We arrived at Great Lakes mid afternoon on Thursday prior to PIR. We picked up our tickets at the Welcome Center. It was busy but we only waited about 5 minutes to get our tickets. The best part was that the divisional group photos were displayed so we got our first glance of our new sailor!
We did attend Sarge's Meet and Greet. The food was excellent and there was plenty to go around. Sarge said he would get everyone through the line in less than an hour and he did! The line went really fast! The meet and greet was just kind of neat knowing the pride that all of the families in attendance had and how excited everyone was for the next day. I would recommend attending.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Waukegan on Lakehurst Rd. It was a nice and clean hotel. The staff was very pleasant. We signed up for the free hotel shuttle to PIR upon arrival. We chose the 5:45 a.m. shuttle. The morning of PIR we boarded the shuttle and arrived at the gates shortly after 6. There was already what appeared to be quite a long line of cars waiting to enter the gates. The shuttle was able to by pass the line and drop us off at the walk in entrance. We were permitted on base around 6:45. We had a long wait until the ceremony started... but I was glad we got there early and that we took the shuttle.
The ceremony was outstanding. There is nothing better than hearing your sailor's division # called and seeing them march in front of you. Such an emotional morning. After the ceremony we took a few pictures and our daughter had to head back for a briefing. We waited at the NEX for her to finish up. Since she had to go to holding before A school she was able to take her phone with her to the briefing. We met back up with her shortly after noon and rode the FREE Holiday Inn Express shuttle back to our hotel.
Because our daughter was placed in holding due to a medical record issue we were able to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday with her. Of course she had to be back each evening at 8:30. But we were able to pick her up again at 6:30 the next day. Some fun things we did were eat giordano's pizza near the Gurnee Mall. Saturday we drove down to Navy Pier. We arrived around 10 a.m. which was nice because the crowds had not yet arrived. We also walked along the Green River.
Another great Chicago restaurant to visit near the Gurnee Mall is Portillo's. Gurnee Mall was about 10-15 minutes from our hotel. Our hotel was about 10 minutes from Great Lakes and a very easy drive. If I were to attend another PIR ceremony I would do everything the same: -arrive Thursday afternoon, attend Sarge's Meet and Greet, rise early to catch the 5:45 shuttle to the PIR, stay at the Holiday Inn Express Waukegan, and eat Giordano's and Portillo's and visit Navy Pier.
ach98 That sounded so Wonderful and you ate at my two favorite Yummy Places! So Glad you had a Wonderful time with your Daughter. We took the shuttle the same but we had rented a car also when my Son was able to come after unpacking at A school we used our rental to go around Wuakegan. Thank You for Sharing! Loved the meet and greet!
This is really helpful! Thank you for posting.
Hello...my son's PIR is coming up soon. 9/28 and we cannot decide if we should drive there or take the shuttle. My daughter and two young granddaughters, 1 & 5 yrs old, will be with us. How long a walk did you have from where the shuttle dropped you off to where you actually went in? Did you have a good choice of where you wanted to sit at PIR? How high up in the bleachers would you recommend sitting? Thanks!
We had to walk about 1/4 mile. We had to walk from the walk in gate around the corner of the ceremonial hall and then half the length of the ceremonial hall to the entrance doors. Really, not far at all. You could carry a 1 year old and the 5 year old could definitely walk. The gates opened around 6:30/6:45 so since we rode the 5:45 shuttle we were nearly one of the first people into the hall. So we could choose anywhere to sit. We sat about 4 rows up. That worked for us. We could see our daughter and when PIR was over we wanted quick access to her! It seemed like it took awhile for the hall to fill up- like maybe not until 8 or so. However, some divisions seating filled up faster than others. I do know there was a big line of cars at 6:00 when we arrived. There was a line of walk in people as well. Because we were one of the first people in line I don't know how long this line gets as the morning progress either. On the way back you do have to walk a little further to catch the shuttle. You also might have to wait awhile to catch the return shuttle depending upon what time you return. The shuttle worked out perfectly for us. I would say the earlier you can there the better. I know that can be tough with small children. It's going to be an awesome day for you and your family!
One more thing, if you do choose to ride the hotel shuttle be sure to sign up for it when you check in to the hotel. When we checked in on Thursday afternoon the 6:15 shuttle was already full. The next shuttles available were 5:45 or 7:15 so we chose the earlier one.
Thank you. I hadn't known there was a shuttle. My daughter just left and any info makes me feel better.
Not all hotels OFFER a shuttle to GL. Make sure you ask before making your reservation.
Thank you so much for this information, it was truly a blessing. My only problem is I have not received my letter yet. How soon did you receive your letter? PIR is December 14th.
Your post was very helpful. I just attended PIR Nov 09 2018. My experience was wonderful. I would recommend if you plan to take the shuttle, take an early one. My husband didn't think we needed to go so early if taking the shuttle because we wouldn't have to wait in line to park, so we took the 7:15. It was running late, so we didn't leave the Holiday Inn until after 7:30. There was a good sized line for security and I had to go through the bag line (camera bag) so it took awhile. Then it's a good walk (maybe 1/4 mile) to get to the ceremony hall and additional security checkpoints. We were able to find seats upstairs in the balcony, but in front of the division next to my son's - not his division. And we were not all able to sit together. It is still a good view from the balcony, but not ideal for pictures because of the railing in front of you. Again, point being - go earlier!! My son was not staying at Great Lakes for A school, but wasn't shipping out until early Sunday morning (0630), so we were able to have him right after the ceremony until he had to be back on base by 2000 hours. That means in his rack at 2000, so he wanted to leave at 1915 to give himself time to walk from the gate back to the barracks. We were told the hotel shuttle was for graduation only. No biggie. I called Sarge's taxi and he took him back to the gate at base. Then he could sign himself out for Liberty again Saturday morning at 0730 and we had him all day until he had to be back again by 2000. Sunday morning we met him at the airport (O'Hare) at 0130 and hung out with him until his flight to A school at 0630. All in all a wonderful weekend and we enjoyed every minute with our Sailor!!
Daughter graduates on Feb 8. Her's is the first division to come through. Which end of the building should we sit to be directly in front of her division?
Skunkwerks -- there will be signs telling you where the divisions will be.