2022 Chicago Air and Water Show: Event Guide for Boaters

Boater’s Guide to Experiencing this Summer’s 2024 Air & Water Shows

Written by Boatsetter Team
May 22, 2024

Last Updated on May 23, 2024 by Boatsetter Team

Summer is officially here, which means it’s peak season for air and water shows across the country. What’s the best way to enjoy these spectacular events filled with aerobatic displays and nautical performances? By securing the best seat for optimum viewing: on a boat, of course.

With a thrilling schedule of air and water shows already taking flight (pun intended) in various waterside cities around the U.S., Boatsetter is here to provide event-goers with the essential tips and recommendations to make the most of this season’s most anticipated festivities. From choosing the perfect location to drop anchor to ensuring safety on the water, this guide covers everything boaters and spectators need to know to enjoy a seamless and memorable experience.

Whether you’re a lifelong boating enthusiast or simply looking for a unique way to enjoy these shows, this guide will help you plan an epic day on the water to watch the magic unfold.

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air and sea shows

Photo Courtesy: U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform at the Chicago Air and Water Show [Image 44 of 44], by SSgt Cory Bush

Location, location, location

Finding the right destination to plan your epic air and water show experience is easy with Boatsetter. From the sunny shores of Florida to the vibrant cityscape of Seattle to the iconic skyline of Chicago, there’s plenty of opportunities for every boater to catch the action.

Here are a few of the most popular air and water shows taking place during summer 2024:

1. Hyundai Air and Sea Show

  • Location: Miami Beach, Florida
  • Dates: May 25-26, 2024

Highlights: Known as “The Greatest Show Above the Earth,” this event features state-of-the-art military air and sea assets, as well as extreme water sports demonstrations over the iconic Miami Beach.

Pro Tip: Anchor your boat near South Beach for a prime view. Renting a luxury yacht can add an extra touch of Miami style to your experience.

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2. Pensacola Beach Air Show

  • Location: Pensacola, Florida
  • Dates: July 10-13, 2024

Highlights: Watch the iconic Blue Angels perform breathtaking maneuvers over Pensacola Bay. The show includes various civilian and military aircraft demonstrations.

Pro Tip: Find a spot in Pensacola Bay or Santa Rosa Sound for unobstructed views. Consider a fishing charter or a party pontoon for a more thrilling day on the water.

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3. Boeing Seafair Air Show

  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Dates: August 2-4, 2024

Highlights: Seafair is Seattle’s premier summer festival, featuring hydroplane races, the Blue Angels, and wakeboarding exhibitions on Lake Washington.

Pro Tip: Position your boat near the log boom on Lake Washington for a front-row seat to the action.

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san francisco fleet week air show 2023

Photo Courtesy: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Tang

4. Chicago Air and Water Show

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Dates: August 10-11, 2024

Highlights: The Chicago Air and Water Show is one of the largest and longest-running free admission events of its kind. The best viewing spots from a boat are near North Avenue Beach and along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Pro Tip: Book a boat early, as this event draws large crowds. A motor yacht or sailboat can offer a comfortable viewing experience.

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5. New York Air Show

  • Location: New York City, New York
  • Dates: August 10 -11, 2024

Highlights: Set against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, this show includes performances by the Blue Angels and other top aerobatic teams over the Hudson River.

Pro Tip: The best viewing areas are between the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Here’s our recommended boat for an unforgettable view of the show and the city.

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6. San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show

  • Location: San Francisco, California
  • Dates: October 6-14, 2024

Highlights: Fleet Week features a parade of ships, the Blue Angels, and other military demonstrations over the San Francisco Bay.

Pro Tip: The best views are from the water between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. Sailboats or motor yachts are ideal for navigating the busy bay waters.

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Chicago Air & Water Show

Photo Courtesy: U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Jelinek, Thunderbird 5, lead solo, performs the Maximum 360 turn during the Chicago Air & Water Show

How to make the most of your boat experience for air and water shows

1. Book a trip with a professional captain

For those looking to elevate their air and water show experience, adding a professional captain to your charter is a fantastic option. Whether you’re new to boating or simply want to relax and fully enjoy the spectacle, having a captain on board offers numerous benefits.

Why add a captain to your boat rental or charter?

  • Expert navigation: Captains are well-versed in local waterways and can navigate your boat to the best viewing spots efficiently. They know the safest routes, how to avoid restricted areas, and the optimal times to arrive and depart.
  • Stress-free boating: With a captain handling the technical aspects of boating, you can sit back and enjoy the show without worrying about steering, anchoring, or dealing with crowded waters. This is especially beneficial during busy events where waterways can become congested.
  • Enhanced safety: Captains are trained in maritime safety and equipped to handle any emergencies that may arise. They ensure your boat is properly anchored, monitor weather conditions, and manage any unforeseen issues, providing peace of mind for you and your guests.
  • Local knowledge: Captains often have insider knowledge about the area, including the best spots to anchor, local regulations, and interesting tidbits about the show and its history. They can also recommend nearby attractions or dining options for after the event.
  • Designated driver: With a captain on board, you and your guests are free to enjoy refreshments and the festive atmosphere without the concern of operating the boat. This ensures everyone can have a fun and responsible time on the water.

Pro Tip from a Boatsetter Captain: “Booking a charter on the water gives you a front-row seat to the Air and Water Show with unparalleled flexibility. Avoid the hassle of parking, stay cool on the water, and enjoy the spectacular view! Captains can secure prime spots early, offering a closer and more immersive experience than most land-based views. It’s a win-win for everyone.” – Captain Eric (Tampa)

2. Plan your timing and consider trip duration

Timing is crucial when it comes to maximizing your enjoyment of the Air and Water Shows. Research the show schedule and plan your boat trip accordingly to ensure you’re on the water at the right place and time to catch the action.

With Boatsetter you can opt for a rental duration that allows ample time for cruising to your preferred viewing spot, anchoring, and enjoying the shows without feeling rushed.

Pro Tip from a Boatsetter Captain: “We highly recommend a 6-hour tour, this allows ample time to get properly anchored and secure a great spot to enjoy the view. An experienced captain can help take care of all the logistics to ensure that your group has nothing to do but enjoy a great day out on the water.” – Captain Ted (Chicago)

3. Prioritize safety and pack the essentials

Ensure your boat is equipped with all the necessary safety gear and navigation tools to navigate safely (see the Boat Safety Equipment Checklist).

Prepare for a full day on the water by packing essential items such as water, snacks, and sunscreen. Create a comfortable onboard setup with seating, cushions, and blankets for optimal viewing and relaxation. Don’t forget to bring along a camera or smartphone to capture memorable moments from the show. Share your experiences with friends and family on social media using #Boatsetter.

Pro Tip from a Boatsetter Captain: “Watching an air show from the water is much better than standing in crowds, dealing with parking, sitting in traffic in and out of the show… All of those hassles are avoided when you go by boat. You just have to position the vessel in a location where you still see the action. Plus, there are no entry fees [to watch the show]. You can also bring your own food and drinks.” – Captain AJ (St. Pete)

Ready to book your boat for an upcoming air and water show?

Boatsetter encourages boaters to reserve their boats early to secure prime viewing spots for all of the popular air and water shows taking place throughout the summer. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time boater, Boatsetter offers a wide selection of boats and charters to suit every preference and budget.

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