “WE” in redundancy. An internal arrangement of mirrors enables each word or image to repeat perpetually through a seemingly endless vertical space. Measuring at approximately seven feet in diameter and erected on roughly eight-foot-tall supports, each tower allows guests the ability to stand underneath the sculpture and gaze above for a truly unique viewing experience.

Ladder (Water Tower)

2014, Neon, wood, painted steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, mirror, one-way mirror, and electric energy, 189 x 105 1/8 x 105 1/8 inches, 480.1 x 267 x 267 cm, Edition of 3 + 1 AP

Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Images courtesy of Iván Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery

ME/WE (Water Tower)

2014, neon, wood, painted steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, mirror and one-way mirror, and electric energy, 189 x 105 1/8 x 105 1/8 inches, 480.1 x 267 x 267 cm, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, (PK 18175)

Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Images courtesy of Iván Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery

BED (Water Tower)

2014, Neon, wood, painted steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, mirror, one-way mirror, and electric energy, 189 x 105 1/8 x 105 1/8 inches, 480.1 x 267 x 267 cm, Edition of 3 + 1 AP

Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Images courtesy of Iván Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery

About IVÁN NAVARRO

Born in Santiago, Chile 1972
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

Iván Navarro was born in 1972 in Santiago, Chile, where he grew up under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. He is known internationally for his socio-politically charged sculptures of neon, fluorescent and incandescent light. Navarro’s unique and captivating use of light transforms the exhibition space by means of visual interplay. Navarro represented Chile at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Learn more at paulkasmingallery.com

Chicago Shakespeare presents: Hamlet
Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines stages one of the great masterworks of Western literature.

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For the first time in more than twenty years, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines returns to Shakespeare’s enduring masterpiece of revenge, passion, and deception. Playing the ill-fated prince of Denmark is Maurice Jones (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact opposite Daniel Radcliffe, Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington). Electrifying performances by an outstanding 20-member cast combine with inventive staging to ignite Shakespeare’s poetry in CST’s uniquely personal Courtyard Theater—making your night out one to remember!

Tickets available at chicagoshakes.com.

Chicago Shakespeare presents: SIX
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 | 7:45 pm - 9:05 pm

This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run.

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May 14 – June 30, 2019 / The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
directed by  Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage

Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run. The six wives of King Henry VIII join forces for an electrifying musical celebration of empowerment—shining a spotlight on women who are so much more than the history books might lead us to believe. The all-woman cast, backed by an all-woman band known as the “Ladies in Waiting,” traverses the spectrum of modern-day pop with a soundtrack that has stormed up the UK charts. The queens take the mic to reclaim their identities out of the shadow of their infamous spouse—remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of twenty-first-century girl power.

Learn more at chicagoshakes.com

Chicago Shakespeare presents: Hamlet
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines stages one of the great masterworks of Western literature.

Read More

For the first time in more than twenty years, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines returns to Shakespeare’s enduring masterpiece of revenge, passion, and deception. Playing the ill-fated prince of Denmark is Maurice Jones (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact opposite Daniel Radcliffe, Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington). Electrifying performances by an outstanding 20-member cast combine with inventive staging to ignite Shakespeare’s poetry in CST’s uniquely personal Courtyard Theater—making your night out one to remember!

Tickets available at chicagoshakes.com.

Chicago Shakespeare presents: SIX
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | 7:45 pm - 9:05 pm

This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run.

Read More

May 14 – June 30, 2019 / The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
directed by  Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage

Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run. The six wives of King Henry VIII join forces for an electrifying musical celebration of empowerment—shining a spotlight on women who are so much more than the history books might lead us to believe. The all-woman cast, backed by an all-woman band known as the “Ladies in Waiting,” traverses the spectrum of modern-day pop with a soundtrack that has stormed up the UK charts. The queens take the mic to reclaim their identities out of the shadow of their infamous spouse—remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of twenty-first-century girl power.

Learn more at chicagoshakes.com

Chicago Shakespeare presents: Hamlet
Thursday, May 23, 2019

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines stages one of the great masterworks of Western literature.

Read More

For the first time in more than twenty years, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines returns to Shakespeare’s enduring masterpiece of revenge, passion, and deception. Playing the ill-fated prince of Denmark is Maurice Jones (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact opposite Daniel Radcliffe, Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington). Electrifying performances by an outstanding 20-member cast combine with inventive staging to ignite Shakespeare’s poetry in CST’s uniquely personal Courtyard Theater—making your night out one to remember!

Tickets available at chicagoshakes.com.

Chicago Shakespeare presents: SIX
Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 7:45 pm - 9:05 pm

This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run.

Read More

May 14 – June 30, 2019 / The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
directed by  Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage

Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run. The six wives of King Henry VIII join forces for an electrifying musical celebration of empowerment—shining a spotlight on women who are so much more than the history books might lead us to believe. The all-woman cast, backed by an all-woman band known as the “Ladies in Waiting,” traverses the spectrum of modern-day pop with a soundtrack that has stormed up the UK charts. The queens take the mic to reclaim their identities out of the shadow of their infamous spouse—remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of twenty-first-century girl power.

Learn more at chicagoshakes.com

Chicago Shakespeare presents: Hamlet
Friday, May 24, 2019

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines stages one of the great masterworks of Western literature.

Read More

For the first time in more than twenty years, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines returns to Shakespeare’s enduring masterpiece of revenge, passion, and deception. Playing the ill-fated prince of Denmark is Maurice Jones (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact opposite Daniel Radcliffe, Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington). Electrifying performances by an outstanding 20-member cast combine with inventive staging to ignite Shakespeare’s poetry in CST’s uniquely personal Courtyard Theater—making your night out one to remember!

Tickets available at chicagoshakes.com.

