Chicago Air and Water Show

Golden Knights jumping out of a plane
Photo via City of Chicago

In Brief:

The Chicago Air & Water Show happens each summer for one weekend in mid-August, and more than two million people flock to the shores of Lake Michigan for the event. It is the oldest and largest free show of its kind in the United States. It occurs 10 a.m.-3 p.m. both days, and headliners include the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Breitling Jet Team.


Along the Lake Michigan lake front, from Fullerton Avenue to Oak Street Beach. North Avenue Beach is the main focal point.


August 20, 21


10:30 a.m. -3 p.m Saturday - Sunday each day. Times and performers subject to change.



Getting to the Chicago Air and Water Show By Public Transportation

CTA bus routes 151 or 156

Parking at the Chicago Air and Water Show

Remember the bit that over 2 million people will be in attendance? Chicago public transportation is highly recommended. But if you really must drive, get there early, and you can maybe score a spot in the Lincoln Park Zoo/North Avenue Beach parking lot. The entrance to the lot is just west of Lake Shore Drive on Fullerton Avenue.

About the Chicago Air and Water Show

The Chicago Air and Water Show rivals only Taste of Chicago as one of the biggest events of the summer. The oldest and largest show of its kind in the country, the show features performers such as:

  • U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
  • U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights
  • U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team
  • Aeroshell Aerobatic Team
  • Bill Stein Airshows Zivko Edge 540
  • Chicago Fire Department Air and Sea Rescue Team
  • Dave Dacy in the Super Stearman
  • The Firebirds ("extreme" style flying)
  • Lima Lima Flight Team
  • Matt Chapman Aerobatics
  • Sean Tucker & Team Oracle

NOTE: While the same acts should perform each day, because of variations in logistics and flight conditions, there is no set schedule. Times are determined by the pilots on the day of the event. Generally headliners (which this year are the Thunderbirds, Leap Frogs and Golden Knights) go last.

On the water side of the event, the Shell Extreme Water Show entertains the crowd with some of the world's finest wave riders cruising along the waves of Lake Michigan.

The day before the show starts is "practice day," so if you're downtown on Friday and hear jets roaring overhead, we're not being invaded. Head over to the lakefront to see some of the action while avoiding the weekend crowds.

Alternative Places To Watch The Chicago Air & Water Show

III Forks: One of the city’s most underrated rooftops is tucked away in a residential neighborhood near Millennium Park. Grab seats on the spacious, beautiful deck and you’re certain not to miss any of the action in the air. The special lounge menu includes light bites such as Deviled eggs, lamb meatballs, charcuterie and roasted garlic hummus. The wine and spirits list is well curated and priced moderately. 180 N. Field Blvd., 312-938-4303

Current: The W Chicago-Lakeshore’s Italian-focused restaurant is certain to see plenty of action on its patio during brunch. It’s directly across the street from the show and only steps away from Navy Pier. The menu offers light bites such as a three-cheese frittata as well as heartier fare like Nutella-stuffed French toast and polenta fries. Brunch hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday. 644 N. Lake Shore Dr., 312-255-4460

Eno Wine Bar: Located on the lobby level of the Intercontinental Chicago, the wine bar features a sidewalk patio offering great views of the show. Your best bet--if you plan on staying awhile--is to order vino by the bottle and accompany it with one of the artisan cheeses and/or chocolates from the menu. Those needing heartier fare may order from a special menu created by the adjacent Michael Jordan’s Steak House. 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312-321-8738

The Local Chicago: The best part of this deal if you take the family for lunch or dinner? Order from the children’s menu and the little ones automatically receive complimentary carrots and apple slices. Those should nicely complement grilled cheese, pasta with butter and parmesan, or chicken tenders. 198 E. Delaware St., 312-280-8887

Perennial Virant: Located directly across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo, PV remains one of our Top 7 Brunch Spots in Chicago. Seasonal and local ingredients play major roles on the menu, ensuring guests unique experiences each time. Menu standards include whole-rolled oatmeal, corned beef hash and house-made doughnuts. Brunch hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday. 1800 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-981-7070

Yolk: Another spot guaranteed to be swamped during peak brunch hours is the Streeterville outpost (additional locations are at 1120 S. Michigan Ave. and 747 N. Wells St.). As its name implies, Yolk specializes in egg dishes, and count on them being superior. We’re especially big fans of the “create your own scrambler” option where guests choose three ingredients (e.g. chorizo, fresh shaved parmesan, red peppers) for custom-designed egg dishes. Also consider the fluffy pancakes, omelets and frittatas. Brunch hours are 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sunday. 355 E. Ohio St., 312-822-9655

--edited by Audarshia Townsend

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