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Where to watch the Chicago Air and Water Show 2017

Get the best views of the Chicago Air and Water Show from rooftop bars, restaurants, tall buildings and boats

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

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

The J. Parker

Recommended

For the chicest way to enjoy the show, a gorgeous rooftop, craft cocktails and seasonal small plates await at Hotel Lincoln. The built-in, mesmerizing views are just the cherry on top of a perfect afternoon—that is, if you can get a seat. 

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Lincoln Park

Shore Club at North Avenue Beach

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. 

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Lincoln Park
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Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier

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.

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Streeterville

The Patio at Cafe Brauer

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. 

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Lincoln Park
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Cindy's

The rooftop restaurant and bar at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel offers some of the best views of the city. With an obstructed look at Millennium Park and Lake Michigan, Cindy's is an ideal spot to watch the Blue Angels do their thing. 

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Loop

Joy District

Joy District features New American cuisine and unique cocktails in a space with private enclosures, a rooftop deck and a late-night lounge. Watch jets zoom overhead with $20 sake flights, featuring Ty Ku Silver, Black and Coconut. 

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River North
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LondonHouse Chicago

Take in the show from one of the three levels (yes, three) of LondonHouse's sprawling rooftop. The hotel is settled in a historic landmark building on Wacker Drive and the banks of the Chicago River.

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Loop

ROOF on theWit

Recommended

TheWit Hotel's rooftop bar has a breezy terrace with a view perfect for watching the Air and Water Show. Plus, the swanky lounge sports a specialty cocktail menu, a well-curated wine list and Mediterranean small plates.

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Loop
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Drumbar

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.

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Streeterville

Caffè Oliva

Soak in the air and water yourself at this beachy spot offering salads, sandwiches and grilled pizza. Or go all out and splurge on the special Air and Water Show package, where $129 gets you an all-you-can-eat-and-drink afternoon.

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Streeterville
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Beaches

North Avenue Beach

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.

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Lincoln Park

Oakwood Beach

Escape the crowds and head to Oakwood Beach for a more relaxed viewing of the show. From the South Side, you'll be able to catch the jets looping around and heading back up to downtown.

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Bronzeville/Oakland
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Northerly Island

This is the spot for the best crowd-free views of the city and show. Though much of the park is currently under construction, once it's done, Northerly Island will be an urban escape, complete with hiking trails, places to camp, wetlands and beautiful plants abound.

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Downtown

Montrose Beach

A fenced-off dog area at this neighborhood beach provides an idyllic place for you and your pooch to enjoy the big show. Elsewhere, visitors can play volleyball, sit under an umbrella or enjoy the free Wi-Fi.

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Uptown
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Oak Street Beach

One of Chicago's most popular places to sunbathe, this Gold Coast beach has volleyball tournaments, restaurants and a spectacular view of the skyline. The Air and Water Show is the perfect excuse to catch some rays.

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Gold Coast

Boats

Shoreline Sightseeing

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.

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Odyssey Cruises Chicago

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.

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Streeterville
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Spirit of Chicago

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.

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Streeterville
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Wendella Combined Lake and River Tour

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.

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Seadog Lakefront Speedboat Tour

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.

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Skyscrapers

The Signature Room's Chicago Air & Water Show Viewing Party

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.

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Until Sun Aug 20

Willis Tower Skydeck

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.

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Loop
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360 Chicago

Basically on top of Oak Street Beach, the John Hancock Building ideally situted for viewing the Air and Water Show. On a clear day, viewers can see 55 miles out and four states from this 94th floor obstervatory.

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Streeterville

Comments

2 comments
JamieMoncrief

Riddle me this: Why is the PFC Milton Lee Olive Park - located between Navy Pier and the Ohio Street Beach- closed for July 4th and the Chicago Air and Water Show? Two of the city's most patriotic events, and the park built to honor a veteran is closed. The closing certainly isn't a safety issue because the pier and beach are closer to the action of both the fireworks and the air show. Beautiful location, closed to the public during prime lakeside events.