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Your Complete Guide to the Cleveland National Air Show

Every Labor Day weekend, an exciting event takes place in Cleveland: the Cleveland National Air Show.

This air show is a Cleveland tradition with roots dating all the way back to 1929, when the event held was the National Air Races. It morphed into the National Air Show in 1964, and has been running ever since, making it one of the oldest annual air shows in the country.

The Cleveland Air Show takes place at Burke Lakefront Airport, and draws more than 100,000 spectators each year to see aerial shows, military aircraft, and more.

Cleveland Air Show

If you’d like to be one of those spectators this year, read on to learn everything you need to know about going to the Cleveland National Air Show in 2023!

Note: Photos in this post are from past Cleveland National Air Shows.

When is the Cleveland National Air Show?

The air show happens over Labor Day weekend in September. In 2023, the event dates are September 2-4.

Things to do at the Cleveland Air Show

If you’ve never been to the National Air Show before, you might be wondering “What do people actually DO at an air show?” Well I’ll tell you! Here are all the things you can expect to find at the Air Show in 2023:

1. Watch aerial demonstrations

Cleveland Air Show

The most popular reason to go to the Cleveland Air Show is, of course, the aerial demonstrations by all sorts of aircraft!

The “headliners” of the 2023 show are the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The pilots will put their F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters through a choreographed performance that lasts a whole 50 minutes! Expect to see aerobatics and daring solo maneuvers as they reach speeds up to 500 mph.

Cleveland Air Show
Thunderbird F-16 Falcon on the ground

Other aircraft that will be performing fly-overs and demonstrations include the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, an AV-8B Harrier (you don’t see these very often!), a F/A-18 Super Hornet (like the aircraft seen in Top Gun: Maverick), a C-130 Hercules, a KC-135 Stratotanker, and even a SubSonex Mini Jet.

There will also be a solo aerobatics demonstration by US National Aerobatics Champion Patty Wagstaff, a show put on by the AeroShell Aerobatic Team in AT-6 Texans, as well as an aerial show put on by the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team.

USA Golden Knights at Cleveland Air Show
USA Golden Knights
USA Golden Knights at Cleveland Air Show

And these are just the things happening in the sky!

You can check the schedule for the various aerial demonstrations here. (Note that the schedule goes up roughly a week before the Air Show. Flying usually happens between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day.)

2. Explore aircraft on the ground

Cleveland Air Show plane
C-5 Galaxy
Cleveland Air Show
F/A-18 Super Hornet from the front
Cleveland Air Show
F/A-18 Super Hornet from the back

Along with everything going on in the sky, the Cleveland National Air Show also offers attendees the chance to get up close and personal with all sorts of aircrafts on the ground.

Some of the aircraft you can see up close this year include:

From the US Air Force:

  • C-5M Super Galaxy (a massive military transport aircraft)
  • C-17 Globemaster III (airlift aircraft)
  • KC-135 Stratotanker (aerial refueling aircraft)
  • T-6 Texan II (pilot training aircraft)
Cleveland Air Show
A-10 Thunderbolt II, AKA “The Hog” or “Warthog”
Cleveland Air Show
C-5 Galaxy

From the US Navy:

  • P-8 Poseidon (maritime patrol aircraft)
  • F/A-18 Super Hornet (fighter aircraft)

From the US Army:

  • HH-60M Blackhawk (tactical transport helicopter)
  • CH-47 Chinook (heavy-lift helicopter)
  • UH-72 Lakota (multi-mission helicopter)
Cleveland Air Show
Go inside a Chinook

There will be other aircrafts, too, like the B-25 Mitchell Bomber “Rosie’s Reply,” several WWII-era warbirds, a T-45 Goshawk, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, Life Flight and Coast Guard helicopters, and several small passenger airplanes.

You can explore the interiors of many of these aircrafts, and even climb into the cockpit for a memorable photo!

