Chicago Air and Water Show 2012: Insiders Guide to Best Views and Information.

Chicago Air and Water Show 2012: Insiders Guide to Best Views and Information.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angel will be thrilling crowds at this weekend's Chicago Air and Water Show.

CHICAGO, Monday, August 6, 2012. With 2.2 million hot and sweaty bodies elbowing for a spot to see one of the largest events of its kind, the 54th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show, it’s smart to plan ahead.

Armed and informed, you can enjoy the day just the way you like it. This year’s giant beach party will take place on August 18 and 19, 2012 in the usual spot along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the focal point. The show will run from 10a.m. to 3p.m. both days.


The same show will be performed on both days, with the flight action stealing the major portion of the show. Headliners are:

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

  • The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have been astounding audiences since 1946 with their gravity defying flying, commanding presence and supersonic maneuvers in their F/A-18 Hornets as they defy gravity with their famous diamond formation and precision flying.

U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights.

  • Jumping out of an aircraft at 12,500 feet above the earth’s surface at speeds exceeding 120 mph is all in a days work for the Golden Knights.

U.S. Navy Leap Frogs.

  • A typical Leap Frog performance consists of fourteen jumpers leaping out of an aircraft at an altitude of 12,500 feet. During free fall, jumpers reach speeds of 120 mph and can accelerate up to 180 mph.

Military and Civilian Acts.

  • The military and civilian acts offer more thrills with daredevil pilots performing their aerial stunts. This year’s line-up include: Sean D. Tucker and Team Oracle, Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Lima Lima Flight Team, The Firebirds, Kirby Chambliss in the Red Bull Edge 540, Matt Champan Airshows, Dave Dacey in the Super Spearman, Chuck Aaron in the Red Bull Helicopter and the Red Bull Air Force – Elite Red Bull Skydivers.


The sooner you put together your game plan the better–as many spots are sold out by Air and Water Show weekend.

First, pick your day.

If you don’t need to listen to the broadcast and are a bit crowd phobic, PRACTICE DAY/DAYS may be just for you. Go Friday, August 17 to see almost the same show that will be performed over the weekend. 
 Thursday is Media Day where you will get some noise and glimpses of the flight teams but not the show.  The action on practice days will take place between 11a.m. and 4p.m.

Second, pick your spot.

There are any number of choices for viewing the show from a little patch of cement on the sidewalks along the route to a seat under the fake palm trees at Oak St. Beach. Decide if you want the best view, easy in and out, laid-back, or in the middle of the action. Then pick the spot that will work best for you.

1. THE BEST VIEW…On the Water.
Water…The best way to view the show is from a place where you will have an unobstructed view of the entire show. If you have a boat or a friend with a boat, that’s golden.  If not, the next best thing is a cruise. Below is the schedule for three of the cruise ships docked at Navy Pier. Other options include: The Tall Ship Windy,  private cruises such as Chicago Sailboat Charters, Wendella, Chicago Architecture Foundation Cruises, Chicago Line Cruises and Shoreline Sightseeing Tours.

  • Odyssey. (866) 305-2469. Friday, August 17. Early Air & Water Preview Buffet Lunch Cruise; Board 10:00 AM, Cruise 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM; from $59.90. Afternoon Air & Water Preview Lunch Buffet Cruise Board 2:00 PM, Cruise 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM; from $64.90. Odyssey, Saturday and Sunday, August 18 and 19. Early Air & Water Show Brunch Cruise Board 9:30 AM, Cruise 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM; from $64.90. Afternoon Air & Water Show Lunch Cruise, Board 1:00 PM, Cruise 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM; from $79.90
  • Spirit of Chicago. (866) 273-2469. Friday, August 17. Early Air & Water Preview Show Lunch Cruise; Board 10:30 AM, Cruise 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM; from $44.90, Afternoon Air & Water Preview Cruise, Board 2:00 PM, Cruise 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM; from $54.90. Spirit, Saturday and Sunday. Early Air & Water Show Brunch Cruise, Board 9:30 AM, Cruise 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM; from $52.90, Afternoon Air & Water Show Lunch Cruise, Board 1:00 PM, Cruise 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM; from $64.90.
  • Mystic Blue. (877) 299-7783. Friday, August 17. Early Air & Water Preview Cruise, Board 10:30 AM, Cruise 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM; from $39.90. Afternoon Air & Water Preview Cruise, Board 2:00 PM, Cruise 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM; from $49.90. Saturday and Sunday. Early Air & Water Show Brunch Cruise, Board 9:30 AM, Cruise 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM; from $47.90, Afternoon Air & Water Show Lunch Cruise, Board 1:00 PM, Cruise 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM; from $59.90.

