The Fourth of July may be on a Tuesday this year, but that won’t stop Chicagoans and out-of-towners alike from turning out in droves to watch the fireworks. And the Navy Pier show—which starts at 9:30 p.m.—is the hottest spectacle in the city, with a 100,000-person capacity that often fills up hours before the show.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to sip drinks or just want to find a straightforward view, here are the best places to see the display.
From a rooftop bar
While you could catch a partial glimpse throughout the city, the Signature Room and Lounge at the towering Hancock Center (875 N. Michigan Ave.) offers the highest vantage point near the Pier, plus expansive dinner and drink options. Deca Restaurant and Bar (160 E Pearson St.), located right around the corner from the Hancock on the 12th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, will also have direct views.
Beyond that, there’s Cité Chicago (505 N. Lake Shore Dr.), which is ultra-close to the Navy Pier action, and Cindy’s Rooftop (12 S. Michigan Ave.), which offers a gorgeous vantage point above Millennium Park. Or, if you’re looking to hang closer to the river, The Terrace at Trump Tower (401 N. Wabash Ave.) faces the show as well.
From a park
Public parks can be a bit of a gamble when it comes to space, but Maggie Daley Park (337 E. Randolph St.) and Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.) come with the promise of clear views and a family-friendly vibe. For a similar experience, you could also try camping out in the 57-acre expanse of Museum Campus in the South Loop. Slightly farther north, there’s the itty-bitty Jane Addams Memorial Park (550 E. Grand Ave.) tucked right near the entrance of Navy Pier, as well as Lake Shore Park (808 N. Lake Shore Dr.).
From the South Side, Kenwood Community Park (1330 E. 50th St.) is located just a few blocks from the beach.
If you’re OK with an—ahem—unofficial option, the neighbors at Winnemac Park (5100 N. Leavitt St.) put on an impressive show every year as well.
From the water
If you’re feeling especially indulgent, consider Odyssey or Mystic Blue’s three-hour Independence Day lake cruises, which feature dinner and leave from Navy Pier at 7:30 p.m. Prices start at $189 and $139, respectively, and be prepared to spend extra for drinks onboard if you stick with the basic ticket package. Another Navy Pier option is the Tall Ships sailing cruise, an $89, 75-minute trip aboard the company’s stately, four-masted schooner. It leaves at 9 p.m.
If the Navy Pier choices break your budget, Wendella offers a series of lake cruises—albeit without the dinner package—that leave from their two docks (400 N. Michigan Ave. and 401 N. Wabash Ave.) and clock in at a more modest $34 to $45 price range.
For a more secluded viewing experience, there are also private sailboats available for nighttime rental from Chicago Sailboat Charters (111 N. Lake Shore Drive). Rest assured—no sailing experience is required, as rentals come with a captain.
From the beach
You can expect Ohio Street Beach (600 N. Lake Shore Dr.) and Oak Street Beach (1000 N. Lake Shore Dr.), both close to the Pier, to fill up fairly quickly. Other popular northern options include North Avenue (1600 N. Lake Shore Dr.), Montrose Harbor (4400 N. Lake Shore Dr.), and Diversey Harbor (2601 N. Cannon Dr.).
From the south, there’s the long stretch of 57th Street Beach (5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.), along with Oakwood Beach (4100 S. Lake Shore Dr.) and 63rd Street Beach (6300 S. Lake Shore Dr.). There’s also South Shore Beach (7059 S. South Shore Dr.) and Promontory Point (5491 S. Shore Dr.).