San Francisco Fleet Week 2021: A Guide to This Year’s In-Person Return

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A Fleet Week participant takes a photo with an A-7D fighter jet at Marina Green in 2016. Photo: Gabriella Angotti-Jones / The Chronicle

The popular Fleet Week Air Show and Parade of Boats are back live and in person after pandemic closures moved the celebration online in 2020. Count on sizable crowds in the official viewing areas around Fisherman’s Wharf and on Marina Green, Sunday, October 3, through October 11.

Many indoor activities and crowded outdoor events will have specific guidelines regarding vaccination and / or negative test evidence requirements. Please check Fleetweeksf.org and specific places for the latest updates and announcements.

What is San Francisco Fleet Week?

Launched in 1981 by then-mayor Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco Fleet Week is the country’s largest celebration of the U.S. armed forces, especially the Navy and Coast Guard.

Every October – coinciding with Italian Heritage Weekend and straddling the city’s largest free outdoor music festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (which will be celebrated online in October) – locals and visitors alike take to the Embarcadero sites, Marina Green, Fisherman’s dock and around the bay for a parade of ships and weekend air shows (8-10 oct.). In the four decades since its inception, San Francisco Fleet Week has become a model for similar celebrations across the country.

This year, participants can show up throughout the week and get a glimpse into the daily life of sailors with guided boat tours. The USS Hornet Museum in Alameda is also open for tours and sightseeing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during Fleet Week.

Other scheduled events include a “Honor our departed”Concert with the orchestra of the 1st Marine Division of the United States Marine Corps at the Herbst Theater; a dog show at Duboce Park with trained K9s showing off their skills; a veterans art exhibit online retrospective – on hiatus for in-person events until 2022 – as well as plenty of wetsuits, parachutes and more live aerial entertainment. At Marina Green, participants can visit the humanitarian aid village / STEM education center and find out how the military responds to disasters.

Crew member Jason Graham explains operations inside Hangar Bay to Aron Rosenberg and his son Henry, 9, during a public tour of the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex during Fleet Week in 2017. Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

What are the events of the week?

Official events:

Honor to our fallen concert

A concert with the United States Marine Corps 1st Marine Division Band.

6 p.m. Wednesday 6 October. Free, registration and proof of vaccination obligatory. Herbst Theater, 401 avenue Van Ness, SF

Humanitarian assistance village

In this interactive exhibit, participants can learn how the military responds to disasters and win prizes.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday, October 8 to 10. To free. Marina Green, 200 Marina Blvd., SF

The Jeremiah O’Brien sails the bay ahead of the 2018 San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show. Photo: Yalonda M James / The Chronicle

Parade of ships

Watch Fleet Week ships sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

11 am-12pm. Friday October 8. Free. Visible from various locations around the bay.

Fleet week air show

Watch a fleet of planes, including US Navy Blue Angels, US Coast Guard and others, perform aeronautical wonders over the bay.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, October 8; 11 am-4pm Saturday-Sunday October 9-10. To free. Tickets for premium seats range from $ 85 to $ 325. Marina Green and observation points around the bay.

The Blue Angels are practicing their aerial maneuvers near Alcatraz Island over San Francisco Bay in 2019. Photo credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

K9 hero

See trained K9s demonstrate their skills in urban search and rescue, detection and more.

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday 9 October. Free. Duboce Park, SF

Ship visits

Climb aboard destroyers, cruisers and amphibious aircraft carriers to experience the lives of sailors.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 6-7 Oct. and Saturday-Sunday 9-10 Oct .; 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, October 11. More information available in line. L’Embarcadero, Piers 30, 32 and 35, SF

Other events:

Guardsmen Fleet Week launch party

Kick off Fleet Week with the inaugural Guardsmen celebration, as the planes train for the weekend show. Get great views from this waterfront location with indoor and outdoor space to enjoy, an open bar, and appetizers. Customers are encouraged to “dress to impress”.

