When two million people descend upon the same location, getting there can be challenging. There are several options to get to the Chicago Air & Water Show, but with all of them you’ll want to allow plenty of time – and patience. There aren’t a lot of avenues to the epicenter of the show so there will be bottlenecks.
The easiest way to plan your public transportation route is to use Google maps. Plug in your location, enter North Avenue Beach as your destination, and then choose the Transit option (it’s the icon that looks like a train). Visit transitchicago.com for fare information.
TLTip: Taking the Metra? On weekends you can get a pass for $8 that’s good for unlimited rides on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re bringing the family, kids 11 and under are free.
Taxis are an easy way to get to the show, and every driver will (should) know how to get to North Avenue Beach. That being said, you may not be able to get dropped off right at the entrance with so many people trying to do the same. For economy’s sake you can have your driver let you off a little further from the show and walk in.
Ride Sharing Services
Even easier than a taxi, and often less expensive, is using a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft. (If you already use these services you can skip ahead.) You sign up for their service by downloading the app and adding your credit card information. When you’re ready for a ride you request a pick up at your location. Your fare is charged to your card, so no money changes hands, and you can choose to leave an additional tip once the ride is complete.
If you’re new to these services, The Local Tourist has a code for a credit with Uber and Lyft.
Ride a Bike
Divvy is offering valet service at four stations near the show. What this means is that when the bike racks become full, some will be removed to make room for more riders to drop off their bikes. If you’re not familiar with Divvy, it’s a bike sharing system that allows you to pick up and return bikes at stations all over the city. You pay a fee for the day and then you can rent as often as you like, in half-hour increments. You’ll be given a code which you enter into the kiosk at the station. Valet stations for the show are:
- Theater on the Lake (10am-6pm)
- Clark & North (10am-6pm)
- Michigan & Oak (10am-6pm)
- Streeter & Illinois (12-6pm)
Sometimes driving is your best option. Like using public transportation, the easiest way to find the best route is to use Google maps. If you do drive we’ve got some parking ideas for you.
Lincoln Park Zoo: The parking lot at Lincoln Park Zoo on Cannon Drive is about as close as you can get to the show. You can pre-pay for parking, but you will pay a premium. Rates for the day are $80 in advance. If there are any spots remaining the day of the show (oh, you optimist you), parking will be $45. Visit lpzoo.com to purchase your parking in advance.
Chicago History Museum: Located on Stockton and North, this lot is just a little further west. Rates are $70/day for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Feel good bonus: if you park here the fees will help fund neighborhood parks and programs. Details are on the Chicago Parking District’s website.
Millennium Garages: These garages are located right under Millennium and Grant Parks. During the Chicago Air & Water Show they offer a rate of $35 for the day and include a free shuttle to the beach. Garage locations are Millennium Park Garage and Millennium Lakeside Garage at 5 S. Columbus Drive, Grant Park North Garage at 25 N. Michigan Ave. and Grant Park South Garage at 325 S. Michigan Ave. Call (312)616-0600 for information.
If you try your luck at finding street parking, and you’d have to be really, really lucky – like, buy a lottery ticket now lucky – there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Meters are only good for two hours, so make sure to download the ParkChicago app. With this app you can pay for your parking and if you get close to the expiration you might be able to extend your time. There’s no fee if you purchase the maximum time allowed for that meter. If you park for less than that it will cost you $0.35 extra.
Visit chicagometers.com for more information. The other thing to keep in mind is to look at all of the street signs very carefully. There’s a lot of restricted parking in the area and you will get ticketed and possibly towed, and that’s one sure way to put a damper on your day.
Discounted Parking Services
Your best bet is to use a discounted parking service. You can search and pay for your parking in advance and it’s going to be much, much cheaper. At time of press there are spots half a mile from the beach for $22! Both Spothero and Parkwhiz have options, and you can find parking for as low as $7 if you’re willing to hoof it.
For more details on the Chicago Air & Water Show check out our FREE guide! It’s the ultimate resource for the largest free event of its kind, with tips on where to watch, how to get there, and more. (And it’s free!)