Chicago Air and Water Show with Kids

It’s that time of year….dark shadows on the skyscrapers, loud noises from the friendly blue skies, even more people packed into our beautiful city….it’s time for the Air and Water Show!  Here are some of my tips on navigating Chicago’s Air and Water Show with kiddos in tow.

Where to Watch the Chicago Air and Water Show

Rooftops and Skyscrapers

Take it from me…you want to avoid the Sears (ahem, Willis) Tower and John Hancock building because it is the most popular weekend for these top city heights.  Instead, reach out to friends who live near the lake in towers and skyscrapers and see if they would be willing to have a viewing play date with you.  Offer to bring booze and food to talk them into it if they don’t invite you over first.


North Avenue Beach is undoubtedly the most congested beach to watch the Air and Water Show because of the great front row view.  Instead, head a bit north where you can spread out and have some much needed space for your little ones.  My top picks for less crowded beaches are Oak Street Beach, Northerly Island, and Montrose Beach.  You can also snag a spot on the grass east of Lake Shore Drive near Diversey Harbor.


What to Bring to the Chicago Air and Water Show

Similar to any outdoor outings, you want to make sure you pack sunscreen, water, a hat, some snacks, a couple toys or books to keep your kids from getting antsy.

Since there will be fighter planes (hello, Blue Angels!) flying right above your head, the sound can be pretty amazing/terrifying to little ones, so protect their ears (and even yours) with noise cancelling headphones.  You can pick up a great pair of Baby Banz Hearing Protection from the Sensory Kids Store here.


Where to Park for the Chicago Air and Water Show

You should always try to use public transportation when heading to popular events such as the Air and Water Show, but if that isn’t feasible for you, definitely use the parking app Park Whiz.  You can reserve your spot ahead of time (and cancel anytime) and snag a discounted space in hundreds of parking garages in the area.  I even have a special discount code for my awesome readers.

When to Go to the Chicago Air and Water Show

The Air and Water Show is held August 15 and 16 from 10-3 on both Saturday and Sunday.  But since weather really decides when the show goes on, the key to attending the festivities is to be flexible.  Flexible with the weather, the crowds, your temperamental kiddos….  My boys and I will be attending the Friday practice show when it is a bit less crowded (fingers crossed there is no rain) so hopefully we will see you at Fullerton Beach!


Have a plane lover but can’t make it to the Air and Water Show?  No problem!  There are some fun things for every plane lover in the Chicagoland area:

Palawaukee Airport

Check out the Palawaukee Viewing Area to get a great look at numerous runways, as well as listen to live radar communication between the tower and incoming and outgoing planes.  The viewing area is located on Palatine Road off of Milwaukee in Wheeling.

Pilot Pete’s Restaurant

Located in Schaumburg, it is the only plane themed restaurant in the area.  It is a great place to bring the family for a delicious meal, as well as watch planes take off and land while enjoying a delicious meal. Read my review here.

Looking for other free family fun?  Check out the “Fun Freebies” page!


Keep your eyes to the skies!
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  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    Awww man, I wish I was closer. That sounds like a really cool show and my boys would love it.

  2. Cherri Megasko says

    My daughter used to live in downtown Chicago. Her building had a rooftop patio with pool and we used to go up there and watch the fireworks at Navy Pier. I had never heard of this show before though.

    • amandasimkin says

      The Air and Water Show is a HUGE deal in Chicago–I’m sure your daughter used to have a great view of it!

  3. Tatanisha Pitts-Worthey says

    I’ve heard about Chicago’s Air and Water show and that sounds like a lot of fun! My kids love airplanes, I’m pretty sure we’ll have a good time going to this event. Hoping we could catch them next year!

    • amandasimkin says

      It is a really fun event–especially if you can get a view from above, such as on a gorgeous Chicago rooftop.

  4. Mary says

    I need to visit Chicago! I keep seeing all these great posts about the Windy City. I love planes and my dad use to take me to LAX when I was little to watch the planes take off over our heads, but I’m loving the Listen to the Action speaker. That’s awesome!

  5. Melissa says

    This would be such a great outing for my family and I as our boys LOVE planes. I wish we lived closer. I am like you I like to avoid all of the super busy places when it comes to these types of events. Too many people while you have your kids in tow makes for too much anxiety.

    • amandasimkin says

      I found that as long as you find some quiet/off the radar spots, you can enjoy a popular event all the same.

  6. Megan Elford says

    Oh wow, my kids would LOVE this! My oldest is planning on being a pilot, so this would be a great thing for him to see. I wish we lived closer so we could take it all in!

  7. Vera Sweeney says

    I have not been to this in Chicago. I think all of my kids would enjoy this and love to explore it. These are great tips for getting around and the things to see here, I think they would love the air and water show!

  8. Ourfamilyworld says

    My sister can’t stop talking about Chicago’s Air and Water show. She went to visit a friend there and they had loads of fun. She says she is visiting again next month and had asked me to come. It’s also my daughter’s birthday month, so we might celebrate her birthday there.

  9. JoAnna says

    I love Chicago! I spent every summer there growing up, but I’ve never heard of the air & water show – it sounds awesome. These are some really great tips for getting the best out of the show. I’ll send this along to some of my relatives in Chicago 🙂

  10. geanine says

    I would love to visit Chicago just to attend this air and water show! Your guide is perfect to view from basically anywhere. I wish there was a local air and water show for me to see with my kids in NY, I may have to search for one.

  11. V. Dotter says

    You put together some great captures for this post! Love the information and really relevant to us, because we have a little family plane and the hubs is always looking for places to go – and I’m always looking for places to eat! Thanks!

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