The Ultimate Guide to Fleet Week

Fleet Week Air Show
Jed Jacobson/Getty Images

It’s that time of year again. The ships have sailed into the harbor, the Blue Angels are shaking the buildings, and sailors are everywhere. Yes, it’s Fleet Week. There’s a lot to do this weekend, and we’re here to help you navigate it all. 

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Where to Watch the Air Show

Everyone knows the pinnacle of Fleet Week is the Air Show. It goes from noon until 4 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but the revered Blue Angels cap off the afternoon with a flight from 3 pm until 4 pm. The trick is you want the best view possible. Here are our suggestions.

Watch From a Roof

If you have friends who live the Marina, Cow Hollow, Russian Hill or even North Beach and happen to have a rooftop, bribe them with beer and seven layer dip. Chances are they’re already throwing a party, but make sure you’re a good guest and bring some refreshments. If you can’t find a rooftop party (or parking), head to the top of the garage at Pierce and Chestnut streets. It’ll be packed with other people doing the exact same thing, so it’s kind of a party in and of itself.

Watch From the Grass

You’ll see the Blue Angels cruising all over the bay from the comfort of a grassy green field. The catch is you’ve got to get there early—like really, really early. Or you can again try to bribe a friend to go there and stake out your spot. Just remember that there’s limited space in the parking lot.

Watch From the Bay

One of the best ways to see the show is to leave the shoreline completely. Hope on a cruise from Pier 41 and watch the jets skim over the water then up and over the skyline. The routes to Angel Island, Tiburon, and Sausalito give you a perfect view, which you can chase with an awesome hike or drinks and oysters at Sam’s. Or you can just book a spot on the Red and White Fleet’s Fleet Week Cruise, which goes out on the bay for two hours and offers light appetizers. Tickets sell out quickly though! 

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Don't Forget the Concerts

Mustache Harbor

Believe it or not, there are plenty of other events happening around the city, including a ton of great concerts. Here are our top three picks.

Mustache Harbor at Pier 39
Do you like cover bands? How about yacht rock cover bands? How about yacht rock cover bands dressed like mustached sailors whipping up pina coladas while singing the Rupert Holmes classic? Welcome to a Mustache Harbor concert. And the best part about this one is that it’s free to the public. Wear a fun costume and prepare to dance. Saturday, 4-6pm, Pier 39

Pacific Fleet Band at the San Francisco Zoo
If you don’t want to deal with the crowds down in the Marina but you still want to support our troops, this is your happy medium. The official band of the United States Pacific Fleet can carry a tune—whether it’s Justin Timberlake or more yacht rock. They’ll play the zoo on Saturday at 3 pm, but you can catch their shows all over the city throughout the weekend. Saturday, 3pm-4pm, San Francisco Zoo

Neon Velvet at Pier 39
Sometimes they’re in white suits, sometimes they wear feather vests. But Neon Velvet always plays the jams. From top 40 hits like Rude to Michael Jackson classics, it’s music everyone loves by a band with enough energy to get you grooving. Friday, 4-6pm, Pier 39

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Where to Drink

Gold Dust Lounge

Courtesy of Gold Dust Lounge

Gold Dust Lounge
Fisherman’s Wharf
165 Jefferson Street
Telephone: (415) 397-1695

There are​ not many occasions for which we’d suggest you go into the heart of San Francisco tourism, but you’ll likely be in the area anyways after the air show and Gold Dust Lounge has that quirky atmosphere that lends itself to an extra round of beers and conversations with strangers. Saddle up to one of the red velvet booths and invite some servicemen to join.

Columbus Café
North Beach
562 Green Street
Telephone: (415) 274-2599

North Beach’s beloved dive bar is always a hot spot for out-of-towners because of its easy to find location and proximity to Golden Boy Pizza. Don’t get fussy—just grab a pint of beer and a stool and start chatting with the sailors.

3243 Pierce Street
Telephone: (415) 484-0963

This Irish sports bar is a great place to go shot-for-shot and mingle the night away. It’ll be packed, but that makes it great for groups. There's also a new and improved cocktail menu and craft beer can selection. 

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Where to Eat

Chubby Noodle

Courtesy of Chubby Noodle 

Off The Grid Presidio
Main Parade Ground
Grab some grilled cheese from Cheesy Guys, fire oven-fresh pizza from Del Popolo and find a spot on the grass to watch the air show. 

Chubby Noodle
2205 Lombard Street
Telephone: (415) 655-3335

North Beach
1310 Grant Avenue
Telephone: (415) 296-9600

If you need to eat but don’t want the party to stop, get thee to Chubby Noodle. Slurp up some spicy garlic noodles and chase it with sake. The soundtrack of top 40 and r ‘n’ b hits will help the party vibe survive.

2175 Chestnut Street
Telephone: (415) 673-7100

After a day out in the sun, nothing is quite as nice as sitting down to a nice dinner. And Delarosa is just that. Windows open fully to Chestnut Street and the high ceilings and bright, funky orange chairs it’s a relaxed atmosphere that serves up gooey, delicious Roman-style pizzas. The wine list is also spectacular, a perfect nightcap.

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