Mark your calendars because the 2023 Discover Boating® Chicago Boat Show® (in partnership with Progressive® Insurance) is returning to McCormick Place South on January 11-15, 2023. Whether you’re looking to compare potential boat brands, purchase a vessel of your own, or simply learn from the pros, this year’s show has something in store for everyone.
Boat shows are one of the best ways for first-time boaters to purchase vessels. Why? There are ample opportunities to compare brands and models side by side. Additionally, boat shows have a wide variety of hands-on learning opportunities and activities for the entire family. Not only do these offer a taste of the boating lifestyle, but they’re an opportunity to make meaningful connections with other enthusiasts.
What To Expect
It can be tough to know where to start if you’ve never been to a boat show. The Discover Boating Chicago Boat Show has a variety of must-see exhibits. Here are the top attractions you don’t want to miss in 2023:
1. Shop the Industry’s Top Boats & Brands
Buying a boat at a boat show simply can’t be beaten. Unlike regular boat dealers or brokers, boat shows display various brands and models side by side. So, if you’ve had your eye on several different options, boat shows are a tremendous opportunity to check them out in person.
Before you visit the show, check out our new Discover Boating Chicago Boat Show Boat Finder. Using this tool, you can browse boats that will be featured at this year’s show and determine which boats fit your needs.
2. Kick It at the Discover Boating Beach Club
Are you already missing the summer sunshine? The Discover Boating Beach Club will bring it back. Come level up your boat show experience with on-water thrills, demos and tastings by noted Chicago-based Chefs Danny Bullock and Jonathan Zaragoza, cocktail (or mocktail) demos and tasting with expert mixologist Alexis Brown, and serious fun for the whole family.
Get ready for live DJ sets by DJ Drea Jay, sandcastle sculpting, photo opportunities, and beach games galore. The best part? You can watch the pros surf an epic indoor surf simulator pool. Then, you can grab a board and go for it yourself!
3. Take a Ride on the New FlowRider Surf Simulator
Want to experience the fun of “catching a wave?” Put your surfing skills to test on the new FlowRider surf simulator!
4. Paddle Your Way Through Paddlefest Pool
The Paddlefest Pool at the Discover Boating Beach Club is prepared to handle all your stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) endeavors. From SUP yoga to kayaking (and everything in between), the instructors will provide everything you need to take a test ride.
5. Discover the Secrets of Sand Sculpting
Ever wondered how large sand sculptures are created? Here’s your chance to find out, because the Sand Pirate will be at the Discover Boating Beach Club to divulge the art of making large sand sculptures. Youngsters are encouraged to join Janet Moore Schrader (aka The Sand Pirate) in building their own sandcastle. However, they must be accompanied by an adult.
6. Enjoy Corona’s Find Your Beach Bar & Cantina
Hungry? Or Thirsty? Don’t worry—Corona’s Find Your Beach Bar & Cantina will put you in a vacation state of mind! It has plenty of delicious casual fare and ice-cold beverages to fuel your boat show adventure. The best part? Todd Donnelly of the Mr. Myers Band will provide some live musical entertainment as you grub.
7. Hang Out in the Island Party Hut & Boat Playpen
Thirsty? Stop by the Island Party Hut and Boat Playpen for a cold one. Then, challenge your family to ping pong, corn hole, giant Jenga, and more!
8. Board the Gypsy Rose III Landship
Ever wanted to be a pirate for a day? Well, now you can! Hop on board the Gypsy Rose III Landship for a remarkable “high seas adventure.” Captain Tim and his pirate scallywags will lead guests in singing pirate sea shanties, firing canons, and skirmishing with swords. Guests are welcome to photograph the Gypsy Rose III Landship to document their pirate adventure.
9. Explore Fred’s Shed How-to Center Presented by Progressive®
Fred’s Shed How-to Center has tips, tricks, and DIY advice for every boater. Stop by with your boating questions, and the tech experts will happily answer them.
10. Browse Antique and Classic Boat Models
Who wouldn’t appreciate a bit of nautical history? The Antique and Classic Boat Display encapsulates both the craftsmanship and beauty of some seriously iconic vintage boats. Thanks to the Blackhawk Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society of America, of course.
11. Build a Boat at Chicago Maritime Arts Center’s Build-a-Boat
Are you confident in your boat-building skills? Take your little ones by the Kids’ Center P1866 to build a boat from a sheet of aluminum foil. Then, compete with other boat builders to see whose vessel holds the most golf balls without sinking. The winner will receive a one-week boating skills class. There will also be a variety of hands-on STEM activities on display.
12. Go Fishing in Huck Finn Trout Pond
Huck Finn Trout Pond is a Discover Boating Chicago Boat Show tradition — for good reason! Visitors can bring their kids to do some catch-and-release fishing, which is a terrific way to introduce youngsters to the joys of fishing. All fishing is FREE for children aged 12 years and younger, so swing by the Kids’ Corner P1870.
General Admission tickets are $15 for adults aged 13 years or older. Plus, children are FREE when a paying adult accompanies them.) Tickets are only valid for the day they are purchased (and you must buy another ticket to return on another day). If you cannot make the show for whatever reason, you can give your purchased ticket to someone else.
Getting to the Show
Are you planning on driving to the show? Don’t worry — there are several parking options available. Lots A and C (enclosed garages) cost $25 until 6 pm. Lot B (an outdoor lot) has a flat rate of $16 for each day of the show. And if you arrive after 6 pm, either lot will cost just $10.
If you or someone you know is handicapped, accessible parking is available in Lot A (located on Martin Luther King Drive), Lot C (located underground in Lakeside Center), and in the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place parking garage. Additionally, the Gate 4 entrance is suggested for disability drop-offs.
So, there you have it, boaters. Hopefully, this post answered all your questions about the upcoming Discover Boating Chicago Boat Show. And if not, feel free to check out the FAQ section of the website. We can’t wait to see you there!