The Chicago Air & Water Show is one of the city’s most beloved summer traditions. What began in 1959 as part of a children’s day camp celebration has grown to be the oldest and largest free air and water exhibition in the United States.
More than 60 years later, Chicagoans and visitors alike flock to the city’s beaches and lakefront for two days of iconic stunts and performances from U.S. military pilots, aerobatic teams and more. This year's Air & Water Show will take place Saturday Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.
Whether you’re looking to soak up the show directly on the beach or prefer the birds-eye view from a rooftop bar, Chicago offers plenty of unique viewing parties to catch the annual summer spectacle.
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. General admission tickets include access to Shore Club’s outdoor patio and shaded restaurant, a beachside brunch buffet and premium five-hour open bar.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Where: 1603 N. Lakeshore Drive
How much: Tickets start at $125 for general admission and upgraded VIP cabana options are available as well
Watch the Air & Water Show from 94 floors up at the 360 CHICAGO observation deck, where you'll have sweeping views of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Choose to add a cocktail of your choice or a ride on TILT, Chicago's highest thrill ride, to your general admission ticket.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 and Sunday, Aug. 18, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 875 N. Michigan Ave., 94th floor
How much: Tickets start at $20 with additional add-ons available
Miller Lite Beer Garden
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 its annual viewing party, the Miller Lite Beer Garden will also feature various live music throughout the weekend as well as fireworks on Saturday evening.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17: 2:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18: 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Where: 600 E. Grand Ave.
How much: Free entry with food and beverages available for purchase
The largest rooftop bar in the world will be hosting an unforgettable Air & Water Show viewing party. This year will be Offshore's first viewing party and they're celebrating with brunch and barbecue food stations, an open bar, live music, and panoramic views of the lakefront. Get your tickets while they last.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 1000 E. Grand Ave., third floor
How much: General admission starts at $125, VIP options are available
Theater on the Lake
Photo courtesy Theater on the Lake
Spread out across three acres of open green space along the lakefront while enjoying food, drinks and music at Theater on the Lake’s annual viewing party. Tickets include general admission as well as a VIP experience which includes an open bar and a catered lunch.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Doors open at 10 a.m.)
Where: The Lakefront Green at Theater on the Lake, 2401 North Lake Shore Drive
How much: VIP Experience tickets start at $125/person, $50/children 16 and under and $20 general admission tickets which include access to the beer garden only
Lake Michigan cruises
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. Navy Pier offers multiple cruise lines with special air and water show deals, including Odyssey, Spirit Cruises, and Mystic Blue.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18 Various times including early brunch cruises and lunch cruises
Address: Cruises depart from Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave.
How much: Prices vary, check with individual cruise lines for details
Photo by Michael Kardas
You won’t get much closer to the action than at Castaways, the iconic blue and white boathouse on North Avenue beach. This year’s party includes an open bar, breakfast and lunch buffets, an unobstructed view of the jets and water performers and live music on Saturday starting at 3:30 p.m. Ticket packages begin at $180.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 1603 North Lake Shore Drive
How much: All-inclusive ticket package $180
The Signature Room
What better way to experience the high-flying action than soaking it up 95 floors high atop the John Hancock building? For a special VIP experience, guests at The Signature Room can enjoy unrivaled sights of the city while enjoying a gourmet brunch spread and premium open bar. Tickets start at $175 and include reserved seating.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 875 N. Michigan Ave.
How much: $175/person and can be purchased by calling (312) 280-0465
If you’re looking for a true birds-eye view of the show, check out Skydeck Chicago’s Picnic in the Sky on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower. Premium and second row seating tickets include Fast Pass entry, a visit to the skydeck ledge on the 103rd floor and a catered picnic lunch including food, beer and wine.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 233 South Wacker Drive, 99th Floor
How much: Tickets start at $100/person
The Metropolitan Club
Another option inside the Willis Tower is the The Metropolitan Club, sitting pretty on the 66th and 67th floor with incredible views of the skyline. Members and guests have multiple ticket options to customize their show experience, including drink tickets, buffet and access to the Skydeck.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 233 South Wacker Drive, 67th Floor
How much: Tickets start at $25/person for club entry and 1 drink ticket and range up to $79 for the buffet and access to the Skydeck
The Patio at Cafe Brauer
Avoid the crowds and head further into Lincoln Park for one 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 activities from the sky. To commemorate the festivities, the Patio is offering drink specials throughout the weekend.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Where: 2021 North Stockton Ave.
Photo courtesy DrumBAR
After the show ends, the celebrations still continue on a picture-perfect summer weekend. Head a few blocks over to DrumBAR and enjoy half-priced bottles of wine, rosé, and frosé on the 18th floor outdoor lounge.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 18.
Where: Located inside the Raffaello Hotel, 201 E. Delaware Pl. on the 18th floor