FREE 2018 Chicago Air and Water Show: Here’s What You Need to Know

Here is what you need to know about the schedule and logistics for the 2018 Air & Water Show on AUGUST 18 and 19.   Click here for tips on parking and transportation.  We know how much fun it is but we also know it can be a hassle so here are some great tips to help you enjoy the days better. Please remember, there will be 1.3 million people converging on Chicago lakefront to see this spectacular 2018 event so plan accordingly.  Check out the schedule of events below.


FREE SHOW thunderbirds-in-CHICAGO


The Thunderbirds — Celebrating its 65th year, the enlisted team of eight pilots and more than 100 crew members fly six, F-16 Fighting Falcons in demonstrations with two more for logistics and training. Each show consists of 40 maneuvers, including a four-ship diamond formation.  A familiar cast of military and civilian aircraft will take over the skies over North Avenue Beach. Here is a guide to the show and performers.

Parachute Team:  U.S. Army Golden Knights — Appearing here since the 1960s — when they would land in Lake Michigan instead of the beach — this team of soldiers has jumped with former Cubs catcher David Ross, actor Vince Vaughn and comedian Bill Murray.


When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, and Sunday, Aug 19. Practice 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.

Where: North Avenue Beach

List of Performers:  CLICK HERE

Website:  CLICK HERE TO learn more


Getting to the Show

Public transportation is the best way to get to the show. While the trains are usually crowded, Helmer said it beats braving the crowded expressways into the city. Information for all the routes can be found and Chicago officials say there’ll be extended bus and train service operating this weekend because of the city’s annual Air &Water show.  The show is Saturday and Sunday. In a news release, the Chicago Transit Authority officials say they will be longer trains operating both days on the blue, brown, orange and green lines. Officials say those riding the brown line should allow extra travel time because of a weekend track closure. There’ll also be additional bus service on two routes. The agency also encourages spectators to buy ride passes ahead of time to avoid long lines.



The prime viewing location for the Chicago Air and Water Show is at ground zero, North Avenue Beach from Fullerton Avenue to Oak Street. In the middle of all the masses,Castaways Bar and Grill throws a lively viewing party on the roof deck of its iconic beachside boathouse and its Sand Bar Beer Garden. Reserve a cabana space at Caffe Oliva for breezy, unobstructed views from Ohio Street Beach or grab a spot on Oak at Oak Street Beach Food + Drink. Further north from the event but still close to all the action, other bustling waterfront spots at Belmont Harbor and Diversey Harbor provide more options down by the shore. As does the ever-popular Navy Pier and its Landshark Beer Garden.


Or consider getting on the water yourself with a special dining cruise aboard the Mystic Blue, Odyssey or Spirit of Chicago lines. Tour boats offer incredible views aboard their observation decks as well — try Wendella Boats, Shoreline Sightseeing Company, Seadog Ventures, Chicago’s First Lady and Chicago Line Cruises.


For a bird’s eye view, head up to 360 Chicago, formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, where you’ll be blown away by the 360 degree panoramas and the vastness of Lake Michigan below. Enjoy drinks from 1000 feet up in the Architect’s Corner Café and Bar, or head below to The Signature Room at the 95th.


watching the FREE chicago air and water show


Or picnic in the sky with Skydeck Chicago. Enjoy a picnic-style lunch at Willis Tower VIP Style, 99 floors up from the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. With the package for Saturday’s show, your day includes a boxed lunch of seasonal summer fare plus a Fast Pass entry to the observation deck and 103rd floor Ledge: the thrilling glass-floored balconies. Advance reservations are required for this once-a-year experience!


If you prefer an open air scene, carve out a spot along a rooftop terrace — from Chicago’s newest additions J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln and WET Deck at W Chicago Lakeshore Hotel to any of the city’s other alfresco hotspots.


No matter where you are in the city though, it’s guaranteed you’ll get goose bumps as the jets blast by.


For helpful tips to plan your visit to the Chicago Air and Water Show and a list of frequently asked questions, visit

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