Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Offers Ten Tips for Enjoying the 2023 Chicago Air and Water Show

August 15, 2023

Ron Hall, Carol Fox and Associates

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Show organizers offer helpful tips for first-time and long-time visitors alike


CHICAGO – The Chicago Air and Water Show, a beloved Chicago tradition for decades, returns to the city’s lakefront on Aug. 19 and 20. Established in 1959 and one of the largest free admission events of its kind, headliners of the 2023 show include The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, returning to Chicago for the first time since 2018. With the thrill and excitement of vintage and modern aircraft soaring overhead, the event organizers, Mayor Brandon Johnson and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), want to offer the millions of expected visitors a few small tips to help everyone enjoy the show.

1) Where to watch: the prime viewing location for the Chicago Air and Water Show is on the lakefront from Oak Street to Fullerton Avenue with the show’s focal point being North Avenue Beach. The lakefront will be open to the public beginning at 6 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

2) Refreshment options: Refreshment options will be plentiful, with food vendors located up and down the lakefront. North of the pedestrian bridge options include El Campeon, Nab Tiki Hut, La Michoacana Delicias, Chill Italian Ice, Caroll’s Catering, Sandbox Café, Morelos Concessions, and El Chuzo. North Avenue Beach vendors include Big Chug’s Corn Hub, El Campeon, and Stefani’s. Vendors south of the boathouse include Little Squeeze, Freddie’s, Shore Club, and Robinson’s Ribs.

3) Amenities: There will be plenty of restroom facilities, including in the North Avenue Beach House and portable facilities scattered throughout the beach area. Spectators in need of first aid can find a first aid tent at the entrance to the parking lot west of the North Avenue Beach House. There is also a “lost child tent” located in the center of the LaSalle Street turnaround.

4) Accessibility information can be found at Audio description will be available for those who are blind/low vision both days of the event.

5) Parking and Transportation: The best way to get to the show is by using public transportation. Extended routes and additional buses and trains will be added to the Chicago Transit Authority’s schedule to accommodate the expected 2 million event spectators.

Rail Service

Spectators who wish to avoid street traffic altogether can reach the Air and Water Show on Red Line trains from subway stations at Chicago/State or Clark/Division, which are within walking distance of the beach.

Customers who take the Pink, Orange and Green lines can ride downtown and transfer to the Red Line at State/Lake. Customers can also transfer from the Red Line at North/Clybourn, the Blue Line at Damen or the Brown Line at Sedgwick to connect to #72 North Avenue buses that will supplement regular service along North Avenue from California to Clark.

CTA customer assistants will be on hand at all downtown rail stations to assist customers with fare and travel information, and customers are advised to allow extra travel time.

Bus Service

On both days, supplemental bus service will be provided on the #72 North Avenue and #151 Sheridan routes, which operate close to all the activities. In an effort to avoid traffic congestion near the North Avenue Beach area, #72 buses only will travel as far east as North Avenue and Clark. Buses on the #145 Wilson/Michigan Express, #146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express and #147 Outer Drive Express routes operate to Michigan and Delaware and are within walking distance of the beach. Customers also can take the #22 Clark or #36 Broadway routes to North and Clark, which is within walking distance of North Avenue Beach. Customers disembarking at Metra’s Union Station or Millennium Park Station can board #151 buses to Oak Street and North Avenue beaches. The #151 buses also are within walking distance of the Ogilvie Transportation Center and the LaSalle Street Metra station.


If travelling by car, be aware that there is no parking available at the beach and there is limited parking available at Lincoln Park Zoo. Parking is also available at Millennium Park Garage, which will offer a pre-purchase discount and free shuttles to North Avenue Beach. Additional information on Millennium Park Garage’s Air and Water Show parking and shuttle services can be found at

Taxis and Rideshares

To avoid traffic congestion, it is recommended to be dropped off away from the entrance to North Avenue Beach and walk in.

6) What to bring: Spectators are encouraged to bring a portable radio/mobile device to listen to WBBM Newsradio 780 / 105.9’s live feed of the show, a hat, binoculars, chairs, plenty of sunscreen and earplugs, especially for children and those who have hearing sensitivities, due to heightened noise levels from the low-flying, supersonic stunt aircraft. Chicago beaches can also be quite hot, so a personal cooler with water and ice is also recommended. Spectators looking to stay cool will have access to “cooling buses” stationed at the entrance to North Avenue Beach, available free of charge.

