Daredevil pilots, parachute teams and jets flying in formation. Combine those with the sunny, sandy shores of Lake Michigan and the famous Chicago skyline, and you’ve got the components of the city’s annual Air and Water Show.
The sea-and-sky celebration is poised for its 58th year above the waters of Lake Michigan on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21.
The action happens from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. And while North Avenue Beach serves as the nucleus, spectators can get a good glimpse from many places in the city.
For those new to the event, here are a few things to know before you go.
What is the Air and Water Show?
The free event is one of the city’s largest festivals, showcasing both civilian and military pilots. Often flying from an airport in nearby Gary, Indiana, military pilots — and those sponsored by companies – show off their flight skills. The U.S Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds switch off as headliners each year.
Best Viewing Spots
There are coveted bleacher spots at North Avenue Beach, but the planes can be seen from Fullerton Beach on the north to Oak Street Beach farther south, near the Loop.
Practice begins a day or two before the show, so those visiting or working in the Loop often get a bit of a preview simply by gazing up.
On Saturday and Sunday, those who want to avoid the crowds can take advantage of Air and Water Show specials being offered at bars and restaurants with a few of the action, such as Cataways at North Avenue Beach, or Riva Restaurant at Navy Pier. Here’s a more complete list.
The show should be crowded both days. On-site parking options are very limited, so public transportation is a good option. For travel information, visit transitchicago.com.
Another option is using the city’s Divvy bike share service. It will offer Valet Service at certain stations on both days with the promise of a spot to dock your Divvy:
- Theater on the Lake (10am-6pm)
- Clark and North (10am-6pm)
- Michigan and Oak (10am-6pm)
- Streeter and Illinois (12-6pm)
For drivers city-operated garages at 5 S.
Columbus Drive; 25 N. Michigan Ave. and 325 S. Michigan Ave. are offering $35 all-day parking passes with free shuttles from Millennium Park Garage to North Avenue Beach. Drivers pay on-site, call 312-616-0600 or go online to millenniumgarages.com.
The show will open with retired Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman tandem jumping with the U.S. Army Golden Knights to honor the USO’s 75th Anniversary.
From there, a long list of flying acts will follow:
- U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
- U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights
- U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs
- F-35 Heritage Flight(New this year)
For a complete list of performers, click here.
The entire show will steam live online, or you can listen live on WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9FM. WBBM will also provide livestream video on its website.