Chicago Air and water show jet

Chicago Air and Water Show

Looking to make to most out of this year’s beautiful summer weather? Head to the beachfront of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in August for the country’s longest-running free-admission air and water exhibition. The two-day event is packed with highlights, from choreographed parachute performances to demonstrations of historic military aircraft. If you’ve been looking for a reason to visit Chicago this summer, this is it!

The Chicago Air and Water Show 2023 takes place on August 19th and 20th. Events can be viewed from the Chicago lakefront free of charge, but there are lots of ways to upgrade your experience. 

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Must-See Events at the Chicago Air and Water Show 2023

From the first event till the last, former pilot Herb Hunter will announce performers and proffer trivia so that all viewers can appreciate the show. Whether you’re coming for both days or just one, you may want to time your visit to get a prime view of these yearly favorites:

  • U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights – Divers reach speeds of 120 mph in these precision parachute demonstrations from 12,500 feet.
  • U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs – A team of fourteen jumpers opens their canopies in a choreographed display at 5,000 feet.
  • U.S. Navy Blue Angels – In this headlining event, the Blue Angels perform aerial maneuvers in F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft.
  • U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter Rescue – Witness a dramatic air-sea helicopter rescue! While the helicopter hovers at 30 feet, a rescue swimmer free-falls into Lake Michigan to recover a simulated survivor.
  • Firebirds Delta Team – A dramatic and artistic flight demonstration that showcases the precision of formation aerobatics.
  • Military Aircraft Demonstrations – See what legendary military aircraft can do up close! Highlights include the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II, USMC Osprey, KC-135 Stratotanker, T-38 Talon, and C-130 Hercules. History buffs will love WWII aircraft like the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, an American long-range single-seat fighter.

Where to View the Chicago Air and Water Show

What’s the best place to view the Chicago Air and Water Show in 2023? Attendance is free at the lakefront, but you do have options if you want to make this year’s show extra special! Get a closer look from the water, a rooftop, or even Chicago’s most famous skyscrapers.

Chicago Air and Water Show: Views From Above

Nothing can beat the breathtaking panoramic view from 103 floors up, so our top viewing recommendation can’t be anything other than the Skydeck at Willis Tower—Chicago’s tallest skyscraper. Other memorable ways to get a birds-eye view of the Chicago Air and Water Show include the 360 CHICAGO observation deck and The Signature Lounge at the 95th®. Or, check out one of the many rooftop bars with special accommodations for Air and Water Show viewers, like the J. Parker, Devereaux, and Offshore Rooftop at Navy Pier.

Chicago Air and Water Show: Views From the Water

What’s the best place to appreciate the intricate formation flying and parachute displays of the Chicago Air and Water Show? Try a lakefront boat cruise for clear views, a lunch buffet, and drinks out on the water. Top Chicago cruise options include Chicago’s First Lady, Shoreline Sightseeing Company, Mercury Cruises, Wendella Boats, and Seadog Cruises.

Chicago Air and Water Show: More Viewing Options On the Lakefront

For a more festive atmosphere, choose a Chicago Air and Water Show annual viewing party! Theater on the Lake offers an all-inclusive experience with an open bar and food from Smoque BBQ. The Navy Pier Beer Garden is another fan favorite, offering a festival-like feel with live music all weekend long. 

Plan Your Chicago Trip Today

Let us help you plan your time at the Chicago Air and Water Show in 2023! Reach out to Skydeck Chicago for more information about the city’s very best summertime events and festivals.