The Chicago Air and Water Show, a perennial display of U.S. Army and Navy jets and parachuters, takes flight off North Avenue Beach August 19–20 from 10am to 3pm. Though the action is mostly overhead, you won't get a great view from just anywhere. Whether you prefer a rooftop bar or restaurant, beach, skyscraper or boat, here are the best places in the city to watch the show.
RECOMMENDED: Your complete guide to the Chicago Air and Water Show
Restaurants & Bars
Castaways' classy, put-together big sister, Shore Club, is officially opening in time for the Air and Water Show, with brunch from 9am to noon and a premium open bar. Once you've had enough to drink, lounge on a VIP cabana at the Oasis at Shore Club. Tickets range from $125 to $750.
Navy Pier's seasonal beer garden features a rotating slate of live performances from local musicians, including blues by Buddy Guy's Legends, performers from the Old Town School of Folk Music and Pier Dance Thursdays. The menu features a large selection of beers, cocktails and frozen drinks, as well as tasty pub grub.
Dine and drink waterside at Chicago’s most scenic al fresco restaurant and bar: the Patio at Café Brauer. Located just south of the main zoo grounds, the Patio is offering an All-American Air and Water Show special: a blue cheese burger, side of fries and domestic bottled beer for $15.95.
Feeling fancy? The stunning 18th-floor bar of the Raffaello Hotel boasts a chic exterior deck lounge with open fire pits. Bartending team Whitney Morrow, Gary Matthews and Marko Tomovic are serving a lot of classics, including their own drinks, like the Point Break, with tequila, mezcal, citrus and chocolate liqueur.
Catch the show at one of Chicago's most popular beaches, then go ahead and make a day of it. North Avenue Beach features a unique beach house inspired by a beached ocean liner. But be warned: North Avenue Beach is one of the most popular places to watch the Air and Water Show.
The only way to beat a lakefront view of the show is from the lake itself. Take a 40-minute classic tour to ensure the best view of the show and of Chicago itself. Multiple tours depart daily from Navy Pier starting at 11:30am. $21–$23, children $7–$8. More information at www.shorelinesightseeing.com.
Get out on the lake for the very best views of the Air and Water Show. Entertainment cruise yacht The Odyssey is hosting a series of sails throughout the weekend, with Air and Water Show Brunch and Lunch Cruises on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $67.90. Visit oddesseycruises.com/chicago for more information.
Spirit of Chicago is hosting early brunch and afternoon lunch cruises on Saturday and Sunday of the Air and Water Show. Tickets include a three-course buffet, a DJ, entertainment and games. Not that you'll need all that when your neck is craned at the sky. Tickets start at $55.90. Visit spiritcruises.com/chicago for more information.
Get the best of both worlds during this 90-minute tour, which highlights landmarks along the Chicago River and will give you ample show viewing from Lake Michigan. Tours depart throughout the day from the Wendella Dock at Trump Tower and feature live narration that covers the city's history. $35.50, seniors $32, children 11 and under $16.50. More info at www.wendellaboats.com.
Get your adrenaline pumping on Chicago's speediest boat tour as jets fly overhead. This short and sweet lakefront tour is perfect for those looking for a zippy half-hour ride and killer view of the show, or up the intensity on the Seadog Extreme. Tours depart daily from Navy Pier at various times. $23, children $15. More information at www.seadogcruises.com/chicago.
Escape the crowds and spend the Chicago Air and Water Show up in the sky at the Signature Room’s annual viewing party. Located at the 95th floor of Hancock Tower, these 360-degree views of the Blue Angels can’t be beat. Tickets include an open bar and a buffet including corn salad, mini Angus burgers, jerk chicken wings and more. Call to make a reservation.
A building that will be forever called the Sears Tower by many Chicagoans, the Willis Tower boasts its 103rd floor Skydeck, which is open to the public. As the second-tallest building in America, the Willis Tower is as close as you can get to the Air and Water Show without being in an airplane.