Wondering about the best ways to catch the Blue Angels at their practices? Look no further, everything you need to know is below to grab the best spot for the show.
Many visitors come to Pensacola for its beautiful scenery, but some of the area’s most stunning sights are not on land or in the water. Look up! They are in the air.It’s the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the world-renowned flight demonstration squadron that calls Naval Air Station Pensacola home.
Locals and visitors can catch sight of the beloved Blues as they take to the skies throughout the year. In addition to two local airshows, held annually in July and November, the Blue Angels practice in Pensacola every Tuesday and Wednesday from late March through November. Typically, practice shows begin at 10:30 a.m. and last just under an hour.
The practice performances offer a convenient option for spectators of all ages to enjoy the aerial feats and roaring engines of the Blue Angels. What could be better than catching all the thrills of a regular performance without having to brave the crowds of an airshow weekend? And there are many places to watch a Blue Angels practice. Here are a few suggestions:
Proximity to the naval base makes this Perdido Key locale a perfect vantage point for a Blue Angels practice. Just west of Perdido Pass, Rosamond Johnson Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, maintained by the National Park Service. An admission/parking fee is required, but you can enjoy a protected swimming area in the Gulf of Mexico, picnic pavilions and restroom facilities. Watch the Blue Angels practice while floating in the surf, then spend the rest of your day relaxing or looking for seashells or wildlife in this natural paradise.
It is a sensory delight to watch a Blue Angels practice from a boat. You have cool water splashing below, plus the jaw-dropping maneuvers and humming of jet engines above. Besides, a boat excursion is a fun activity you might choose to enjoy in Pensacola anyway, so why not get more bang for your buck with a Blues cruise?
Many charter boat services in the area like Chase-N-Fins and Jolly Sailing offer specialty Blue Angels excursions. This can be a fun activity for the whole family. Bring your sunscreen, a cooler and have your cameras ready. You might see dolphins during your cruise, as well.
The Pensacola Bay City Ferry is another option for seeing a Blue Angels practice on the water. The ferry fleet features climate-controlled cabins and travels between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens. A ferry ride is a convenient way to cover a lot of ground exploring the area, and the Blue Angels flying overhead add to the excitement.
Fort Pickens is located at the end of Santa Rosa Island (adjacent to Pensacola Beach) and is situated directly across Pensacola Bay from NAS Pensacola, where the Blue Angels take off for practice performances. Pay the admission fee at the gate of Fort Pickens and bring beach chairs to set up in the sand for a spectacular view. You can also watch from the historic fort – climb to the top and enjoy learning about the history of this structure, which dates to pre-Civil War era. Hike and bike trails, cook out on one of the grills or even camp overnight (with reservations, of course).
Pensacola has a bustling downtown community with museums, historic sites, shops and restaurants to enjoy. The area is also a great place to watch a Blue Angels practice. Take the family to Palafox Pier, where you can take a stroll along the waterfront and see boats departing the port and marinas. If you have little ones, visit the playground at Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. Veterans Memorial Park features monuments and memorials honoring Pensacola’s rich military history, with sidewalks and benches throughout. All of these venues are free to visit, and you can’t miss the Blue Angels flying overhead during practice performances. Before or after the show, plan to visit any of the many downtown area restaurants for breakfast, lunch or a sweet treat.
Traditionally, crowds have gathered at Naval Air Station Pensacola to watch Blue Angels practices. The naval base continues to be an outstanding option for taking in a practice show, with some important limitations to note.
Access to NAS Pensacola is currently limited to individuals with a Department of Defense ID card and their guests.
Generally speaking, this includes active-duty service members, retirees and their families. Guests must be accompanied by a DOD ID-card holder.
If you meet these criteria to visit the base, allow extra time for traffic and security checkpoints at the entrance gate. Once on base, follow signs to the National Naval Aviation Museum, which hosts visitors on the flight line behind the museum to view Blue Angels practices. The Tuesday and Wednesday practice demonstrations are typically scheduled for 10:30 a.m., and gates will open at 9:30 a.m. All visitors ages 16 and over will be required to show ID to access the museum flight line. Sunscreen and hearing protection (for noise sensitive spectators) are recommended. Bleacher seating can accommodate up to 500 guests, and chairs are available to purchase for day-use. Concessions and merchandise are available, as well.
So, what makes watching a Blue Angels practice at the museum special? Frequently, retired military personnel who volunteer at the museum will narrate the show, explaining many of the aerial maneuvers and sharing stories of interest. Following Wednesday practices, members of the Blue Angels often visit the museum to meet the public and sign autographs. For Blue Angels fans, this is the ultimate way to experience a practice performance and afterwards you can enjoy the military aircraft displays and flight simulators at the museum.
Other options for watching the Blue Angels practice from Naval Air Station Pensacola include:
Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum – Climb the 177 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a birds-eye view of the show. Children must be at least 7 years old or 44" tall to climb the lighthouse steps. Appropriate footwear is required, and admission fees apply.
Fort Barrancas – For a surreal blend of past and present military might, watch a Blue Angels practice from atop this historic fort, which saw combat action during the Civil War. Its location on a bluff overlooking Pensacola Bay make it an ideal spot to see the Blues in action.
National Flight Academy – In years’ past, the National Flight Academy offered limited roof-top seating for Blue Angels practices for DOD ID-card holders. Contact the NFA for current availability and pricing.
Remember, while Naval Air Station Pensacola offers many ways to take in a Blue Angels practice, access to the base remains limited as of this writing. For the latest admission information, consult NAS Pensacola.
Wherever you go in Pensacola to watch a Blue Angels practice, enjoy the show!
3182 Taylor Rd Pensacola, 32508 (850) 934-2600