Where You Need to Watch the Blue Angels Fly Over San Francisco During Fleet Week
History of Fleet Week
The Fleet Week celebration formed as a natural extension of the annual arrival of the Navy ships that would dock in San Francisco during Columbus Day weekend. In 1981, it became an official event. Today, more than one million people attend Fleet Week, enjoying a wide variety of activities, from air shows and the Parade of Ships to the food and drink served up by numerous vendors. While there's plenty to do and see during Fleet Week, one of the most exciting spectacles is the Blue Angels soaring through the sky.
What Are the Blue Angels?
The Blue Angels are the longest-running flight demonstration squadron in the United States and the second-oldest in the world. The Blue Angels were first formed in 1946 and consist of some of the most elite pilots from the Navy and the Marines. They typically perform about 70 shows per year and are seen by millions of people.
Best Time of Day to View the Blue Angels
The main shows begin on Saturday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. sharp, when the Blue Angels can be seen soaring directly over the Golden Gate Bridge. However, if you'd like to see them earlier in the day, the warm-up show begins at noon, and it is jaw-droppingly impressive as well.
Best Place to View the Blue Angels
There are a number of places in San Francisco where you can score a great view.
PIER 39 is located far enough east of the air show that you'll be able to see most of the flying formations. It is also home to a large number of dining and entertainment options. Best of all, the pilots of the Blue Angels usually show up at a tent on PIER 39 to sign autographs. To get to PIER 39, take the Muni F-line streetcar. You can also take the 8X, 8BX, 39 or 47 Muni buses.
If you'd rather be a little farther away from the main action of Fleet Week but still want to see the Blue Angels do their thing, Marina Green is a great option. To get to Marina Green, take the 22 Muni bus to its last stop at Fillmore and Bay Streets.
To be right in the heart of Fleet Week and to watch the Blue Angels fly directly overhead, Crissy Field is the place to go. Make sure to get there early, since most people arrive well before the performance begins. If arriving from the North Bay, you can take the Golden Gate Bridge to get to Crissy Field. Otherwise, Highway 1 or Highway 101 will take you to Lombard Street, which is adjacent to the field. If you'd rather use mass transit, the 28, 29 and 43 bus lines will get the job done.
Marin Headlands is a hilly peninsula on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. You'll encounter smaller crowds here, but you can still expect an excellent view of the Blue Angels. To get to the Marin Headlands, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge or take the 76X bus, which runs on weekends and holidays.
Located near Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park has grassy fields where spectators can gather. The elevated terrain makes it easy to see the planes in the air. To get there, take the Powell-Hyde cable car to its final stop between Beach and Jefferson Streets.
Top of the Mark
Top of the Mark is a rooftop bar at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. It offers an elevated view that puts you almost parallel with the Blue Angels themselves. You must be willing to spend some money for this vantage point, since the bar can become quite busy during the show. Just take the 1 Muni bus line or the California Street cable car to get there.
Treasure Island offers an interesting perspective. Although it is farther away than most other locations, it provides an unobstructed view of the bay. To get to Treasure Island, take the 25 Muni bus.
Coit Tower not only offers a wonderful view of the Blue Angels, but it also provides an impressive view of the city below. Watching from here is one of the most San Francisco-esque things you can do. To get to Coit Tower, you can take the 39 Muni bus—or, if you're feeling brave, take the stairs. Buy tickets to the top of Coit Tower.
Twin Peaks puts you 1,000 feet above sea level, giving you a full view of the Blue Angels, as well as the entire city. Arrive at Twin Peaks by taking the 33 or 37 Muni bus lines.
The Blue Angels put on a show you should not miss. Finding the best vantage point will ensure you create an indelible memory at Fleet Week.
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Photo by Louis Raphael