2. NEXT BEST VIEW…North Avenue Beach. This is the epicenter for the combined Air and Water Show. This is your spot if you want to see it all and don’t suffer from ochlophobia. 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive. You have several choices at North Avenue Beach:

  • The Sand.  The sand is the best deal, since it is free–so grab a chair, a towel or blanket, some sunscreen, a camera or smartphone and a cooler.  Don’t bring your dog or other pets with the exception of service dogs, Alcoholic Beverages, BBQ Grills (Open Flames), Fireworks or Explosives, Illegal Substances & Weapons, Pop-up Tents/Canopies, Balloons, Kites and Flag Poles. Plan on getting there early—between 8 and 9a.m. to pick your spot.
  • Castaways on North Avenue Beach is offering several packages from $100 to $160. Practice day tickets are available for Friday, August 17 at $100 per person which includes breakfast, lunch and open bar from 9a.m. to 3p.m. Show tickets are $160 per person and are available for Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19 (9a.m. to 4p.m.) which also includes breakfast, lunch and an open bar. Limited tickets remain and are available by emailing Andrea Frankos at
  • Pop-Up: Sand Bar Beer Garden. The Sand Bar Beer Garden will be located on the beach at the Northeast corner of the North Avenue Beach Boat House. This space allows guests to view the show from a private beach location, with unlimited food and drinks. It is the only space on the entire beachfront where alcohol is permitted during the Air and Water Show. The Beer Garden will be open August 17, 18 and 19 from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM (doors will open at 10:00 AM and last call occurs when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels begin their show). Tickets can be purchased online: or at the door.


Here are many off-site spots where you can get a good view the action.

  • Oak Street Beach. Just down the road from Command Central, Oak Street Beach offers great sand or the Oak Street Beach Cafe for your viewing pleasure. Oak Street and the lakefront. 
  • Belmont Harbor. Belmont Harbor offers an excellent sight line to view the show along with a relatively relaxing atmosphere.  Bring a chair and picnic lunch and enjoy. 3600 Recreation Drive. 312 742 7673.
  • Diversey Harbor. Although some say the sight lines are better at Belmont Harbor, Diversey Harbor is a little closer to the action and a great place to pull up a chair, grab a snack and enjoy the show. Diversey and the lakefront.
  • Fullerton Beach. Even closer than Diversey, the beach is a good choice for viewing and a picnic. Fullerton and the lakefront.
  • Montrose Beach.  Montrose Beach at 4400 North and the lakefront is about as far north as you’ll want to go. It should be a little less crowded and you can even bring Fido to the dog beach providing he doesn’t mind loud noises.
  • Northerly Island. The former Meigs transformed into a 91-arce lakefront nature preserve is a good choice for those looking to stay south of the action. 1300 S. Lynn White Dr. at the heart of the Museum Campus.
  • Navy Pier. You are still fairly close to the action with a number of restaurants and viewing spots along the pier. Grand Ave. and the lakefront.


  • Willis Tower. Several miles from the action, but you’ll get thrills as the planes roar by on their way to North Avenue Beach. 233 S. Wacker Dr.
  • John Hancock. The Hancock Observatory will get you much closer to the action on the lakefront. OR The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building offers an unsurpassed view of the show at 1,128 feet in the air.
  • The Signature Room, 95-floors into the sky in the John Hancock Building is once again offering their Air and Water Show intimate viewing event on both Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th from 11a.m. to 4p.m. with only 30 seats available each day at $130 per person. The fee includes reserved seats, gourmet cuisine and drinks throughout the viewing.  Reservations are required.  Call 312 280 0465 or visit The Signature Room online.
  • Cite at 70 stories high, atop the Lake Point Tower offers quite a sight of the action with a great 360 degree view of the airshow while providing an upscale dining experience. 505 North Lake Shore Drive.  312 644 4050. Cite is offering a special Air & Water Show Brunch for $62.00 per person.
  • Wet Deck. Wet Deck on the 7th floor
 of The W Chicago offers views spanning from Navy Pier to the north side shoreline., 644 N. Lake Shore Dr.,  312-943-9200.
  • Trump Tower offers a view from their 16th floor outdoor terrace plus their specially created signature cocktail for the A & W Show, aptly named The Blue Falcon.   The cocktail offers a mix of vanilla vodka, muddled blueberries, blue Curacao (blue, signifying the water part of the show) with egg-white foam (the air, clouds)…at the sky-high price of $22.  Terrace at Trump, 16th floor, 401 N. Wabash Ave.


Planes take off and land at the Gary International Airport in Gary, Indiana…where you will not see the air show but will still be able to view the planes flying in formation.


As always for Chicago’s big events, public transportation is the way to go.  Call (312) 836-7000/TTY (312) 836-4949 for information on RTA, CTA, PACE, and Metra.  If you are coming from out-of-town and want help planning your trip, visit


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    You forgot to mention the best Air and Water Show Yacht Party. Most bang for your buck and amenities.

    Live Band, DJ, Julian from B96 and Hosted Open Bar!

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