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The Summer Sunset From Chicago's Navy Pier

Updated on June 23, 2013

The Beautiful Sunset at Navy Pier

Navy Pier is one of the most beautiful places to admire the summer sun setting over the Chicago skyline. Removed from the bustling city streets and situated on the shores of Lake Michigan Navy Pier is a special place. Here you will walk the wood planks and see acrobats performing daring stunts, smell the tantalizing aromas of food, and find yourself marveling at the small shops which sell just about anything and everything. Go inside and eat at one of the restaurants, which include a Bumba Gump's, and then step out into a tropical paradise which blooms even in the coldest Chicago winters.

Finally, leave behind the commotion of the day and find yourself at the boardwalk's end where the sun is just beginning to set. As the sun sinks behind the city the lights will twinkle on giving a fairytale look to the carousel, Ferris wheel, and other rides of Navy Pier. For the final moments of the sun's rays, take the Ferris Wheel and revel in the spectacular views.

Navy Pier. A World Away

Navy Pier. A World Away
Navy Pier. A World Away

The 97 Year History of Navy Pier

In a few short moments

Since opening in 1916 Navy Pier, known then as Municipal Pier, has enjoyed a unique history. In 1916 it was the first pier to ever combine the work of shipping with entertainment for its public. The arrival of WWI transformed the new pier into a system of barracks and lodging for troops, new recruits, the Red Cross, and units of Home Defense. As Chicago entered 1918 the Municipal Pier had once again changed. This time it boasted a new streetcar line, theater, and an emergency hospital. Still, the war was never far from memory and it was decided Municipal Pier would be renamed Navy Pier in honor of the brave Navy members who fought in WWI.

The golden age of Navy Pier hit an end with the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Navy Pier faced the national problem of declining freight and passenger activity. The public remained enthusiastic over the entertainments but hard times meant many of the buildings became homes for New Deal Agencies.

When war broke out in 1942 Navy Pier once again became a center of military activity, a training place for the Navy's pilots. By the year 1945 Navy Pier was training more than just Navy members. Over 60,000 people across the world had come to Navy Pier to learn everything from metalworking to engine maintenance.The following year would mean the end of the pier's military actions and a new beginning in academia.

Navy Pier would become the new two year undergraduate campus for the University of Illinois. While events were still being held at the pier a new place, the McCormick place, opened its doors in 1960. The McCormick place quickly became the sight for holding many of Chicago's events and continued competing with Navy Pier until it was destroyed by a fire in 1967. Two years before this fire the University of Illinois had relocated from Navy Pier to farther inland.

The rebuilding of the McCormick Place took four years. During those years Navy Pier enjoyed being the sight for many Chicago events; however, the re-opening of the McCormick place meant Navy Pier was no longer needed. The once-busy sight fell into disuse.hankfully the declaration of Navy Pier as a Chicago Landmark in 1977 changed its fate.The city of Chicago worked hard to redesign and change Navy Pier into a completely unique experience. When it re-opened on July 12, 1995 the Pier now boasted restaurants, shops, exhibition places, and all year entertainment.

Today's Navy Pier has seen visitors from across the world and remains one of Chicago's top tourist destinations. Inside you can find unique places like the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass. There are restaurants for just about anything, little shops galore, and traveling acts like the famed Cirque Shanghai. Outside you can enjoy boat tours on Lake Michigan or enjoy Navy Pier's amusement rides like its Ferris Wheel and Carousel.

Have you ever been to Navy Pier?

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The Sunset Begins - A Navy Pier First Moment

When we first stepped out on the pier I took a photo of the nearly blinding sun as it just started to sink below the Chicago skyline. Instead of changing up the colors and fixing the picture I left it like this. So when you see it you will be able to get a sense of how truly bright the moment was. Luckily we were heading out to the end of the pier with our backs against the sun. Most people like to go there as it gives you a great place to watch the sunset from a building free vantage point. I have never seen the sunset from the water but I imagine it must be beautiful.

See the Sunset Via Boat or Yacht

Tours, Dinner Cruises, Personal Luxury..

Navy Pier is a wonderful place to set off for a boat tour, dinner cruise, or a little private time. Walking down the Pier I saw a little of everything. There are boats which are decked out for weddings or receptions. I love seeing the excitement of the wedding party and admire their choice for a sunset setting backdrop on their special day. You don't have to be getting married to enjoy one of these boats.There are dinner cruises and sight-seeing cruises and cruises for more than I can think of.

If you want a little more privacy and are willing to pay then choose to rent a yacht for a special evening. They range from simplistic to overly fanciful and can truly make for an unforgettable evening. If you like the private boat idea but yacht sounds like a little much then rent a simpler boat. I liked this one so much I snapped a photo as it glided by me.

Tropical Luxury on Navy Pier - Beautiful All Year-Round

Inside the pier you can treat yourself to a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, marvel at a performance by Cirque Shanghair, or wander through the beautiful Smith Museum of Stained Glass. Many people find their favorites in these popular events or other ones inside the Pier but for me, my favorite has to be inside the fairy tale tropical landscape.

The ceilings and walls are made of clear glass which lets in the natural light and gives the feeling of being truly in a fairy tale forest. Fountains are everywhere letting the sound of flowing water provide a backdrop to the tropical feel. The colors are bright and the place holds spacious walkways which allow you to comfortably maneuver through the large space.

Summer Love at Navy Pier - Great for the Two of You

Before becoming ill my long-time boyfriend and I would go to Navy Pier every summer for our anniversary celebration. Here we are in my favorite place inside the pier. I love the streams of water criss-crossing around us and the palm tree setting.