7) What to leave at home: While on the beach, show organizers remind visitors that normal beach security rules will apply. The following items are prohibited on show grounds at North Avenue Beach: BBQ grills (open flames), drones (personal or commercial), alcohol, fireworks or explosives, illegal substances or weapons, pop-up tents or canopies, all flying objects such as helium balloons and kites, flag poles, and all pets, excluding service animals. Bags and coolers will be subject to search.

8) Tips for boaters: For spectators planning to watch the Air and Water Show from the water, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Boaters can choose to watch the show from Lake Michigan. In addition to the “Playpen,” which is always popular and crowded during the show, boaters can be out on Lake Michigan so long as they avoid the show’s restricted zone, which will be identified by orange “Do Not Enter” buoys. This zone will be patrolled by the Coast Guard, the Chicago Fire Department, and the Chicago Police Department to ensure everyone’s safety.

The law states that all boat passengers must wear a life vest, and boating under the influence is strictly prohibited. The Coast Guard reserves the right to board your vessel at any time to confirm that the proper safety equipment is on board, and that the boat operator is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all vessels have a stock of emergency equipment including flares, fire extinguishers, a signal mirror and a VHF-FM marine radio, which is more reliable for emergency communications on the water than a cell phone.

Be sure to maintain a safe speed and adhere to “no wake” zones to avoid endangering other vessels.

If you are chartering a boat, be sure that the operator is properly licensed, and that the vessel has a valid Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection.

If you witness something suspicious or dangerous while out on the water, please contact 911 or the U.S. Coast Guard at 414-747-7182.

9) Where to listen: Herb Hunter, the long-time official announcer of the Chicago Air and Water Show, returns to the booth this year and his commentary can be heard from Oak Street Beach to Fullerton Beach. In addition, WBBM Newsradio 780 / 105.9 will broadcast the show live Saturday and Sunday, on both the radio and the free Audacy app.

10) Rehearsal performance: Not available for the official Chicago Air and Water Show dates of Aug. 19 and 20? The featured acts will be rehearsing on the waterfront on Friday, Aug. 18 from 10:30am to 3pm and spectators are welcome at North Avenue Beach.

Featured acts for the 2023 Chicago Air and Water Show include the U.S. Air Force demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, celebrating their 70th year in 2023, flying since 1953. Today’s Thunderbirds will thrill crowds with aerobatic formation and solo flying in their F-16C Fighting Falcons. The brave men and women of the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights will inspire spectators as they jump out of an aircraft 12,000 feet above the earth’s surface to a perfect target landing on North Avenue Beach. Civilian performers at the 2023 show include Susan Dacy, Bill Stein, Kevin Coleman, Rob Holland, Triple Time Team, The Chicago Fire Department Air/Sea Rescue, and the Chicago Police Department helicopter. Performance order and run times vary contingent on weather conditions.

The Chicago Air and Water Show is presented by Mayor Brandon Johnson and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and is supported by The Boeing Company, ABC 7 Chicago, WBBM Newsradio, Chicago Transit Authority and Millennium Garages..

For more information on the Chicago Air and Water Show, visit Join the conversation on Facebook (Chicago Air and Water Show) and follow DCASE on Twitter and Instagram @ChicagoDCASE (#ChiAirandWater).




Please contact the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events at for media opportunities, including photos and all media credential requests for the show on Aug. 19 and 20 at North Avenue Beach.


Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports artists and cultural organizations, invests in the creative economy, and expands access and participation in the arts throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. As a collaborative cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for creative workers, our programs and events serve Chicagoans and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, downtown and in diverse communities across our city — to strengthen and celebrate Chicago. DCASE produces some of the city’s most iconic festivals, markets, events, and exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, and in communities across the city — serving a local and global audience of 25 million people. The Department offers cultural grants and resources, manages public art, supports TV and film production and other creative industries, and permits special events throughout Chicago. For details, visit and stay connected via our newsletters and social media.