2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, October 7. $ 16 to $ 175, reservations and proof of vaccination obligatory. St. Francis Yacht Club, 99 Yacht Road, SF guards.org

Spinsters of San Francisco Presents: 12th Annual Fleet or Flight Party

To celebrate serving and serving members of our armed forces, dress in sailor or aviator gear and contribute to the San Francisco nonprofit Oasis for girls. This event includes a photo booth, raffle, “Fleet or Flight” outfit contest and more.

6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, October 8. $ 45 to $ 55, reservation required. Jaxson, 3231 Fillmore St., SF 415.335-6282. bit.ly/fleetorflightparty

The US Pacific Fleet Band performs at Pier 39 during Fleet Week in 2016. Photo: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

Fleet week at Discover Polk

The heart of Polk Gulch will host a street party, with live military music performances, classic cars on display, a family party at Helen Wills Park (Broadway and Larkin streets) in the morning (details to be announced), local merchants and street vendors.

1 p.m. to 8 p.m. October 9. Free. 1552 Polk St. and surrounding area, SF 415-481-2845. bit.ly/fleetweekdiscoverpolk

SS Red Oak Victory Fleet Week Pancake Breakfast

Climb aboard a WWII veteran ship docked in the Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Historic Park for breakfast and listening to swing music from the Rossmoor Big Band. Meet and hear the stories of Navy veterans as the Blue Angels fly over their way to the Fleet Week Air Show.

9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Oct. 10 $ 5- $ 27, reservations and proof of vaccination obligatory. SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd., Point Richmond. redoakvictory.us

Salsa by the Bay Rooftop Rumba: Fleet Week edition

Dance on the rooftop with live DJ sets from Walt Digz, Tony O and Pablo while taking in views of the city skyline and the air show.

2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday 10 October. $ 10- $ 80, registration obligatory. 21 and over. Westfield Sky Terrace Center in San Francisco, 835 Market St., SF jaffeevents.com

People gather atop Coit Tower to watch planes fly over the bay during Fleet Week 2014. Photo: Daniel E. Porter / The Chronicle

What’s the vibe?

Fleet Week brings together people of all ages who wish to honor military personnel in uniform and those who come primarily to marvel at planes and warships in action. On board ship tours, people may have the chance to hold portable missile launchers, aim howitzers, and even put a mortar in firing position. Children can be seen on their parents’ shoulders peeping the aerial display, while others stretch out on blankets in the fields of Marina Green or stroll along the pedestrian paths on the bridges of San Francisco.

For those who have pets, it’s a good idea to leave them at home if they don’t like loud noises.

People visit a Marine CH-53 helicopter on the flight deck of the USS Essex docked at Pier 30-32 as Fleet Week kicks off in 2017. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

Where is it?

Most of the official Fleet Week events take place along the Marina and Embarcadero, with a few other stops around town. The K9 Heroes dog show takes place at 10 a.m. on October 9 at Duboce Park. VIP boxes and seats for the air show and parade of boats are available in line.

For weekend air shows, head to Marina Green Park early for the best seating options. Twin Peaks, Pier 39 and Crissy Field also offer great views. Watching is free. Premium seats are available for purchase.

How can I get there?

Authorities recommend public transport, especially for events that will draw larger crowds.

Lines 8, 28 and 47 Muni will carry passengers to the Marina, North Beach and Embarcadero areas. Check the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for updated schedules.

The Blue Angels are practicing aerial maneuvers near the Golden Gate Bridge in 2019. Photo credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Before you leave …

Download the Fleet Week app to stay up to date on the event calendar and locations and to listen to the air show. For tours, bring government issued ID. Children under the age of 7, open-toed shoes, large backpacks, pets, weapons or food are not permitted on board ships.

Visit Fleetweeksf.org for ticket information and other details.

Chronicle calendar producer Anne Schrager contributed to this story.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a guide that was first published in 2018.




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