Chicago Air and Water Show 2017: Top spots to watch this year's show

Chicago Air and Water Show 2017: Top spots to watch this year's show

It ‘s hard to believe that this year is Chicago’s 59th annual Air and Water Show. The show, that is expected to draw an estimated 2 to 3 million viewers to town, not surprisingly is one of the largest free spectator events in the country.

This year’s show, Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20 (with preview/rehearsal day, Friday, August 18) features the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs along with a wide variety of military and civilian aerial demonstration teams and daredevil pilots.

Chicago’s second to none Grandpa Rossy, aka retired Cubs backup catcher David Ross–also of Dancing with the Stars fame, will open the Chicago Air and Water Show at 10 am. on Saturday, August 19, by tandem jumping with the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights. He will touch down in front of the Boat House.

With the exception of Rossy, the show is identical both days, August 19 and August 20. It will run from 10 am. to 3 pm. from its epicenter at North Avenue Beach, 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Of course, with the Chicago Air and Water Show being the biggest event of the summer–even bigger than Lolla–there is a problem.

Where to watch?

The show that takes place over the lakefront from North Avenue Beach to Fullerton can be seen and heard over a much larger area.

Here are our favorite places to view the action.


Shore Club. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

New this year, Shore Club, located right in the center of the action on North Avenue Beach, offers comfortable and attractive seating, standing and viewing areas with an upscale food and drink menu. Of course, it comes at a price with tickets ranging from $55 (Friday, preview day) to $125–$750 on Saturday and Sunday. Click here for tickets.

Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) offers a bird’s eye view of the action from a safe distance at their 3rd Annual ‘Picnic in the Sky’ taking place Saturday, August 19th from 11 am to 3 pm. The package includes a gourmet picnic on the 99th floor of the Tower, with panoramic views of the skies. Watch the action from eye-level while enjoying food and drinks. Just hope for clear skies.  Prices range from $100-150 per person with advance tickets required.


The Beach. All Chicago beaches are free admittance. Once on the lakefront you should be able to view the action in the air from any of the city beaches. If you also want to see the water show, you’ll need to head to North Avenue Beach, which will be the most crowded–so get there early.

You can bring food and a blanket to the beaches but Alcoholic Beverages, BBQ Grills (Open Flames), Fireworks or Explosives, Illegal Substances, Weapons, Pop-up Tents/Canopies, Balloons, Kites, Flag Poles and Pets (except Service Animals) are all no-no’s. Food will also be available for purchase at many locations including North Avenue Beach.


By Boat. The Odyssey, Spirit of Chicago and Mystic Blue are offering air show cruises. If you have a friend with a boat, even better.

Wrigley Field. Although not typically on the list of places to watch the show, Wrigley Field offers a double feature of sorts. With the team playing daytime home games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting at 1:20, you can get to the ballpark early and watch some of the air action above along with the roar of the crowd and the planes. Click here for tickets.

The Museum Campus. The Museum Campus (1400-1562 S Lake Shore Dr) offers one of the most beautiful views of Chicago’s Skyline any day of the year but on the weekend of the Chicago Air and Water Show, you get a little extra. Note: The Campus is several miles South of North Avenue Beach so if you are looking for the full impact of the show, this might not be for you.

The Wheel at Navy Pier. Although not in the center of the action, you’ll still get plenty of the action at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand). With the main show taking place about a mile north of the Pier and the Pier facing South, you will want to position yourself in an area where you can look both North and South–like the end of the Pier–or the Centennial Wheel.

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