Where to Watch Fireworks on July 4 in Chicago

Join a bustling crowd or stake out a secluded spot to watch explosions in the sky over the lake on Thursday night.

Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune

Chicago’s 4th of July fireworks show, from the 90th floor of Trump International Hotel and Tower. 

The Fourth of July is happening the day after tomorrow. This year’s going to be the best one yet! No swarms of people to elbow through to get a good view. Zero conflicts with family barbecues and bar-hopping with friends. And the entire day will be totally perspiration-free. (We can dream.)

Thankfully, there is one sure thing on the 4th: Chicago will put on a beautiful fireworks show. In addition to these rooftop bars, here are some of the best places to act like a kid in awe all over again: 

In the trenches:

  • Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. Here lies the hub of all Fourth of July festivities. Stake out a spot early; it will get packed.
  • Take a spin in one of 40 gondolas on the giant Ferris wheel. $6 for a seven-minute ride. Time it right, and you’ll be eye level with the sparks, perched 15 stories up.
  • Peer up at the sky from Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.), but rest assured a few colors will bounce off the Bean.

Near water:

  • Pack a blanket and set up shop on one of the many beaches along the lakefront, like Ohio Street Beach (400 N. Lake Shore Dr.), Oak Street Beach (1000 N. Lake Shore Dr.) or Montrose Beach (4400 N. Lake Shore Dr.). Less likely to fill up are Foster Beach (5200 N. Lake Shore Dr.), Diversey Harbor (2601 N. Cannon Dr.), and North Beach (near Northwestern, just northeast of the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatics Center). You might have the best luck riding your bike.
  • Promontory Point in Hyde Park (5491 S. Shore Dr.) hugs the lake and offers a skyline view unlike any other. It’s the only spot on the lakefront where fire pits are allowed, if s’mores are your thing.
  • Rent a kayak. For $65 a person, view the fireworks while paddling from North Avenue through downtown along the Chicago River (six miles total, about a three-hour ride.) No experience is required.
  • Book a fireworks cruise. Seadog 60-minute Fireworks Cruise along Lake Michigan (7/3-7/4, 9 p.m., $30), Shoreline Sightseeing 90-minute architecture fireworks cruise on the Chicago River (7/4, 8:30 p.m., $19-39).
  • If you’re willing to dish out some extra cash, fireworks dinner cruises are a classy way to take in the lit-up night sky. Creative cuisine, DJ and dancing are included aboard vessels like the Odyssey (7/4, 7-10 p.m., $150) or Mystic Blue (7/4, 7-10 p.m., $110).

Away from the crowds:

  • The Adler Planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.) has lakefront seating, but BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair). Take advantage of the stretch of lawn for some spectacular views of the twinkling skyline.
  • Northwestern University’s parking lot is located right off Lake Shore Drive and is the closest free parking area to Navy Pier. Independence Day tailgate?
  • Hotels facing Navy Pier will give you (nearly) front-seat views, and in between booms, you can soak in some peace and quiet. Rent a room in the W Hotel (644 N. Lake Shore Dr., 312-943-9200) or Crowne Plaza (733 W. Madison St., 312-829-5000). The Trump Terrace at the Trump International Hotel & Tower (401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8000) is another great place to perch, where you can witness the nighttime display reflecting in the Chicago River. Making a reservation is recommended.
  • Venture out to the ‘burbs. There are plenty of great festivals and fireworks shows only a short drive away from the city. Enjoy Evanston’s fireworks display on Clark Street Beach (1811 Sheridan Rd.); 3-D fireworks in Skokie where starting at 5 p.m., the park district will dole out free glasses to the first 10,000 people (Niles West High School, 5701 Oakton St.); fireworks at dusk during Barrington’s 29th annual 4th of July Festival (Barrington High School, 616 W. Main St.); or catch a 30-minute fireworks break from barbecue and music at Naperville’s Ribfest (Knoch Park, 700 S. West St.)

Fourth of July Week Fireworks Schedule:   
9:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 3 (Summer with Chicago’s Rewind 100.3)
9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 4
10:15 p.m. Saturday, July 6 (Summer with B96)
*Navy Pier will continue hosting fireworks displays synchronized to music on Lake Michigan every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:15 p.m. through Labor Day weekend.

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