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Chicago Air and Water Show 2019: Schedule, where to watch, transit tips

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Here’s what you need to know

A red biplane leaves a fluffy smoke contrail as it flies over downtown Chicago. Tall buildings, a blue lake, and a green park are visible below.
Sean D. Tucker’s Team Oracle biplane is set to return to Chicago in 2019.
AFP/Getty Images

Every year fleets of jets and other military aircrafts boom through the sky for Chicago’s Air and Water Show. It takes place on North Avenue Beach but the air tricks and parachuters can be seen all along Lake Michigan.

Expect impressive military and civilian flight aerobatics plus water rescue and parachute teams showing off what they do best. The lineup includes performers and headliners such as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights, and the Red Arrows Royal Airforce aerobatic team.

Millions flood the beaches and shoreline for the free festival, so to get a good spot you’ll need to arrive quite early. If crowds aren’t your thing, there are a lot of great places to watch the show that aren’t North Avenue beach.

When is the 2019 Air and Water Show?

The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 17 to Sunday, August 18. The national anthem will kick off the day of demonstrations. The program will be the same both days with headliners performing last.

Where can I watch?

The best place is North Avenue Beach at the Show Center, which can get crowded quick. Other good spots for clear sight lines include any of the beaches from Oak Street Beach to Fullerton and Ohio Street Beach.

If you’re not near the show center, tun into WBBM Newsradio at 780 AM and 105.9 FM for a live broadcast of the demonstrations.

Planes with smoke trails fly in different directions above the Chicago lakefront. The beaches are packed with onlookers and the Chicago skyline is visible beyond.
The lakefront between Oak Street and Fullerton Avenue provides the least obstructed views of the show.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

How do I get there?

Parking is really limited so the best bet is public transportation. The CTA’s No. 72 bus goes directly to the beach. As for the train, the closest stop is the Brown Line Sedgwick station.

What should I bring?

Anything you’ll need while you’re outside: Sunscreen, sunglasses, and water. Binoculars and ear plugs are also a good call.

Will there be street closures or restrictions?

The coast guard will enforce boat restrictions on the lake beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Traditionally, there have been some street closures around North Avenue Beach. The city officials or the alderman’s office should have more details closer to the event.