One of the things that Chicago does best, besides the deep dish pizza, is fireworks. Navy Pier hosts some of the most spectacular firework shows, and not only on the Fourth of July. Throughout the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day, every other Wednesday and Saturday, Navy Pier is the place to be to catch the Chicago night sky light up for 15 minutes after sundown. Of course, on July 4th, there’ll be a special show for Independence Day.

You can view the fireworks from almost anywhere along the Lakefront and still feel like you’re in the front row. Because Navy Pier can get super crowded for these shows, there are many other locations where I’ve enjoyed a summer night under the stars with friends watching the fireworks. Here are my top locations around the city, along with some insider tips.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier, which has been a popular tourist destination for years, recently received a facelift, creating more space for food and beverage vendors, docks for the boats, seating and activities. If you don’t mind the crowd, this is the ideal location directly under the fireworks.

Insider Tip: If you’re lucky enough to hitch a ride on the pier’s Centennial Wheel during one of the shows, you can snap some fantastic photos of the fireworks and Chicago skyline.

The Shedd Aquarium

Photo Credit: John G. Shedd Aquarium Website

This is probably my favorite place to catch the fireworks. Located just south of the Pier on Lakeshore Drive on the Museum Campus, the Shedd Aquarium counts the Planetarium, Field Museum and Solider Field as its neighbors. This peninsula is a true campus-like layout, and a great area to walk and explore the museums Chicago is famous for. Because of the large size, this space is perfect for watching the fireworks.

Insider Tip: The Shedd Aquarium hosts a summertime program called “Jazzin’ at the Shedd”. I have been slightly obsessed with is since I discovered it a few years ago. Held every Wednesday night after the Shedd closes their doors to the general public during the summer, it combines the best parts of Chicago with some of the best live Jazz performers, jellies, sea otters, and gourmet grub on their gorgeous outdoor patio. The event is for those 21 and over: Sip a cocktail while you wander the Shedd’s latest aquatic exhibits, learn a little about their beluga whales and close out the night on the terrace watching the sky light up with the Navy Pier fireworks.

On a Boat!

What good would it be to have a beautiful lake at our front door if we didn’t get on a boat and enjoy it once in a while? The popular Chicago Architectural Boat Tour offers a unique way to take in the show every year, with options to enjoy the fireworks from either the mouth of the Chicago River or Lake Michigan.

Maggie Daley Park

Photo Credit: @emilyjanemags

Located just blocks from the pier, nestled at the north end of Millennium Park, this fairly new park is massive, making it a great location for families who want to watch the fireworks. Maggie Daley Park has an abundance of family-friendly activities including a rock climbing wall and a jungle gym that adults seem to enjoy as much as the little ones. It’s a great place where kids can work off some of that energy before the night is over.

For the Romantic Couple

If you’re looking to impress your significant other with a dinner and firework show, check out The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the famous John Hancock building. With one of the best views of the city anywhere in town, the Signature Room overlooks Chicago in every direction and hosts many wedding proposals, surprises, and five-star meals.

Insider Tip: Be sure to get your reservation in early and if possible, ask for a south-facing table so you can enjoy the show from a bird’s eye view.

Lakefront Path

Over 26 miles long, the lakefront path is another great spot to catch the fireworks. You can walk along the path while you watch. Stop at one of the handful of beaches along the way, at Oak Street, Fullerton and North Ave, and enjoy the show with some sand between your toes.

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