Chicago Air & Water Show Quick Tips: Food, Drink, Transportation, and more

The Chicago Air & Water Show is this weekend! Here’s a quick guide to help you get the most out of one of Chicago’s most popular events.

When: 10am to 3pm Friday and Saturday August 15 and 16

Where: North Avenue Beach, 1601 N Lake Shore Dr, is the epicenter. The “Water” part of the show takes place here, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard’s search and rescue demonstrations. It’s also where the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Parachute teams land. It’s crowded, but you can see the show up and down the lakefront. The best spots are from Fullerton Avenue to Oak Street Beach. Or find a friend with a rooftop deck. Or a boat.

Live Broadcasts: It used to be that you’d have to bring along a radio and tune in to WBBM 780AM to find out what was happening. You can still do that, but now we’ve got some more options:

  • Twitter: Follow @ChicagoDCase and #ChiAirandWater
  • Text: text “airshow” to 780780 for alerts about what’s coming up 
  • View a live webcast of the show at

Food & Drink: Castaways is front and center, and they’ve still got tickets (at press time) for Sunday’s show. For $175 you’ll get the best seats on the beach plus food, drink, and an open bar. You can also bring your own, except for the booze (see below). Check out our round-up of Chicago gourmet shops that are great for stocking that picnic basket, and Chef Cleetus Friedman shares what’s in his perfect picnic basket to get you started.

Getting there: Public transportation is one of the cheapest ways to get to the Chicago Air & Water Show. To find your CTA route, visit, plug in your address and North Avenue Beach (or wherever you’ve chosen to watch) and select the public transportation option. Since there are TWO MILLION people heading to the lakefront double the amount of time they tell you it will take to get there!

If you’re driving use a service like ParkWhiz or SpotHero to find reasonable rates. You can also park in the Millennium Garage underneath Millennium Park ($30) and take the free shuttle to the show. Be aware that there is VERY limited parking around Lincoln Park and if you don’t reserve it ahead of time you’ll be unlikely to find any that day.

You can also ride a Divvy bike and they’ll have valets at the show. Never used a Divvy before? Check out our article on the Chicago bike sharing service.

One more option is to use a door-to-beach car service like Uber or Lyft (1st time riders get $20 off for either service) . 

What to bring: 

  • Sunscreen – yes, even when it’s cloudy (say thank you, Mom)
  • Ear plugs. Those suckers get LOUD
  • Blanket & chairs
  • Cooler with LOTS of water
  • Comfy shoes
  • Snacks & food
  • Camera/phone with extra batteries
  • A masseuse. Your neck’s going to get sore!

What NOT to bring:

  • Booze – no alcohol allowed
  • Pets (except service animals)
  • Tents
  • Grills
  • Balloons
  • Flag poles
  • Bicycles – great for getting there, but park them at the outskirts and walk in
  • Fireworks or explosives (duh – if anybody actually brought those I’d say they’re Darwin Award candidates)

Rain or shine: Yes! The show must go on! Depending on how severe the weather is some portions of the show may be canceled, but those planes will still fly and those boats will still float, so bring your rain slicker and umbrella and head on out.

The Chicago Air & Water Show is fun, exciting, thrilling, and relaxing all at the same time. Get out there and reach for the sky!

Photo courtesy City of Chicago







Leave a Reply