Craning your neck up towards the sky to catch sight of the white, cloud-like end trails behind jets and wishing you were the pilot of one of those giant, metal, flying beasts is usually expected of children, and only children. The Chicago Air & Water Show gives everyone permission—children and adults alike—to look up at the sky and wonder exactly how amazingly rad being a pilot would be. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, this show is worth seeing no matter the distance. To prove this, we’ve figured out where you need to go to let your imagination fly and how to get there. All you need to do is read below…
Where To Go
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 you’re afraid of large crowds, or, like me, just don’t like people all that much, you might want to consider one of the other nearby beaches.
North of North Avenue Beach is Belmont Harbor, another place that would give a great view of the show that should be less crowded. Belmont Harbor is also close to Belmont and Clark, a corner surrounded by interesting stores and boutiques you can peruse before or after the show.
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.
How To Get There
You’re going to drive? In the city? Are you crazy? Well, far be it from me to judge you (more than I already have).
Parking being scarce in Lincoln Park (for an event as large as this), the Chicago Air & Water Show recommends driving downtown to park at Millennium Garages. Located in the loop at 5 South Columbia Drive, Chicago, Il 60601, Millennium Garages is easy to get to off of Lake Shore Drive and also accessible from I-90/94. As a special event, this will most likely cost ya $25 bucks, which is actually fairly cheap compared to some cut-throat, parking garages downtown. From there you can take a free shuttle to Lincoln Park that drops you off right at North Avenue Beach. Talk about convenient!
For many coming from the suburbs, the Metra is the most convenient public transportation for the Air & Water Show. Unfortunately, there aren’t many convenient Metra stops near any of the beaches. Looking at the map provided by Metra’s website, the closest stops are over two miles away off the Metra Electric District, Union Pacific / North and Union Pacific / Northwest Lines. What’s that you say? Two miles ain’t much? Clearly, you’re not as lazy as I am. Fine! Walk your two miles. If you’re intimidated by the confusing and daunting Metra, take a look at this CBS Chicago guide, it just might save your life.
The CTA, despite it’s odd smell, is probably your best bet to get to the Chicago Air & Water Show. The closest train stops are the Sedgwick Brown / Purple Line (near the North Avenue Beach), the Diversey Brown / Purple Line (near Diversey Harbor, duh), and the Belmont Red / Brown / Purple Line (near the, well, take a wild guess which harbor it’s near). Belmont (#77), Diversey (#76) and North Avenue (#72) buses will also be running throughout the show. If you’re not sure how to get to these stops, make sure to take a gander at CTA’s website for maps and timetables that make everything easier.
Better Yet: Fly
I don’t know how you could pull it off, I wish I did, but the ultimate entrance to the Chicago Air & Water Show would be by way of Thunderbird. No, not the car or the mythical bird, but by the fighter jet that represents the U.S. Air Force. Imagine it now: a crowd stares at you in awe as you pilot a Thunderbird above them, then all of a sudden, the top flies off and the ejector seat shoots you into the air. You land perfectly on the beach, Margarita in hand, happy that you finally proved that you would, in fact, make something of yourself despite your mother never supporting your dreams of flight because, as she says, “the Air Force don’t accept twerps with awful eye-sight and flat feet. Give up on your dreams.” Well look at me now, Ma!
Sorry, I think I might be projecting. The sentiment that I want to get across is simple, more simple than I’ve made it seem at least. The planes are cool, the beaches are beautiful, and the city can be surprisingly welcoming when you give it a chance. So go to the Chicago Air & Water Show!