Catching the Blues: Your Guide to Watching the Blue Angels in Annapolis

Everything you need to know about watching the Blue Angels airshow in Annapolis, MD.

It’s the naval equivalent of a big top circus, and for those who come to Annapolis, the roaring sound of the Blue Angels as they scream over the Chesapeake Bay is the official start of summer. Here’s how to make the most of this patriotic day.

By Land and By Sea
There are two days of air shows planned for Annapolis:

•May 21: Practice Day. Flight demonstration at 2pm. Angels will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base between 11am and 1pm. This is often just as good as the real thing, and the crowds can be a little smaller!

•May 22: Official Show. Flight demonstration at 2pm.

It’s a time we all wish we could be on a boat. But if you’re stuck on land, there are several great options for viewing.

The biggest party in town happens on the grounds of the Navy Yard at Hospital Point. Food trucks will be on hand, so all you need to bring is a picnic blanket and some sunscreen. To get onto the Yard, be prepared to walk in from Gate One and remember your government-issued photo ID.

You can catch great views without a yacht club membership at South Annapolis Yacht Center, the Eastport Bridge, and City Dock. All are walking distance to food and drink establishments, not to mention bathrooms.

Several restaurants in town have rooftop bars that will provide viewing opportunities. Downtown, Blackwall Hitch in Eastport, the Fleet Reserve Club on Ego Alley, and Metropolitan on West Street have rooftop decks (along with great food and drinks). Pusser’s and The Choptank restaurants also offer great views of the harbor and will be hotspots.

Locals will advise you to park your car outside downtown and walk in, avoiding some of the traffic on the way out of town. Eastport offers free parking and a bit of an escape route in this sense. But Blue Angels Day is also a day for tow trucks to make some extra cash, so be sure you aren’t parking in a private parking lot before you leave your vehicle.

The best view is undoubtedly the one seen from the water, where the Blues will scream overhead and threaten to trim some of the taller sailboat masts. If you don’t have a boat but still want to get out on the water, here are some possibilities.

The Annapolis Maritime Museum has seats onboard its skipjack Wilma Lee for both the practice day and the final show (a boxed lunch and drinks are provided). Tickets for seats onboard Watermark and Schooner Woodwind vessels sell out in advance, but it’s not a bad idea to call and see about last-minute cancellations. If you’re a paddler, outfitters such as Capital SUP have SUP and kayak tours that will keep you safe in the relative chaos of Annapolis Harbor.

Photo courtesy of Capital SUP

It’s safe to say there will be over 1,000 vessels in Annapolis Harbor for the official show—paddleboards and kayaks, pontoon boats and megayachts. If it has a motor, a sail or a paddle, you can be assured it will be on the water.

There are some on-the-water restrictions to recognize.

First, the Severn River is closed to all traffic between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The restricted area reaches between the Naval Academy bridge on Route 450 all the way to Spa Creek. The Severn provides a bit of an aquatic runway and the Angels will get close to it, so it’s in your best interest to not get too close.

A temporary channel will be erected with green and red buoys. Harbormaster crews will move you if you’re too close to this channel, putting your anchorage in safer waters.

Boats who want to be in the absolute thick of it will rendezvous around the red “4” channel marker off Greenbury Point. Getting too close to the Point is dangerous, though, due to shallow waters. Staying closer to Horn Point off Eastport is a better bet.

The Blue Angels show always concludes with Fat Albert (the C-130J Hercules) leading the squadron home, and this is every boater’s sign to lay on the air horn and fire up their own engines. But know that this does create a bit of a washing machine effect in the harbor, and if you have the ability to wait a minute, patience is rewarded with a bit less choppy ride. If you’re on a paddleboard, however; well, just hang in there.

Road closures to remember:

The Naval Academy Bridge on Route 450 will be closed to pedestrians and vehicles at the following times:

  • May 21: Closed 10:45am–1pm and from 1:45pm until approximately 4pm.
  • May 22: Closed 1:45pm–4pm or conclusion of flight demonstration.
  • If there’s bad weather on May 21, the Naval Academy Bridge (Md. Rt. 450) will also close from 10:45am until 1:00pm on May 22.