There are many choices for viewing Chicago’s Air and Water Show in addition to its North Avenue Beach epicenter. Spectators can experience the air part of the show from as far south as the Gary International Airport in Gary, IN. At the north end of the viewing area, Montrose Beach is as good a spot as any to spread your beach blanket and even bring Fido (if you promise to cover his ears). Here are some ideas to help you put together your game plan:
Mostly Free viewing where you can bring your own snacks or buy some food and a beverage.
- Gary International Airport in Gary, IN. Many of the air show performers fly out of the Gary Airport giving spectators an up close and personal look at the planes as they come and go. 6001 West Industrial Highway, Gary, IN. 219 949 9722.
- Northerly Island. On Lake Michigan just south of the Adler Planetarium and east of Soldier Field (the former home of Meigs Field).
- Navy Pier. Anywhere on the pier, you’ll experience the nearby action. 600 E. Grand.
- John Hancock Observatory offers great views as well as large crowds (there is a fee)
- 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. (fee)
- Oak Street Beach. Less than a mile South of North Avenue Beach, Oak Street Beach spectators will have a good view with smaller crowds.
- North Avenue Beach. Ground zero, the best place to watch if you get there early and don’t mind the crowds.
- Fullerton Beach. Even closer than Diversey, the beach is a good choice for viewing and a picnic. Fullerton and the lakefront.
- 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. Stop in before or after at the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo or see the butterfly exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 2601 N. Cannon Drive. 312 742 7762.
- Belmont Harbor. Far from the maddening crowd, yet close enough to be in on most of the action, 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.
- Montrose Beach. At 4400 North, Montrose Beach is about as far as you’ll want to be from the action. The atmosphere is more relaxed but don’t expect to see everything. You’ll still get plenty of noise, you can grab something to eat at The Dock, play volleyball and bring the dog.
On the Water…the best view
For the best unobstructed view of the show is from a boat on Lake Michigan. There are many choices:
- 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.
- Odyssey. 888.957.2320. Friday, August 16. 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 17 and 18. 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. 888.957.2324. Friday, August 16. 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.
- Mystic Blue. Mystic Blue Dining Cruise Ship: 877-299-7783. Friday, August 16. 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.
Other water options: The Tall Ship Windy, private cruises such as Chicago Sailboat Charters, Wendella, Chicago Architecture Foundation Cruises, Chicago Line Cruises and Shoreline Sightseeing Tours.
Air and Water Show Viewing Packages
If you don’t mind crowds and putting out the big bucks…Castaways Bar and Grill is action central with its North Avenue Beach locale. Air and Water Show Packages are available for Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18. For this premium view expect to pay a premium price with tickets priced at $175 per person. (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.). The price of admission includes breakfast, lunch and an open bar–so not a bad deal if you can afford it. A somewhat less expensive option is to get a ticket for practice day on Friday, August 16th. Practice day tickets are $120 per person which includes breakfast, lunch and open bar from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Limited tickets remain and are available by emailing Andrea Frankos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another popular choice is The Signature Room, 95-floors into the sky in the John Hancock Building. The high and mighty Signature Room offers an unsurpassed view of the show at 1,128 feet in the air and looks north only a hop, skip and a jump from the North Avenue Beach action. Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th 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. Saturday, August 17th and Sunday, August 18th from 11a.m. – 4 p.m.
For those looking to skip the crowds, but still catch this year’s Air & Water Show, W Chicago Lakeshore’s WET Deck offers good views and a good deal. For just $25, guests receive a complimentary drink while gaining access to the sundeck, offering unobstructed views of Navy Pier and Lake Michigan as well as a live DJ. Full bar and summertime fare from Executive Chef Gregory Elliott will also be available for purchase. 644 North Lakeshore Drive,6th and 7th Floor, (312) 255-4460.
Navy Pier Dining
There are many dining choices on Navy Pier from casual to fancy including Billy Goat Tavern, Bubba Gump, Capi’s Italian Kitchen, City Porch, Harry Caray’s, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Bar & Grill, Riva Restaurant and the more casual Riva Cafe. Most of the restaurants have outdoor patios but, as always, on summer weekends, especially the Air & Water Show weekend, expect crowds. Perhaps one of the best spots on the Pier to see the show is at the Landshark Beer Garden located at the East End of Navy Pier.
Cityscape Bar, located on the 15th floor of the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza invites guests to experience skyline views of Air and Water Show. In honor of the show, the bar is offering a themed drink, the Open Air, $8, with Bacardi O, Sour Apple Pucker and Tonic topped with an orange twist. 350 W. Mart Center Drive, 312.836.5000. Available Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18
In honor of the 55th Annual Air & Water Show, Drop, Lincoln Park’s upscale lounge will feature two themed drink specials. The specials will be available for $10 and include, The Hindenburg, Riesling dropped into Stiegl’s Grapefruit Radler, and The Titanic, Sparkling Rose Wine dropped into White Wine Sangria
1909 N Lincoln.
For the 411 on Chicago’s Air and Water Show, click here.
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Filed under: Chicago Air and Water Show