Thousands of U.S. Navy Blue Angels fans converge on Naval Air Station Pensacola for the team's practices throughout the season.
The popular flight line viewing area behind the base's National Naval Aviation Museum can draw as many as 25,000 spectators on the busiest days.
Watching the show from the flight line is a unique, close-up experience that includes fantastic narration of the show from former naval aviators who volunteer at the museum and who have lots of interesting information about the breathtaking maneuvers performed by the elite fighter jet pilots.
However, public access to NAS Pensacola was restricted to only current DoD ID card holders, their families and accompanying guests after the terrorist attack on Dec. 6, 2019.
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The Florida Department of Transportation is working with NAS Pensacola to reopen full public access, but in the meantime, here's how you can catch the Blue Angels practice, which takes place at 10:30 a.m. most Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the show season.
1. Fort Pickens on Gulf Islands National Seashore
Located across from Pensacola Bay from Naval Air Station Pensacola on the tip of Santa Rosa Island, most any location around the historic fort offers great views of the Blue Angels practices. The area has become an increasingly popular spot to watch the flights.
The fort can be reached by car from Pensacola Beach or via the National Park Service's Pensacola Bay Cruise ferry boats, which are expected to start service on April 19.
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2. Pensacola Bay
Most Pensacola-area charter boat companies offer trips centered around the Blue Angels practices. The National Park Service's Pensacola Bay Cruise ferry boats, which are expected to start service on April 19, will also be on the water during practice times throughout the busy summer season and offer a fun way to get around the area while seeing the Blue Angels and other local sites from the water.
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3. Navy Point
A beach-side neighborhood park at the corner of Gibbs and Baublits is a popular location for many folks on the west side of Pensacola to watch the show. Navy Point is located north of Bayou Grande across from Naval Air Station Pensacola and residents routinely get great views of the blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets.
4. Walmart parking lot at Blue Angel Parkway
A Walmart parking lot might not sound like the ideal place to hang out, but for families who don't make it to the base in time for the show, it is a good spot to see the jets fly. Heavy traffic, backup at the base gates and parking issues can mean a long wait to make it the flight line. The Walmart Supercenter, at 2951 S. Blue Angel Parkway, offers lots space and you can even take care of your grocery shopping when the show ends.
5. Blue Angel Practice Cruise
Finally, the latest and most unique way to watch the blue is aboard a Pensacola Bay Ferry. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, from 9:45 a.m. to noon, you can take a 1.5-hour cruise along Pensacola Bay with a covered rooftop view, seating and a climate-controlled cabin. The cruise departs from the downtown ferry landing, costs $25 a person and is free for kids two years old and under.
6. National Flight Academy
In 2019, the National Naval Aviation Museum opened a rooftop viewing area atop its National Flight Academy for Blue Angel practices. A maximum of 43 tickets to watch from the rooftop will be available each practice day for DoD ID card holders and their guests. Tickets can be purchased at the museum's Giant Screen Theater ticket counter.
The museum offers three ticket packages including the $25 Alpha ticket, which includes seating and a bottle of water; the $35 Diamond ticket, which includes seating and a Chick-fil-A lunch with bottled water; and the $45 Delta ticket, which includes the lunch with the bottled water and an opportunity to fly the academy's F-35 flight simulators for 45 minutes.
7. Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
For $20 a person, DoD ID card holders can book a spot atop the lighthouse catwalk. The location, 150 feet above ground level, is ideal to watch and photograph the show. To make reservations or for more information, visit pensacolalighthouse.org.
Reaching the catwalk requires climbing 177 steps. Children must be at least 7 years old or 44" tall to climb the lighthouse steps.
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The lighthouse is located on Naval Air Station Pensacola so base traffic will be heavy on practice days.
June 1, 8*, 14, 15*, 21, 22*, 28, 29
July 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27*
August 2, 23, 24*, 30, 31
September 7*, 13, 14, 20
October 12*, 18, 19*, 25, 26*
November 1, 2*, 8, 9
*Indicates Blue Angels Autograph Sessions
Remember, the museum and these practices are open to DoD ID card holders and their guests who can access NAS Pensacola.
For practice updates, please call: 850-453-2389
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Best places to watch Blue Angels practice in Pensacola 2022