San Francisco Fleet Week Guide 2021

Is Fleet Week really happening this year? Yes! The rumors are true. Fleet Week 2021 is San Francisco October 3 – October 11, 2021! San Francisco’s most celebrated weekend is a welcome festivity after countless months of canceled joyous events due to the pandemic. 

Pier 39

We are delighted to celebrate Fleet Week 2021 San Francisco to honor the many brave women and men who serve our country. This celebration includes many impressively massive ships, upbeat music, and a most impressive acrobatic air show with the famous Blue Angels who dive, flip, twist, and fly in such tight formation you can barely watch them zip by without holding your breath.

Since this is such a popular and fun San Francisco event, you are correct if you are wondering how to manage what will be such a popular event. Read on for all of the important logistical details and top tips to make your San Francisco Fleet Week a fun and hassle-free outing.

When is the Fleet Week Air Show?

Fleet Week – Is it really a week? Yes, the Navy is celebrated for a full week.

But the air show part of the Fleet Week celebration takes place over three days, Friday-Sunday October 8 – October 10th. On Friday, October 8th the air show runs from 10am-4pm and October 9-10 the airshow run 11am-4pm. As long as the weather is clear (to ensure safe flying conditions for the elite pilots performing difficult skilled maneuvers) you can expect to see the Blue Angels perform in the afternoon on performance days.

For those Fleet Week lovers who are new to San Francisco’s air show, you can look forward to the unique-to-San Francisco air show tradition of a giant 777 United plane flying low and twisting and diving through the air above the San Franciso Bay. The 777 United passenger plane is not new to the San Francisco air show but it is the only place where such an airplane performs in a Fleet Week airshow.

Where is the best place to watch the Air Show?

Pier 39 Sea Lions

Pier 39

The number one place to watch the air show is Pier 39. Hands down. This Pier has countless front-row-views of the air show since it is far enough east, as well as absolutely delicious fresh seafood, famous Dungeness crab, award winning clam chowder, San Francisco famous sourdough bread, and extremely convenient parking.

Pro tip: You can get 2 hours of free parking validation by dining at Crab House, Wipeout Bar & Grill, Pier Market, Eagle Cafe, and Fog Harbor Fish House. Just ask your server for parking validation at the end of your meal. Also, we recommend getting to the pier early if you are driving. The convenient parking lot attached to the pier with a pedestrian bridge does fill up during Fleet Week and then you will be hard-pressed to find parking. 

Pro tip: The city of San Francisco requires proof of vaccination to dine indoors. Please remember your proof of vaccination or prepare with layers if its cold, hat and sunglasses if it’s a sunny day to enjoy your meal outside on the many outdoor tables available throughout the pier.

Chrissy Field

Another great option to catch the show is Crissy Field. This grassy space is large so you should be able to find a patch of grass if you want to avoid being right next to other people. Bring a picnic blanket, food and drinks to this vast open grassy space to be comfortable and well satiated. There is not usually anywhere to purchase food or drinks but there are some public bathrooms and port-a-potties. Just be prepared to wait in long lines.  

Aquatic Park

This waterfront park is right on the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf and actually has stadium seating perfect for observing the impressive air show. Bring a blanket and food as the seating is more like giant cement stairs to sit on and if you plan to watch the whole show, you will be much more comfortable if you have a blanket. This park is right near Ghiradelli Square where you should absolutely grab a famous hot fudge ice cream sundae with ice cream, whipped cream, cherry, and warm melted famous Ghiradelli chocolate dripped over the treat. No matter how long the line is, this will be worth it.

Bay Cruise

San Francisco Bay Cruise

What better way to see the fireworks show than right on the bay? Book a bay cruise during Fleet Week and watch the airshow from a unique perspective.

Fleet Week History

So what is Fleet Week, anyway? I’m glad you asked. Fleet Week is an extension of the annual arrival of U.S. Navy Ships that used to dock every October in San Francisco! San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein 1981 ordered Fleet Week as an official San Francisco event. Now, over a million people attend Fleet Week in San Francisco and it is one of the most cherished festivals in the city by locals.

New in 2021

You can expect to see your favorite air show traditions, while also being delighted this year by an Air Force f-16 Viper Demo Team, a demonstration by the US Coast Guard, as well as the Navy Parachute Team and Red Bull Wingsuit Skydivers, to really put on an extra special show this year. Too excited and don’t even know what to expect with that? Us, too. And we can’t wait to watch and find out!

As for the classic Blue Angels, marking their 75th anniversary this Fleet Week will be refreshing their show if their new F-18 Super Hornets which are 25% larger aircraft than prior years.

Blue Angels

What is a Blue Angel? If you don’t know, you are in for a treat. Blue Angels are flown by the most elite Navy and Marines pilots on the whole world! This elite fleet was formed in 1946 and today they are seen by millions of people in their 65+ air show performances each year.

The Blue Angels also practice their routines on the days leading up to the big show. How will you know? Well, they don’t announce their practice schedule but they can’t exactly practice privately as they are massive navy blue planes with yellow writing. They practice over the city, and they are so loud your heart rumbles in your own chest as they fly overhead. You can’t miss them.

Pro tip: Most years during Fleet Week you can meet and greet, take photos with and get memorabilia signed by the elite Blue Angels pilots right at Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf.

We hope you have a fun and safe Fleet Week in San Francisco! Any other questions? Email [email protected]