The Chicago Air and Water Show is one of the city’s most spectacular and beloved summer events. A longstanding tradition for more than 60 years, this Lake Michigan spectacle has grown into the largest free show of its kind in the country.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with practice flyovers on Aug. 19. Looking for a spot to catch the show? We’ve got you covered with waterfront viewing parties, the best beaches, stunning rooftop bars, and more. Check out the top places to catch the 2022 Chicago Air and Water Show. 

Chicago beaches

Chicago’s gorgeous beaches are popular all summer long, but the Air and Water show always draws crowds to Lake Michigan’s sandy shores. The best spot to view the show will be on the lakefront between Oak Street and Fullerton Avenue, which includes North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach. Bring a lawn chair and find a spot to watch the show!

Shore Club

©Shore Club

Located directly on North Avenue beach, Shore Club is the perfect option for those wanting to elevate their experience and be in the center of all the action. Their annual Air and Water Show watch party includes access to the Shore Club’s outdoor patio and shaded restaurant, a beachside brunch buffet, bloody Mary bar, frozen cocktails, and premium open bar. Reserved seating and VIP tables are available for purchase. Get your tickets for the practice run on Friday, Aug. 19 and the main event on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug, 21.

Theater on the Lake

Theatre on the Lake Air & Water Show
Photo courtesy Theater on the Lake

Spread out across three acres of open green space along the lakefront while enjoying food, drinks, and incredible views at Theater on the Lake’s annual viewing party. The all-inclusive experience includes delicious food from Smoque BBQ and an open bar with beer, wine, mixed drinks, and non-alcoholic options. There will be ample seating, but guests are invited to bring their own chairs and blankets. Tickets are available for Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 21.


Castaways Cabanas

You won’t get much closer to the action than at Castaways, the iconic blue and white boat house on North Avenue beach. This year’s Air and Water Show event will take place on the sand directly in front of the boat house, with unobstructed views of the jets soaring through the air. The viewing party will run from Friday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 21, featuring an open bar and a lunch buffet inspired by Avli and Castaways menus. Open seating and standing room areas are available.

Rooftop bars

Cindys interior

Chicago has no shortage of rooftop bars with stunning lakefront views. Here are a few popular spots to catch the Air and Water Show display, just make sure to come early or grab a reservation since these spots fill up quickly.

Navy Pier

miller lite beer garden at navy pier

Navy Pier offers unbeatable views of Lake Michigan and the Miller Lite Beer Garden is a great space to soak up all the excitement of the weekend. In addition to being surrounded by the Air and Water show action, the Miller Lite Beer Garden will also feature various live music throughout the weekend.

Many other Navy Pier restaurants also offer waterfront patio space, make sure to grab your reservations early. There’s also plenty of green space and open areas where the public is able to hang out and enjoy the show for free.

Lake Michigan cruises

Mystic Blue Cruises Chicago

One of Chicagoans’ favorite ways to enjoy the Air and Water Show is to watch the festivities from the bright blue waters of Lake Michigan. There are a variety of afternoon cruises that will give you a perfect vantage point of the Air and Water Show, including Odyssey, Spirit Cruises, and Mystic Blue. Here are just a few setting sail on Air and Water Show weekend:

Check out more Chicago boat cruise options for the 2022 Air and Water Show.

Observation decks

See the soaring jets at eye level when you visit these Chicago observation decks during the Air and Water Show. 360 CHICAGO offers unbeatable views of Lake Michigan, and you can keep the adrenaline pumping at their thrilling TILT ride. Or visit SkyDeck Chicago, on the 103rd floor of one of the world’s tallest buildings, for a jaw-dropping vantage point of the show and the entire city from The Ledge.

More places to catch the show

Cafe Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo

Whispers on Oak Street Beach: Kick back and relax with your toes in the sand at this beachfront bar and restaurant. During the Air and Water show, Whispers on Oak Street Beach will be hosting a ticketed viewing party with live DJ music. Grab a general admission ticket for just $10 or upgrade to a wristband for an open bar and buffet. Reserved seating at picnic tables, cabanas, and day beds is available for purchase. There will also be an afterparty on Saturday and Sunday after the show.

Caffe Olivia: On Ohio Street Beach, Caffe Olivia is tucked away inside the scenic Olive Park. It’s the perfect under-the-radar spot to watch the Air and Water Show from a prime location. Grab tickets to the weekend party, featuring an open bar, buffet and cooked-to-order grill, and an ice cream sundae bar.

The Patio at Cafe Braue: Head further into Lincoln Park for one of the most iconic al fresco options in the city. Situated inside Lincoln Park Zoo, The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a great option to soak up the city lakefront views and watch the Air and Water Show display, while surrounded by a lush, tranquil environment.

Jet Ski Chicago: If you love the water, head on over to Montrose beach and rent a wave runner from Jet Ski Chicago. They’ll be offering one-hour guided tours during the show, allowing riders to cruise the lake and enjoy thrilling, unobstructed views of the planes.