Where to watch the Chicago Air and Water Show 2018

Get the best views of the Chicago Air and Water Show from rooftop bars, restaurants, tall buildings and boats
Air & Water Show Sunday, August 21, 2016
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
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The Chicago Air and Water Show will soar over the Lakefront on August 18 and 19, which means that it's time to find a place to watch the planes and boats. You'll get some of the best views of the action by heading to a beach, but if you don't feel like spending the weekend on the hot sand, there are alternatives. We've gathered some of the best places to experience the high-flying action, including rooftop bars, outdoor restaurants, boat tours and more. Find your preferred vantage point with our guide to where to watch the Chicago Air and Water Show.

RECOMMENDED: Your complete guide to the Chicago Air and Water Show

Restaurants and bars

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Restaurants

Shore Club at North Avenue Beach

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

Castaways' classy, put-together big sister, Shore Club, is hosting one of the fanciest Air and Water Show viewing parties, with brunch from 9am to noon and a premium open bar until 2pm. If you're really feeling flush, rent out a cabana in the Oasis at Shore Club. Tickets start at $125.

Photograph: Jordan Avery
Dance

Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Grab a seat and a drink at Navy Pier's outdoor beer garden and watch the Air and Water Show with a cheering crowd. Once the planes leave the sky, you can stick around for live music and more drinks.

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Restaurants, American

The Patio at Cafe Brauer

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

Sit down at one of Chicago’s most scenic al fresco restaurants during either day of the Air and Water Show. Cafe Brauer is offering $4 beers with the purchase of any food item throughout the weekend.

TheaterontheLake.venue.jpg
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Park District
Theater

Theater on the Lake

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

The Chicago Park District's lakefront venue hosts two days of prime views, lunch and an open bar during the Air and Water Show. You can snag a ticket to the party for $125—it takes place on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19 from 11am to 4pm.

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Golden boar cocktail at Cindy's Bar.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Cindy's

icon-location-pin Loop

The rooftop restaurant and bar at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel offers some of the best views of the city—and that includes the weekend's Air and Water Show. Competition for a seat on the rooftop will be fierce, so show up early to snag your spot. When you're not staring at the planes in the sky, you can take a look at what's happening in Millennium Park.

Photograph: Courtesy Joy District
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Joy District

icon-location-pin River North

Joy District features New American cuisine and unique cocktails in a space with private enclosures, a rooftop deck and a late-night lounge. This weekend, the bar will be serving a special shareable Cool Your Jets cocktail for $24, made with Cruzan Coconut Rum, lemon liqueur and pineapple juice.

Beaches

Air & Water Show Sunday, August 21, 2016
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do

North Avenue Beach

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

North Avenue Beach is the official viewing area for the Chicago Air and Water Show, which means that it gets packed with people (and their chairs and coolers). If you want to watch the action from this stretch of sand, arrive early and take public transportation so you don't waste time parking your car.

Things to do

Northerly Island

icon-location-pin Downtown

This is the spot for some of the best crowd-free views of the city and planes flying by overhead. You can watch from near the Adler Planetarium or venture out into the park, where there's plenty of space to spread out as you crane your neck.

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Things to do

Montrose Beach

icon-location-pin Uptown

Don't want to deal with the hordes of people gathered on North Avenue Beach? Head north to Montrose Beach where you can take in the aerial sights while still enjoying the feel to sand beneath your toes.

Things to do

Oak Street Beach

icon-location-pin Gold Coast

Oak Street Beach isn't too far from North Avenue Beach, which means that plenty of people have figured out that it's a good alternative for Air and Water Show watching. It's worth a try to scope out a spot here if the sand at North Avenue is already covered with chairs and coolers.

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Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Parks District
Things to do

31st Street Beach

icon-location-pin Bronzeville/Oakland

You don't have to be on the North Side to enjoy a stellar view of the planes zooming by the skyline. Lay out a blanket on 31st Street Beach and look past Navy Pier to observe all the high-flying stunts.

Skyscrapers

Things to do

Willis Tower Skydeck

icon-location-pin Loop

A building that will be forever called the Sears Tower by many Chicagoans, Willis Tower boasts the 103rd floor Skydeck that's 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.

Clubs

The Metropolitan Club

icon-location-pin Loop

Want VIP access to the Willis Tower Skydeck and cocktails while taking it all in? The Metropolitan Club is hosting an Air and Water Show viewing event on Saturday, August 18, allowing guests to sip boozy beverages and fill up at a buffet from 11am to 3pm. Tickets are $25–$79.

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Things to do

360 Chicago

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Overlooking Oak Street Beach, 875 North Michigan Avenue (formerly the John Hancock Center) is 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.

SignatureRoom.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, American

Signature Room

icon-location-pin Streeterville

If you require a build-your-own New York strip steak sandwich station while watching the Air and Water Show, stop by the Signature Room on Saturday or Sunday from 11am to 4pm. You'll be able to take in the high-flying sights while enjoying a gourmet buffet and a premium open bar. Tickets are $175.

Boats

Restaurants, Eclectic

Odyssey Cruises Chicago

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Step on board the Odyssey and enjoy brunch or a buffet lunch while you snap photos of the Air and Water Show from just below the action. The Odyssey will offer a preview cruise of Friday, August 17 as well as trips on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19. Prices range from $69.90 to $79.90.

Things to do

Spirit of Chicago

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Spirit of Chicago is hosting early brunch and afternoon lunch cruises on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19 during the Air and Water Show. Tickets include a three-course buffet, a DJ, entertainment and games. Tickets range from $69.90–$99.90.

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Things to do, Event spaces

Mystic Blue

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Take a four-hour cruise during the Air and Water Show on the Mystic Blue, which will offer three-course lunch buffets and unobstructed views of the sky. The boat departs at 11am on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19. Tickets range from $89.90 to $109.90.

Seadog Lakefront Speedboat Tour

Want to get a high-speed, half-hour look at the planes soaring by during the Air and Water Show? The Seadog speedboat is tha fastest way to see the sights—tours depart on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19. Tickets range from $20.95 to $27.95.

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