Fleet Week San Francisco is an annual event that draws thousands of people into the city. It's held every year in San Francisco on the first or second weekend in October.The 2016 dates are October 3 - 10. Most activities and the large air show are over the weekend of October 7 - 9. You will find additional ship tours on Monday, October 10.
You can also enjoy the Parade of Ships on Friday or head out on a cruise to watch the Blue Angels perform from the bay itself.
Below are a few of my photos from previous years for each activity. They will give you an idea of what to expect this year.
Are you just interested in checking out this year's schedule? If so, click here to jump down to the detailed schedule by day for 2016.
The Parade of Ships is the official start of the Fleet Week celebrations in San Francisco. All of the ships for the event come in under the Golden Gate Bridge and head to their designated pier in San Francisco. You can tour all of these ships during the three-day celebration.
A couple of years ago, my mom, sister, and I were on Alcatraz Island during the Parade of Ships, which is one of the best places to be for this event. Here are just some of my pictures from that day.
The Parade of Ships is about ready to begin. The boats at the bottom of the picture are all waiting for the parade to start. In the background is the Golden Gate Bridge, which is where all the boats enter the San Francisco Bay for the event.
This is one of the first boats coming in for Fleet Week San Francisco. You can see the downtown San Francisco skyline in the background.
This is one of the largest ships that come into San Francisco for Fleet Week. It's an aircraft carrier and is open for tours all weekend. In the background are the Presidio and the Palace of Fine Arts.
This is a second look at the aircraft carrier heading into San Francisco. It's close to Alcatraz Island and making its way to its pier to set up for tours. You can again see downtown San Francisco including the Transamerica building in the background.
The event that most people come out for is the air show on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. There are several performances during the four-hour show.
Both days, the air show finishes with an amazing performance by the Blue Angels. They always start their performance a little after 3pm. Even if you have watched them before, you will never get tired of seeing their performance over the San Francisco Bay.
Here are just a few of my Blue Angel photos from previous Fleet Week San Francisco performances.
This is a shot of just four of the six Blue Angels doing a maneuver. This shot is from Pier 39.
This is another shot of the Blue Angels, in the distance, performing over the San Francisco Bay. In front is a crowd of people and the sea lions near Pier 39.
The smoke trailing the Blue Angles as they perform another maneuver.
The Blue Angels get daringly close during their performance. My camera does not have a great zoom, so this shows just how close you will feel from the viewing area!
You can also head out to catch some of the practice sessions on Thursday, October 8 between 12pm and 4pm and on Friday, October 9 between 12:30pm and 4pm. There are fewer people around and they don't perform their entire show. However, it's a great way to catch the action if you are not going to be around on Saturday or Sunday.
Here is the schedule of this year's Fleet Week activities:
Friday, October 7, 2016
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Monday, October 10, 2016
Since thousands of people attend Fleet Week each year, I highly recommend booking early.
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The northern side of San Francisco along the bay is CROWDED during the air show. If you want to sit down, you will need to arrive at least an hour before the Blue Angels perform.
Most of the Air Show takes place over the bay - around Fort Mason. You can find a place to watch on either side.
Here are a few places to watch the Air Show with some additional notes to think about for each option:
Another great way to enjoy some of the Fleet Week San Francisco shows is from the water. There are several cruises to choose from both Saturday and Sunday:
Red & White Fleet 2.5-Hour Fleet Week Cruise (2015 Details)
Cruise on the SS Jeremiah O'Brien (2015 Details)
Blue & Gold 2-Hour Cruise (2015 Details)
Friday - Practice Show Lunch Cruise (2015 Details)
There is one special cruise on Friday afternoon. It's a lunch cruise that runs during the time when the airshow performers, including the Blue Angels practice. They practice the complete show and it's less crowded at this time, so it's the perfect way to see them before anyone else.
The tours of the ships are wildly popular. All tours are free and they encourage you to interact with the sailors on board. I recommend showing up well before they open their doors as it's first come, first served and the lines get long fast.
The following ships are free to tour this year on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 9am to 4pm:
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