This cute couple took our picture so I couldn't resist taking theirs!

This cute couple took our picture so I couldn't resist taking theirs!
This cute couple took our picture so I couldn't resist taking theirs!

The Best Sunset View - Navy Pier's Ferris Wheel

When the sky is just beginning to get dark and the sun is still hovering over the horizon is when I love to take a ride on Navy Pier's Ferris wheel. Forty gondolas are open for riders on this Ferris wheel which was modeled after the very first Ferris wheel. The old-fashioned look gives it a pretty charm which is complimented by the hundreds of lights which are switched on against the darkening sky.

The whole ride is seven minutes of pure view. Look to the east and see Lake Michigan's waters in the fading light. To the west lies the entire Chicago skyline where the last remnants of sun can be seen. From the very top you find yourself 150 feet above the Navy Pier seen below. The view is spectacular and well-worth the ride.

Sunset From the Ferris Wheel's Peak

Sunset From the Ferris Wheel's Peak
Sunset From the Ferris Wheel's Peak

Navy Pier's Wave Swinger - A View from the Ferris Wheel

From my gondola I captured the Pier's old-fashioned 'wave swinger.' When lit up at night I always think it looks like a unique mushroom. One of the pretties parts of the swinger is it's reflection in the pond around it. While you swing (which I have done) you go up fourteen feet in the air and look down into the clear waters of the pond.

The brilliantly lit building in in the background is where the indoor tropical part of the pier can be found. In the far background is the dimly lit Chicago skyline of course.

Summer Lights on the Pier's Carousel

Summer Lights on the Pier's Carousel
Summer Lights on the Pier's Carousel

A Summer Sunset to Remember - Wasn't it beautiful?

People have asked me if this background is real or the photograph at least majorly retouched. They seem amazed when I tell them this picture is just that: a picture snapped at sunset with no retouch or any photo fixes. The final moments of sunset over the Chicago skyline from Navy Pier are just this amazing. I love this picture because it really represents the perfect end to a perfect day on Chicago's Navy Pier.

Amazing Sunsets Captured by Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera - Lumix is the Only Camera for Me

All of the pictures here, including the one above, were taken using a Panasonic Lumix digital camera. Lumix pictures turn out so amazing because there are different modes and settings specifically for capturing the right time.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3 inch LCD (Black)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3 inch LCD (Black)

When asking around for a digital camera I was told the Panasonic Lumix was the way to go. I have to completely agree. My Lumix is now almost six years old and still takes amazing pictures. I use it for landscapes, jewelry close ups, people photos etc. There are even modes which are precisely for sunsets or candlelight. I fully recommend choosing Lumix for your next digital camera. They are well worth every penny spent, take great photos, and remain amazing. So stop taking sub-par photos and start taking great ones with Panasonic Lumix Digital Cameras.


Used to Reading My Squidoos? - Then you may have noticed...

If you read my squidoos then you may have noticed I look different here. My last visit to Navy Pier was actually several years ago hence the blonde hair. Since I became chronically ill I have chosen not to return. I would love to someday but for now, my body cannot handle walking long distances (like the length of Navy Pier). The only way to do it would be via my wheelchair.

Usually I would have no problem accepting my wheelchair but Navy Pier is an exception. I want to be able to walk by myself no cane or wheelchair needed. My illness has overtaken my life and I do not want it to change the magic I felt being at Navy Pier. So I will keep on hoping to get better and once I do, I will revisit Navy Pier together with my long-time boyfriend to watch the summer sunset.

Comments? Questions? Personal Stories?

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    • CaztyBon profile image


      5 years ago

      What a beautiful sunset!! I love the Chicago skyline and the sunset just added a lot to it. Thank You for bringing back some great memories of Chicago for me.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 

      5 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Beautiful photography. It looks like it would be a great place to with a loved one. I'm sorry to hear about the celiacs. I just stopped all wheat and most grains 6 months ago and have had so much improvement in my health since doing that. I'm just wheat sensitive, but what a change when I realized that. Thank you fore visiting all my art lenses. You might want to look at my wheatbelly journal lens.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 

      5 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      Beautiful and informative article... I've been to Chicago a number of times, but it has always been for conventions and trade fairs, and we never had time to look around. Hopefully next time...

    • eightieschild profile image


      5 years ago

      I've never yet been to Chicago, on any of my trips to America, but if I ever find myself there, you've persuaded me to stop by Navy Pier, as it looks like a great place to visit. I actually live just a couple of miles from the longest pier in the world, but your photos of Navy Pier look way more beautiful! :)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      This was my first introduction to Navy Pier, having only been to the outskirts of Chicago in the past. I enjoyed my tour and was fascinated by the pier's long and changing history over the years.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I love my lumix. It takes beautiful photos in the dark! I understand not wanting to return to some places if things can't be the same. Sending you a cloud of light.

    • Carashops profile image


      5 years ago

      Your photographs are beautiful. Great lens.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I attended the University of Illinois at Navy Pier for two years. Then I transferred to the Champaign Urbana campus. So I have really been there - every day, five days each week, for two years.

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 

      5 years ago from Naperville, IL

      We live in the Chicago area and share your love of the Pier and downtown. Loved your magical photos that really capture the essence of the location. May you feel well enough to get back there soon.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've never been to Chicago and your photos make me want to visit. Well done!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      It's been ages since I was there too. Since I do not live anywhere close to Chicago, who knows how it will be before I go back. Great lens.


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