You may not know this –but Pensacola is not only the birthplace of America’s first settlement, but it also plays home to the Navy’s world-famous Blue Angels. And we take great pride in that fact.
You can’t get very far in Pensacola without seeing some sort of tribute to our hometown Blues – as flags, banners and streamers in the team’s distinctive blue and gold colors are displayed on homes and businesses all around town.
The Blue Angels were formed in 1946 with the purpose “to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.”
Every year, from March through November, the Blues perform awe-inspiring maneuvers in an exhibition over dozens of communities around the country. But only in Pensacola do they perform two air shows every year – a Pensacola Beach show in July and their Homecoming show on Pensacola NAS every November.
Also, during spring through fall, locals are accustomed to stepping outside to watch as the Blues’ practice their routine and fly their F/A-18 Hornets in tight formations overhead all around Downtown Pensacola and Pensacola Bay. It’s quite the spectacle to behold.
Every January, the Blues pack up and head out to California for two months to train with the new officers and crew for that season’s air shows. If you happen to be visiting Pensacola in winter while the Blues are away, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. There are still plenty of ways to experience the Blues below:
National Naval Aviation Museum
You can’t make a trip to Pensacola without visiting the world’s largest naval aviation museum. Featuring more than 150 aircraft representing the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard; educational exhibits; memorabilia; flight simulators, motion-based simulators and a Giant Screen Theater in its 350,000 square feet of space – this world-renowned museum is an ultimate tribute to all Naval Aviators.
However, the museum specifically highlights the Blue Angels in several ways.
- Blue Angels Atrium - The museum’s most obvious tribute to the Blues features a 75-foot-tall, 10,000-square-foot atrium that is home to a formation of historic Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawks frozen in time overhead, and is regularly used for military and civilian functions. The Blue Angels Atrium is the ceremonial centerpiece of the Museum and is a stunning visual tribute to the Navy’s elite precision-flight demonstration squadron.
- ‘Fly with the Blue Angels’ Motion-Based Simulator – Experience flight in a Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet, including high-performance turns and maneuvers, in this multi-sensory simulator that combines a high-definition projection screen and surround-sound with the motion of the ride compartment. The fully enclosed simulator capsule, which accommodates up to 15 passengers, can move in six directions, allowing you to experience horizontal rolls, longitudinal pitches and vertical climbs.
- “The Magic of Flight” on the Giant Screen Theater – Want to know what it takes to be a Blue Angel pilot? This film places viewers in the cockpit of a Blue Angels jet aircraft so they can experience the thrill of high-performance flight. Narrated by Tom Selleck, The Magic of Flight shows the path of flight starting with the Wright Brothers at Kittyhawk in 1903 all the way through to the supersonic maneuvers of today's aircraft. This high-energy film affirms the importance of training and skill as it conveys the pure joy of flight. The Magic of Flight runs daily at 9:30 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Blue Angels Room at McGuire’s Irish Pub
In 2017 after the annual Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show, Pensacola’s iconic neighborhood Irish pub - known for its steaks, in-house brewed beer, bagpipe band and for its walls layered with hundreds of thousands of patron-autographed dollar bills – unveiled its Blue Angels tribute.
Its two rooms to Pensacola’s “Hometown Heroes” are filled with memorabilia and one-of-a-kind items donated by current and former Blues pilots and their families. The collection includes vintage flight suits, historic photos from past Pensacola air shows and practices, personalized items such as Blue Angels Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi’s flight gloves, and even rarer items - including two pilots’ helmets. As each Blues pilot is issued one helmet only, fitted specifically for him, the helmets are a prized collection piece.
Stop in, grab a burger and a pint of McGuire’s Irish Ale, and toast the Blues.
Trader Jon exhibit at the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum
This collection isn’t specifically designed to commemorate the Blue Angels. Rather, it celebrates the life and legacy of Trader Jon, an honorary Blue Angel, and his historic Palafox bar that was dedicated to his lifelong love of naval aviation.
For decades, Trader Jon’s was the preferred watering hole for the thousands of U.S. Navy sailors passing through Pensacola in naval flight training school. Trader Jon opened his bar in January of 1953 and ran it for more than 45 years in downtown Pensacola. Over the years, Trader Jon collected, or “traded” for free drinks, about ten thousand pieces of military memorabilia totaling $2 million - which he displayed in every known crevice of the bar. Trader Jon was designated an honorary Blue Angel and even opened a room at his club to highlight the Hometown Heroes.
Today, T.T. Wentworth’s Trader Jon’s exhibit features model planes, flight suits, unit stickers, timelines, banners, and hundreds of historic photos. The exhibit is expected to be on display for at least two years.
The T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.