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Little maritime fans have much to explore at Navy Pier 'Boats' exhibit at Children's Museum

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Sunny days have many a little one dreaming of sailing on the seas or maneuvering a big ship through blue waters. For those who have youngsters enamored of boats of all kinds, Navy Pier is a perfect place for a family field trip.

This historic strip — where they can look out on Lake Michigan — once was a training hub for aircraft carrier pilots during World War II, when two aircraft carriers were based at the pier.

And the summer boat exhibit at Chicago Children's Museum there is still open, so kids can enjoy the season's last warm days playing there.

Visible from Navy Pier is the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and scores of boats, both big and small, which buzz around the lake on a clear day.

Inside the Children’s Museum there, kids don’t have to just look, they also can jump in and check out hands-on displays at the "Boats" exhibit, which opened on May 19. This original exhibit allows kids to immerse themselves in a nautical experience complete with docks and an assortment of boats.

The museum’s setting on the pier couldn’t be more appropriate, with a view of Lake Michigan and several sightseeing boats and dinner cruise ships docked along Navy Pier’s south side as a backdrop.

“ 'Boats' immerses children in a rich, dramatic play environment that expands their play possibilities and inspires them to explore new perspectives,” said Chicago Children’s Museum President and CEO Jennifer Farrington.

“This exhibit sets the stage for kids to engage in a myriad of narratives, letting their imaginations lead the way to their own nautical adventure.”

A two-level work boat with wheelchair-accessible lower cabin is a centerpiece of the exhibit designed by museum staff. The exhibit features real and play boats and equipment and encourages interactive play with clothing and props that will have visitors and their mateys entertained and enchanted.

"Boats" also includes a bait and tackle shop, a kayak and a sailboat. Kids can be a captain, biologist, cook or rescuer.

From bow to stern, "Boats" offers a fun, nautical experience for kids with an opportunity to drop a line off the edge of the top of the two-level boat, steer the ship, stretch out in the boat’s bunk, do some pretend food prep in the kitchen as the ship's cook, try on a life vest or captain’s jacket, secure the rigging or drop a buoy — all while looking out on Chicago’s Great Lake.

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