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The ultimate guide to viewing the Chicago Air and Water Show

The iconic Chicago Air and Water Show is celebrating its 59th year of fun on Lake Michigan. This free event is takes place at 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. on Aug. 19-20. (Though you can totally catch Friday’s rehearsal as well).

Now, where the heck are you supposed to catch the action? Chicago has plenty of lakeshore real estate. Some of our favorite spots are: Chicago Sport and Social Club’s Chicago Air & Water Show Party (Fullerton and Lake Shore Drive), Montrose Beach, Oak Street Beach (Gold Coast) or Oakwood Beach (Bronzeville).

Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a friend of a friend with a boat, I’d highly recommend you try to jump aboard.

Here are five more places to consider for your viewing pleasure.

The J Parker

Atop the Hotel Lincoln, one of the hippest places in Lincoln Park, this gorgeous rooftop offers craft cocktails and seasonal small plates along with a great view of the sky and lake. Get there early to snag a seat!

The Miller Lite Beer Garden

Situated at the end of Navy Pier, this beer garden offers up live music and one of the best seats to enjoy the show. The live music kicks off around 2 p.m.

The Odyssey Cruise

The Odyssey is hosting a series of sails throughout the weekend, with Brunch and Lunch Cruises on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $67.90.

Shore Club at North Avenue Beach

Looking for an upgrade to North Avenue beach? Castaways’ classy big sister, Shore Club, is officially open with a brunch from 9 a.m. 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.

SkyDeck Chicago’s Picnic in the Sky

Perched atop the Sky Deck Ledge (in the John Hancock Center), enjoy a delicious catered lunch with an air-conditioned view for $100/person. Reserve your spot here.

Now that you’ve grabbed a seat on the beach, in the water or in the sky, it’s time to keep your eyes open for your favorite performers. Joining the show again this year are the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs, among other military and civilian talented air squads. The whole line-up can be found here. Who are you excited to see?


The Air and Water Show is basically an all-day event out in the elements. It’s crucial to protect yourself. Don’t forget to pack the following:

Sunscreen, sun hats and sunglasses – Apply sun block liberally and frequently. Try to use the highest protection factor you can find. Don’t forget the back of the neck, ears and backs of legs!

Shade tent – If you grab a seat along the beach, it’s helpful to set up a shaded tent like this for your kids.

Kid’s protective earmuffs – Fighter jets and the like are pretty loud. Protect your kiddos’ ears with earplugs or protective noise canceling headphones.

Binoculars – Perhaps you didn’t grab a great seat? Binoculars can help bring the show to life and help kids see the show more clearly.

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