The Fourth of July is this Saturday, and the celebration (and long weekend) is sure to draw some crowds to the city to watch the annual fireworks over Navy Pier, which start at 9:30 p.m. In fact, so many people are expected to come that Navy Pier has already issued a warning that they may close their gates if they reach capacity early.
So instead of getting locked out just before the rockets go off, plan ahead with these suggestions of where you can watch the show.
On the lakefront
- Still have your heart set on watching from the historic Navy Pier? For a view from the top, sign up for the 2nd annual Freedom Fest and catch the fireworks from the Pier’s rooftop. Enjoy BBQ, a bar, and DJ entertainment (for $34 per person).
- You can also catch the event just a few blocks away, over a four-course dinner at Pinstripes (435 E. Illinois). Reserve a spot now for $49 per person.
- If you're planning on celebrating on the beach, be sure to get there early. Ohio Street Beach (400 N. Lake Shore Dr.), Oak Street Beach (1000 N. Lake Shore Dr.), North Avenue Beach (1600 N. Lake Shore Dr.), Montrose Beach (4400 N. Lake Shore Dr.), and Diversey Harbor (2601 N. Cannon Dr.) will be filled with crowds picnicking and watching the show.
- Eight miles south of the Pier, classic Hyde Park spot Promontory Point (5491 S. Shore Dr.) offers a wide-angle view of the explosions. Those hoping to get closer to some sparks can throw s’mores on the fire at Promontory Point, the lakefront’s only legal fire pits.
On the water
- Looking for a more lavish celebration? Sign up for one of the several cruises out on the lake for dinner, DJ entertainment, and dancing from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Mystic Blue is selling tickets for $119 to $209, Spirit of Chicago for $159.90, and Odyssey for $199 to $229. Boarding begins at 7:45 p.m.
- For a boat experience with a cheaper price tag, take a 60- or 90-minute Architecture Fireworks tour with Shoreline Sightseeing. Boats depart from Michigan Ave. and Navy Pier. Tickets are $12 to $18 for children and $24 to $39 for adults.
- If you want a more private boating trip, rent a 40-foot power boat cruiser to experience the show from the water (rental rate: $2,040). Complete with a party deck with stereo system, the boat offers your group of up to 11 a personal party space from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
- New to Chicago this summer, Boatbound lets you rent the boat of your choice, with or without a captain (think of it as the Airbnb of boats).
Away from the crowds
- Book a room facing the lake at one of several Streeterville hotels. The W Chicago (644 N. Lake Shore Drive) is a classic option, with the seventh-floor deck open to hotel guests. The newly opened Loews Hotel (455 N. Park Dr.) is also taking reservations now.
- If you don't want to shell out for a full room, grab a spot on one of the many rooftop bars with a view of the show. The J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln (1816 N. Clark St.) will be open on a first-come, first-serve basis, with reservations taken for groups of 8 or more (be warned: you'll only get a partial view). At the 16th-floor Trump Terrace at Trump Tower (401 N. Wabash St.), there's a $100 reservation fee for a spot overlooking the lake and Chicago River.
- Lake Point Tower’s Cité (505 N. Lakeshore Drive) is the closest you can get to the show while still enjoying the comforts of elevated fine dining. The upscale restaurant also wins points for being one of the most romantic ways to watch fireworks. Reservations will go quickly, though.
- 360 Chicago (875 N. Michigan Ave.), formerly the John Hancock Observatory, offers a sweeping view of the show from 1,000 feet above Lake Michigan. Admission fees are $19 for adults and $13 for kids (free for 3 and under).
In the suburbs
- Winnetka’s annual family-friendly Fourthfest will have free bus rides available to Duke Childs Field (1321 Willow Rd.). Bring the kids by for face-painting, moon walks, a giant slide, and more from 6 to 8 p.m. You can also catch performances by the Blooze Brothers (7 p.m.) and the Jessie White Tumblers (8 p.m.) leading up to the fireworks show (which starts at 9:20 p.m.).
- Catch Skokie’s 3-D Fireworks Festival at Niles West High School (5701 Oakton St.) starting at 5 p.m. The first 10,000 people to arrive will get a pair of free 3-D glasses.
- For a quirkier Fourth, head over to Crystal Lake for a hot-air balloon ride during the surrounding shows. The “All American Special” allows for up to 8 people to soar 2,000 ft. above the ground at a discounted price ($407), complete with a champagne toast. Call 678-540-4010 to make a reservation.
- Evanston’s show in Dawes Park (1700 Sheridan Rd.), which will begin around 9:20 p.m., will be set to music—just tune your radio to 90.5 FM to listen along.
- Naperville’s Rib Fest is back with food, beer tastings, and a performance by American Idol alum Kellie Pickler (at 6 p.m.). Fireworks start at 9:30 p.m. in Knoch Park (421 Martin Ave.) Tickets are $15 to $30 for concert and fireworks (free for kids 11 and under).
And just one more…
Looking to enjoy America’s pastime this Independence Day? At Wrigley Field, the Cubs host the stadium’s first post-game fireworks show in one hundred years (seriously, the last time was in 1915 when it was still called Weeghman Park). The game against the Marlins starts at 6:15 p.m., and the first 10,000 attendees will get a free camo-themed cap. Tickets are $35 to $155.