A guide to San Francisco Fleet Week 2023

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The Blue Angels flying squadron flies in front of the Golden Gate Bridge while practicing for its SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

The Blue Angels flying squadron flies in front of the Golden Gate Bridge while practicing for its SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

One of San Francisco’s most notable — and loudest — civic traditions continues this year.

Although many cities around the country host annual celebrations of the United States armed forces, San Francisco’s Fleet Week is one of the largest in the country. San Francisco’s yearly event began in 1981 at the direction of then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein and has grown to a nine-day event. It has a somewhat divisive reputation in San Francisco, due largely to the noise disruptions and spending, but still draws thousands of visitors to enjoy air shows, ship tours and concerts.

The Blue Angels practiced for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

The Blue Angels practiced for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

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When is San Francisco Fleet Week?

The Blue Angels and propeller planes practice for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

The Blue Angels and propeller planes practice for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Where does San Francisco Fleet Week take place?

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Fleet Week happens throughout the entire city of San Francisco, and given the constant flyovers by Blue Angels and other pilots, most places around the bay can expect to experience an increase in noise as a result of the events. Military bands are scheduled to perform several times a day across the city at locations ranging from Duboce Park to the Japantown Peace Plaza. However, most of the action is set to take place near the waterfront, spanning from the Marina Green to ship tours at piers 19, 30/32 and 35. If you’re looking to enjoy great views of the action, try visiting one of these rooftop bars.

Spectators watch the Blue Angels practice for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

Spectators watch the Blue Angels practice for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

What events happen during Fleet Week? 

The week kicks off with a Veterans Art Exhibit at the War Memorial Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Ave. and performances by several different military bands across town. Specifically, the schedule includes a concert to honor fallen service members from the United States Marine Corps 1st Marine Division Band at the Herbst Theatre on Oct. 5.

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The headlining air show is set to take place between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz on Oct. 6, 7 and 8, featuring the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team and even a United 777.

The schedule also includes a special celebration of K-9s at Duboce Park on Oct. 7, along with free ship tours Oct. 3 through 9. 

The Blue Angels practiced for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

The Blue Angels practiced for their SF Fleet Week performance over the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 10, 2019.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Why do people hate Fleet Week?

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Despite all the pomp and circumstance, Fleet Week isn’t every San Francisco resident’s favorite civic event. Some critics see the aerial exercises as a disturbance, causing excessive noise that drives animals crazy and has potentially dangerous implications for those with post-traumatic stress disorder. If you live in the city, there’s almost no way to avoid the noise, so expect plenty of disruptive flyovers throughout the week. There’s also criticism about the level of spending on the event, and although the overall budget is hard to decipher, each flight show by the Blue Angels alone was estimated to cost $633,482 in 2016.

But those critiques aside, many still enjoy the lively atmosphere the event brings to San Francisco, and it serves as a rare opportunity to see up-close views of the equipment and personnel used by the United States military. For more information on Fleet Week and to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit FleetWeekSF.org

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