However you feel about Fleet Week and the Blue Angels — as in, whether you consider it a thrilling, jaw-dropping spectacle or just a noise-filled, pain-in-the-ass event — the city of San Francisco is in it together, screeching planes and all. There are plenty of events that take place during Fleet Week, including ship tours and the Parade of Ships, but the acrobatics of the jets during the air show are what most people recall when the event is done. This year, the air show is happening Friday, October 7 through Sunday, October 9, from noon to 4 p.m., with the Blue Angels soaring through the sky from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.; there’s also a practice run scheduled for Thursday, October 6, sometime between 12:30 to 6 p.m.
Here are some suggestions on where to hang out in the city during Fleet Week, whether you’re looking for your own personal hidey-hole to avoid the noise and crowds, or if you’re looking for that perfect view of the fighter jets looping through the sky.
Perch here for the best views of the airshow
If you want an excellent seat for the airshow, you’ve gotta head toward the water or go high: In terms of a bird’s eye view, you can’t go wrong with a good restaurant rooftop, and it turns out Kaiyo Rooftop is ready to go for the Fleet Week weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, there are two ticketed options for watching the show from the rooftop, a $25 general admission that includes a cocktail (but no table or reservation) or a $55 two-course prix fixe option that includes guaranteed seating.
Colibri Mexican Bistro
Newly situated in the former Arguello location in the Presidio Officers’ Club, Colibri Mexican Bistro has an outdoor patio primed for both taking in the airshow and watching tortillas being made while nibbling on antojitos and drinking mezcal cocktails. The restaurant is also across from the newly opened Presidio Tunnel Tops, which will most likely be a popular destination spot for plane-watching, since there are a number of food trucks to pick up food and drinks from while you watch the planes buzz by. We suggest empanadas from El Porteno or skewers from Satay by the Bay.
If you want to be part of the crowds at Fort Mason, but don’t actually want to be part of the crowds outside, take your group over to Radhaus for cocktails, beer, and bratwurst. Slide into a table and take in the views from inside this sleek warehouse space, without having to get too sun-drunk.
Even if you’ve written off Pier 39 as being only for tourists, there are a few times you should play it up for fun, and Fleet Week is one of them. Pier 39 has some great spots for watching the air show with some food and drinks on hand. Play the part with clam chowder in a bread bowl from Pier Market (we won’t tell anyone) or get a whole-ass crab from Fog Harbor and crack some claws while the planes go by the large restaurant windows. If you’re looking for something less tourist-centric — but just as seafood-filled — head over to Scoma’s down the street.
If you have the means to get over to Treasure Island for the air show, head to Mersea for a casual spot to grab a bite and a cocktail, either outdoors or in. You’ll also be treated to views of the San Francisco skyline from a different vantage point than you’re perhaps used to.
Or hide out from the crowds and noise at these spots
If you’re looking to dip a toe into the festivities of Fleet Week or Italian Heritage Weekend, but perhaps want a respite from the crowds, head into Vesuvio Cafe for a breather. The second floor is a particularly good place to hide out with a cocktail, so you can finally have a conversation away from the crowds and the planes.
For beer aficionados, Toronado has always been an excellent place to go at any and all times, but it’s particularly a haven during Fleet Week when you’re looking to just hole up with a beer during the air show. You’re far away from downtown and the water, with a commendable beer selection available from 11:30 a.m. onwards.
Dive favorite 500 Club is perfect for a lot of reasons, from being a late-night destination to an early-morning bar stop (if that’s your thing), but it’s also perfect for just ignoring the goings on near the waterfront. Its cozy (and mostly windowless) setting will feel great for avoiding the shrieking jets outside, and before you know it the air show should be over.
If you’re looking more for some coffee-laden escapism, Bazaar Cafe in the Richmond can be that place, with an excellent selection of coffees, pastries, or even just a warming curry and rice. There’s a garden area if you don’t mind some jet noise floating your way and want a cool breeze, or just hang inside with your coffee and be glad you’re not at Aquatic Park.