Odyssey Chicago Memorial Day Weekend Cruises
Friday, May 24, 2019 - Monday, May 27, 2019

Start the season on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend cruise aboard Odyssey. Sailing all weekend long, join us out on Lake Michigan for food, stunning views, and great vibes.

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With Memorial Day Weekend’s arrival comes the beginning of summer. Start the season on a high note with a cruise aboard Odyssey. Sailing all weekend long, join us out on Lake Michigan for creative plated cuisine, DJ entertainment, gracious service and stunning views of Chicago’s famous skyline. 

Cruise details: 

  • Select times | Enjoy a two- to three-hour cruise on Lake Michigan
  • Delicious brunch, lunch and dinner options for everyone
  • Unlimited coffee, hot tea, iced tea, water and well-stocked cash bar
  • Breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline and buildings
  • Onboard entertainment 
  • *Prices start as low as $64.90

For reservations, call 888.957.2634 or visit, visit odysseycruises.com

ABOUT ODYSSEY LAKE MICHIGAN

Escape on the lake aboard Odyssey Lake Michigan. Sit back as Chicago’s famous skyscrapers drift past your window, music fills the air, and creative entrees are served right to your table. Odyssey Lake Michigan is perfect for a romantic escape for two or dynamic large group events.

Spirit of Chicago Memorial Day Weekend Cruises
Friday, May 24, 2019 - Monday, May 27, 2019

Kick off the start of summer and Navy Pier’s Fireworks season with a Memorial Day Weekend cruise aboard Spirit of Chicago!

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Kick off the start of summer and Navy Pier’s fireworks season with a Memorial Day Weekend cruise aboard Spirit of Chicago! Taste Spirit’s new buffet menu, dance to music from our onboard DJ and take in amazing views of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan. 

Cruise details: 

  • Select times | Enjoy a two- to three-hour cruise on Lake Michigan
  • Delicious buffet with a wide variety of freshly prepared cuisine
  • Unlimited coffee, hot tea, iced tea, water and well-stocked cash bar
  • The best views of the Chicago skyline 
  • DJ music, dance floor & deck games (giant jenga, shuffleboard etc.)
  • *Prices start as low as $59.90

For reservations, call 888.957.2634 or visit spiritcruises.com.

ABOUT SPIRIT OF CHICAGO

Spirit of Chicago is ready to show you the city. Eat, drink, dance and take in the incredible skyline with a lunch, dinner or specialty cruise. You’ll love the Spirit menu featuring a variety of culturally-inspired recipes incorporating fresh, organic ingredients. From dinners for two to corporate outings, Spirit is fun for all. Let’s celebrate!

Mystic Blue Memorial Day Weekend Cruises
Friday, May 24, 2019 - Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend means cruising along the lakefront. Kick off the summer with a fun and exciting cruise aboard Mystic Blue!

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Memorial Day Weekend will be here before you know it. This year, kick off the summer with a fun and exciting cruise aboard Mystic Blue! You’ll enjoy tasty buffets, dance to energetic DJ entertainment and be treated to incredible views of the stunning Chicago skyline.

Cruise details: 


For pricing and reservations, call 888.957.2634 or visit mysticbluecruises.com.

ABOUT MYSTIC BLUE

Tasty food, full-service bars, the hottest dance music – all while out on the water? Mystic Blue gives you the best of Chicago at an amazing value. The trendiest ship in the city, enjoy casual cruising as you eat, drink, dance and take in the skyline views. Mystic is perfect for a fun night out for two and also available for large group events.

Live on the Lake!

Free Public Program

Friday, May 24, 2019 | 5:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Join us at the Miller Lite Beer Garden for FREE performances by John Kimler & Friends and Libido Funk Circus.

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Free live music in the Miller Lite Beer Garden will feature local favorites, national touring acts and exciting new artists all summer long.

On Saturdays, guests will be treated to an exciting variety of acts performing across all genres of popular music. In the evenings music lovers will have prime viewing of the Aon Summer Fireworks at 10:15pm, followed by another set of live music until 11:30pm.

About this Series: Live on the Lake!

This free, all ages concert is presented as part of Live on the Lake!, Navy Pier’s free summer music series in the Miller Lite Beer Garden.

Performance Schedule

5:30PM – 6:30PM & 7:00PM – 8:00PM | John Kimler & Friends

9:00PM – 10:00 PM & 10:30PM – 11:30PM | Libido Funk Circus

Chicago Shakespeare presents: SIX
Friday, May 24, 2019 | 7:45 pm - 9:05 pm

This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run.

Read More

May 14 – June 30, 2019 / The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
directed by  Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage

Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. This spring, Chicago Shakespeare stages the critically acclaimed new musical SIX, following its debut in the United Kingdom and celebrated West End run. The six wives of King Henry VIII join forces for an electrifying musical celebration of empowerment—shining a spotlight on women who are so much more than the history books might lead us to believe. The all-woman cast, backed by an all-woman band known as the “Ladies in Waiting,” traverses the spectrum of modern-day pop with a soundtrack that has stormed up the UK charts. The queens take the mic to reclaim their identities out of the shadow of their infamous spouse—remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of twenty-first-century girl power.

Learn more at chicagoshakes.com

Chicago Shakespeare presents: Hamlet
Saturday, May 25, 2019

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines stages one of the great masterworks of Western literature.

Read More

For the first time in more than twenty years, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines returns to Shakespeare’s enduring masterpiece of revenge, passion, and deception. Playing the ill-fated prince of Denmark is Maurice Jones (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact opposite Daniel Radcliffe, Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington). Electrifying performances by an outstanding 20-member cast combine with inventive staging to ignite Shakespeare’s poetry in CST’s uniquely personal Courtyard Theater—making your night out one to remember!

Tickets available at chicagoshakes.com.