3. See other cool demonstrations

There’s always something new to see and learn about at the Cleveland Air Show. Cool things to check out this year include:

  • Journey to Tomorrow – This NASA display is a fun, immersive and interactive experience focusing on aeronautics.
  • USAF E.C.H.O. – Go through Enhanced Cognitive Human Ops, which consists of VR games that test cognitive skills.
  • Tuskegee Airman Display – Learn about the first Black military airmen who flew fighter missions in WWII.
  • Cleveland Aeromodeling Society – Learn all about flying model airplanes.
  • AUVSI Northern Ohio Satellite Chapter – Visit their display on UAS technology.
  • Hot Streak II – The twin jet engine ‘57 Chevy Pickup is back this year, and will be doing multiple demonstrations.
Shockwave Jet Truck
Shockwave Jet Truck

Be sure to bring a fully-charged camera or phone, because there are so many great photo opportunities here.

Can I bring my kids to the Air Show?

The answer is yes! The Cleveland National Air Show is a kid-friendly event. There’s even a dedicated “Kiddie Koncourse” area offering some crafts and activities for kids, along with changing areas and a parent lounge inside a shaded tent for families that need to take a break.

Children 5 and under get into the Air Show for free, but be aware that the show is full of loud noises. Parents bringing babies and toddlers might want to come prepared with baby-friendly earmuffs designed for hearing protection (like these).

Strollers and wagons are both permitted.

Note that furry children (AKA dogs and other pets) are NOT permitted at the Air Show.

Inside a plane at the Cleveland Air Show
Take the kids inside planes like this!

Is there food available at the Air Show?

Yes, there are concession stands serving a variety of fair-style food and drink throughout the event.

You are also permitted to bring your own (non-alcoholic) beverages in plastic containers (like water bottles), as well as your own food and snacks as long as they’re not inside a cooler (coolers and loose ice are not permitted at the Air Show).

Cleveland Air Show concessions
Concessions at the 2019 Air Show

How do I get tickets for the Cleveland National Air Show?

In years past, you could purchase general admission tickets at the gate on the day you wanted attend. In 2023, though, tickets MUST be purchased online in advance.

Ticket prices are as follows:

  • General admission: $30 for adults before August 28 ($35 after), and $20 for kids 6-11. Kids 5 and under are free. (Note that there are NO GATE SALES of GA tickets, and tickets are day-specific.)
  • Box seats: $46 for a 1-day reserved box seat (which includes general admission to the air show, a reserved seat along the flight line, and access to a private concession area). These are only on sale through September 1.

There are also Sponsor Boxes (groups of 10 reserved seats), tables with umbrellas in the Barnstormer Club, and VIP seats in the Flight Deck Loge available for those with more of a budget.

Buy your tickets here.

If you’re purchasing General Admission tickets, you ARE permitted to bring your own chairs or blankets in order to make watching the aerial shows more comfortable.

Cleveland Air Show
View from behind some of the assigned box seats

Where can I park for the Air Show?

There is on-site event parking at Gate 13 at the far eastern end of Burke Lakefront Airport. Parking here costs $30 per car, and you MUST purchase a parking pass online in advance. There will be parking passes sold on-site for this lot.

There are other parking options nearby, too, including the parking lot in front of the Burke main terminal (not operated by the Air Show), as well as in lots and garages throughout the downtown area. The closest areas to look for parking include North Coast Harbor, Downtown, and AsiaTown.

If you’re going to park elsewhere in Cleveland and walk to the Air Show, you’ll want to enter at the west end of the airport, through the Plaza Gate.

There’s a tram now!

New for 2023, a free Air Show tram will be operating each day from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The tram will be available inside the Air Show grounds, making two stops: one close to. thelarge display aircraft, and the other near Gate 9. (The tram won’t go into the parking lot.)

Can I watch from anywhere else?

Since at lot of the Air Show action happens in the air, you can definitely see a lot of the demonstrations and aerial shows from other points around Cleveland.

There are a couple Cleveland locations that put on Air Show “watch parties,” including the Great Lakes Science Center. The Science Center puts on its Air Show Celebration and offers unique viewing access from the Steamship William G. Mather.

We’re excited for another edition of the Air Show, and hope this info helps you plan your visit to this unique event!

Are you planning to go to the Cleveland National Air Show this year?

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