Navy Pier is to Chicago
what the new Times Square
is to New York City
--a sterilized bit of consumer culture
dropped in the middle of the city so that the denizens of suburbia
can visit "the city" without having to be exposed to anything foreign to them.
Navy Pier is a combination mall and theme park, complete with the multitudinous buying opportunities of the former and the overpriced concession stands of the latter. To be fair, it isn't a complete cultural wasteland; as ngui mentioned it's home to the Shakespeare Festival and also the Chicago Children's Museum, and it usually has displays of sculpture and other art there. But if you're interested in going to Chicago, skip Navy Pier and head to Pilsen, Rogers Park or even Lincoln Park.