52990974 Best Views For The Air & Water Show

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’ll be indistinguishable—whatever it is—if you don’t have a good spot to watch the Air & Water Show. Whether it’s Superman or, even cooler, a Thunderbird jet you’re looking for in the sky, the following spots will offer an unobstructed and clear view for you – ensuring you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at.


Home base for the Air & Water Show is North Avenue Beach. This isn’t the only spot to see the show though, according to explorechicago.org, you’ll get a great view from anywhere along the lakefront between Fullerton and Oak Street. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the beaches you can settle down.

North Avenue Beach

As the focal point of the show, North Avenue Beach will really be happenin’. One of the nicest aspects of North Ave. Beach is its gigantic beach house. Modeled after an ocean liner, the giant boat-like structure was built by the Chicago Park District. Its upper decks allow for a superb view of the water and make this the best beach for something like, say, an air show. The only downside is that it might be too popular. Prepare for packed crowds the weekend of the Air & Water show. If, like me, you don’t like people all that much, you might want to consider one of the other nearby beaches.

Belmont Harbor

Just North of North Avenue Beach, Belmont Harbor should be less crowded. It’s also close to Belmont and Clark, a corner surrounded by interesting stores and boutiques you can peruse before or after the show.

Diversey Harbor

Nestled between Belmont Harbor and North Avenue Beach, Diversey Harbor is another choice for your Air and Water Show antics. This would be an ideal location to take the kids. Make a day of it with other nearby sights like the North Pond Nature Sanctuary and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which specializes in programs and activities specifically for the young ones.

Castaways Bar & Grill

1603 N. Lake Shore Drive
North Avenue Beach
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 281-1200
$160.00 a ticket

Watch The Air & Water Show and eat and drink at the same time. Holy crud, what a revolutionary idea!

Though part of North Avenue Beach, Castaways deserves a mention all its own. Castaways is a beach-side restaurant and bar that gives THE perfect view of The Air & Water Show. Buy tickets from them and you’ll not only get the best seats to see jets and planes fly loops around each other in the sky, but you’ll have access to a breakfast and lunch buffet. And, even better, there’s an open bar from 9AM – 4PM. Yeah, most days 9AM would be too early to start drinking, but this is The Air & Water Show weekend, guys. You can start drinking anytime you want. Just make sure it has juice or something in it.

The Signature Room

875 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

The Signature Room is inside. You know, in case you hate nature as much as I do (ya nerd). Located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center, the view here is good regardless of The Air & Water Show (but certainly, Jets zooming over the water improves it).

John Hancock Observatory

875 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Il 60611

Views from the beach are fine and all, but why not get one from the sky? In the John Hancock Observatory you’ll be a thousand feet up, making you even with the planes flying in the sky and looking down on those suckers on the ground. Plus, you’ll have some of the best shopping in the city just below you – why not make a day of it?

Navy Pier

600 E. Grand Avenue
Chicago, Il 60611

While not the closest spot, Navy Pier still serves as a decent place to see The Air & Water Show. With it’s combination of shops and restaurants, it’s got a lot of entertainment value (and then there’s always the carousel). Why not try Riva Crab House (700 E. Grand Avenue, www.rivanavypier.com)? A bit fancy for my unrefined tastes, but still a great place. Plus! You can watch the air show from the restaurant itself. No need to leave your clam chowder and lobster behind.

The Odyssey, Spirit and Mystic Blue


For a closer view, hop on one of the boats docket at Navy Pier: Odyssey, Spirit and Mystic Blue. Each has its own special tour for The Air & Water Show.

Choices, choices, choices! A lot of them, and ultimately up to you. Do you want the best place for a view? Or somewhere you can see the show and eat too? Maybe you want to be high up, or maybe down on the beach. Whatever you want, there's a view for you. Whichever you choose, just make sure to enjoy the show. It only happens once a year, would be a shame to miss it.

Mason Johnson, CBS Local Chicago

Comments (3)
  1. J says:

    Best view is by boat! Launch at the well-run Burnham Harbor ramp. Unfortunately for the past couple years overflow trailer parking has no longer been allowed at Soldier Field and McCormick Place, and Burnham parking fills quickly leaving most area boaters in the lurch. Hope this improves.

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