With Independence Day falling on a Monday this year, the long weekend is full of Fourth of July festivities. Navy Pier’s signature fireworks, which start at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, get a warm-up show on Saturday at 10:15 p.m. Both displays are sure to be packed, with Navy Pier warning that it will shut its gates when capacity is reached.
If that sounds like too much to deal with for a mere 30-minutes of fiery fun, we hear you—and we’ve got some ideas. Here’s where to catch the rockets’ red glare over the long weekend.
Stay Near the Lake
At the 3rd Annual Freedom Fest, you can celebrate your personal liberty with a full bar on the roof of Navy Pier itself. $45 gets you access to the live DJ dance floor, but pricier packages include an open bar and BBQ buffet. There are even some reserved tables for two (or more) still available here.
The beaches at Oak Street (1000 N. Lake Shore Dr.), North Avenue (1600 N. Lake Shore Dr.), Diversey Harbor (2601 N. Cannon Dr.), and Montrose Harbor (4400 N. Lake Shore Dr.) are typically crowded but manageable—so long as your willing to show up early and stake out a spot. On the South Side, 31st Street Beach (3100 S. Lake Shore Dr.), Oakwood Beach (4100 S. Lake Shore Dr.), and Promontory Point (5491 S. Shore Dr.) offer straight-shot views of Navy Pier. For long-distance views with space for recreation before the sun goes down, there’s the 63rd Street Beach (6300 S. Lake Shore Dr.) conveniently located in Jackson Park, and Rainbow Beach Park (3111 E. 77th St.).
Get Food with a View
There are plenty of rooftop bars and restaurants that offer a striking view of the lake. New this year is Cindy’s Rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Hotel, which faces Millennium Park and offers a broad selection of foodie-approved fare.
If you want to get closer to the lake, there’s the Hancock Center (875 N. Michigan Ave.), with its Signature Room and Lounge on the 96th floor. But you can’t get much closer to the show than Cité Chicago, which sits at the top of the Lake Point Tower (505 N. Lake Shore Dr.)—right over the Pier.
Be On a Boat
Odyssey and Spirit Cruises board at 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. respectively for their annual Independence Day cruises. There are a variety of price options, none of them easy on the wallet. However, if you’re willing to celebrate two days early, the Saturday fireworks cruise is cheaper on both the Odyssey and Spirit Cruise. If price isn’t a concern, you can charter your own yacht (with or without a captain) via Boatbound—basically Airbnb for watercraft.
For those who prefer self-propelled options, Kayak Chicago offers a truly on-the-water version of July 4 at the lake. The six-mile round trip is not for everyone, but the perspective from a one- or two-person kayak is sure to be unique. The three-hour tour is $69 per person and departs at 7:15 p.m.—but be sure to show up around 7.
Avoid the City Crowds
If you’d rather avoid downtown altogether, there will be other grand displays throughout the North and West suburbs. Aurora, Arlington Heights (July 3), Evanston, Glen Ellyn, Highland Park, Itasca, Lake Forest, Rosemont (July 3), and Skokie all have their own free displays on the Fourth unless otherwise noted. Additionally, you can see the sky lit up over the Naperville Rib Fest and Northwest Fourth-Fest in Hoffman Estates—both on July 4—or at the Eyes to the Skies Balloon Festival in Lisle on July 1, 2, and 3.
If You Just Can’t Get Enough…
… or, if you somehow manage to go the whole weekend without seeing anything explode overhead, the White Sox host a fireworks night at Cellular Field on the following Friday, July 8. Tickets start at just $13.