More than 1 million people are expected to come to San Francisco for the annual Fleet Week celebration taking place along the city’s northern waterfront. The iconic Blue Angels, the US Navy’s gravity-defying F/A-18 fighter jet team, will once again highlight the celebration with aerial stunts above the bay. Before you navigate the crowds on one of the busiest weekends of the year for San Francisco, the California Beat’s Fleet Week Guide should give you a preview of what to expect.
- Schedule of Events
- Getting there and Getting Around
- Best Viewing Areas
- Online resources
- Archived Fleet Week coverage
- Get real-time event updates when you follow @californiabeat on Twitter. Share your photos and video of the event by emailing them to email@example.com.
Schedule of Events
(Information compiled from fleetweek.us. Subject to change without notice.)
Thursday, October 6:
- 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Air Show flying will begin with the United States Navy Blue Angels conducting their “Circle & Arrival” maneuvers
Friday, October 7:
- 12:30 p.m. — 4 p.m. United States Navy Blue Angels Fleet Week Air Show Practice
- 12 p.m. — 2 p.m. PIER 39 – Navy Band Southwest
- 7:15 p.m. — 7:45 p.m. Meet & Greet The Blue Angels near Aquarium of the Bay
Saturday, October 8:
- 11 a.m. Parade of Ships 1st ship under the Golden Gate Bridge with the USS Carl Vinson. All ships will berth along the northern San Francisco waterfront.
- 8 a.m. -4 p.m. Ship Tours of the USS Bonhomme Richard at Piers 30/32.
- 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Static displays along the Marina Green.
- 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Fleet Week Air Show with the United States Navy Blue Angels
- 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. The First Marine Division Band plays at Pier 39.
- 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. The Marine Band Concert takes place at Huntington Park.
Sunday, October 9:
- 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Static displays on Marina Green, Space exibit at Fort Mason
- 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. San Francisco Fleet Week Ships open for tours at Pier 27, Pier 35 and Piers 30-32.
- 12:30 p.m. Italian Heritage / Fleet Week Parade, 1st MarDiv Band Concert at Washington Square
- 1 2: 30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Air Show with United States Navy Blue Angels performance.
- Half-time band performance for the San Francisco 49ers football game by the Marines/ Navy.
Monday, October 10:
- 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. All San Francisco Fleet Week Ships open for tours at Pier 27, Pier 30-32 and Pier 35.
- 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Band Challenge at Music Concourse at Golden Gate Park with local high schools band competing.
Tuesday, October 11:
- All San Francisco Fleet Week Ships Depart
Getting There & Around
Word to the wise: if you’re driving — don’t. It’s hard enough to drive in San Francisco on a regular day, but throw in an event that draws an estimated crowd of 1.2 million people, few places to park and tons of congestion, it’ll be a recipe for aggravation behind the wheel.
BART, the Bay Area’s regional rail system, will operate longer trains on Saturday, October 9 and Sunday, October 10 to accommodate people attending the Fleet Week celebration.
MUNI, San Francisco’s public transportation system, is expected to operate additional service along the waterfront to bring passengers from Downtown to prime viewing areas for the Parade of Ships and the Blue Angels near Pier 39.
Be forewarned: expect crowds and longer than average wait times (especially on MUNI’s F-Market streetcar/ bus service on the waterfront).
Best Places to Watch
For an air show, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, but some seats are better than others.
Official seating from Fleet Week is available for purchase.
There are also other options to enjoy the airshow and the Parade of Ships. This year, the pavilion at Aquatic Park (map) has reopened in time to provide public seating for both events. It had been closed for the previous two Fleet Week shows for construction.
Here are some other spots to consider:
The Marina Green (map)
The Marina Green will be the nexus of where all the action is to take place: vendors will be selling food and military-related trinkets, recruiters will be out in force offering to doll the youngsters up in camouflage face paint, and the parking lot for Fort Mason will be transformed into a hub of activity for event organizers. There’s a huge spacious lawn to bring a blanket and a picnic basket to view the airshow, but come early and stake out a spot on the lawn – it’s a popular spot that always gets crowded. For spectators of the Team Oracle air show, this is definitely the place to be.
Pier 41 (map)
It’s a public pier that juts out into the middle of the northern waterfront, so you’ll get a good view of the Blue Angels overhead and the ships sailing in. It’s also directly between Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf which has its pluses and minuses.
Respectively: lots of places to grab some scrumptious fresh seafood and tons and tons of people who want just as great a shot of the Angels as you do.
You’ll have a hard time viewing the Team Oracle airshow from here – all of the stunts will be performed west of Fort Mason (near the Marina Green). But if you’re looking for Blue Angels and other stunt planes, you will be fine.
From the Middle of the Bay
This does not qualify as a free option, but several of the major bay cruise operators in town offer Fleet Week cruises where you can pay to get on a fancy boat, sail out to the middle of the bay and sip cocktails while the Blue Angels whiz over your heads.
Hornblower Cruises offers such a cruise, Red and White Fleet does it too, and you can also hop on-board the WWII Liberty Ship, the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien for a Fleet Week cruise. The O’Brien is also scheduled to participate in the Parade of Ships. Click on the links for more information on what these operators offer this weekend. Read more about the O’Brien’s history here.
Smaller, private commercial boating outfits in the Pier 39 area may also offer Fleet Week excursions – so you may get many propositions from a quick jog down Jefferson Street near Fisherman’s Wharf.
From Treasure Island (map)
The likelihood of scoring a parking spot is much greater if you choose to head out to Treasure Island to do the Fleet Week viewing. From the Avenue of the Palms of the western edge of the island, you’ll be able to see the Parade of Ships sail past the downtown skyline and catch the Blue Angels dodge San Francisco’s skyscrapers. Keep in mind, seating is scarce to non-existent on Treasure Island, and you won’t have the vendors, food, and other festivities that your viewing counterparts get on the mainland.
If you’re looking for a quick jog to check out the ships and the Blue Angels only, heading to Treasure Island is a great way to catch the war machines but not the crowds.
You can follow us on Twitter @californiabeat for the latest Fleet Week news and information. We’ll be live-tweeting from the events all week long. Share your photos and video of the Fleet Week sights and sounds by e-mailing them to our Metro Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.