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History of the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier

The Centennial Wheel is an iconic part of Chicago’s skyline, as well as the city’s history. Have you ever wondered about the origin of the Ferris Wheel or how the current Wheel got to Navy Pier? Keep reading to learn all about the interesting history of Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel. Next time you visit, you can impress all your friends and family with the Wheel inside scoop!

The original Ferris Wheel in 1893


The first Ferris wheel came to Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Named after designer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., an engineer from Pittsburgh, Ferris brought the idea of the wheel to Daniel Burnham. The wheel was 264 feet tall and illuminated by 2,500 Edison incandescent lights. The wheel was meant to rival the newly completed Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The first wheel at Navy Pier, erected in 1995


Navy Pier’s first Ferris wheel was inspired by the 1893 wheel at the World’s Columbian Exposition and was added to Pier Park on July 1, 1995. This wheel was 150 feet tall and had 40 gondolas that could fit up to 6 passengers each.

The partially completed Centennial Wheel during construction


In 2016, the Centennial Wheel debuted in honor of Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary. Soaring to heights of nearly 200 feet, this Wheel is 50 feet taller than the 1995 one. With enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas, guests can enjoy rides year-round. This new, enhanced feature was not part of the 1995 Wheel.

Centennial Wheel Slider


The Centennial Wheel proudly stands as an iconic part of Chicago’s skyline and cultural history. We hope you make a visit to Pier Park and mark your time with a ride on the Centennial Wheel. After you ride the Wheel, check out other things to do across the Pier like grabbing a bite to eat, catching a play at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, taking a cruise or exploring the scenic Crystal Gardens.

Post your favorite memories on the Centennial Wheel on social media and use #NavyPier for a chance to be featured on our channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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About Navy Pier

More Than You Imagine

Navy Pier is the People’s Pier, Chicago’s lakefront treasure, welcoming all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder.

Since its reopening in 1995, more than 180 million guests have come to enjoy the Pier's 50 acres of unparalleled attractions and experiences. In 2021, Navy Pier continues to evolve into an accessible, year-round centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures.

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