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.
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 2021!
Note: Photos in this post are from the 2019 Cleveland National Air Show.
When is the Cleveland National Air Show?
The air show happens over Labor Day weekend in September. In 2021, the event dates are September 4-6.
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 2021:
1. Watch aerial demonstrations
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 2021 show are the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The pilots put their red, white, and blue F-16 Falcon fighter jets through a choreographed performance set to music and narration that lasts a whole 50 minutes!
Other aircraft that will be performing fly-overs and demonstrations include the A-10C Thunderbolt II (US Air Force), the C-17 Globemaster III (one of the largest aircrafts in the US Air Force), a C-130 Hercules, an F-15 Eagle, and an HH-65C Dolphin helicopter (US Coast Guard), among others.
There will also be a precision-formation flying demonstration by the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team (a squadron of six vintage WWII U.S. Navy SNJ-2 trainers), simulated bombing runs with pyrotechnics put on by Mad Bomber Airshow Special Effects, as well as an aerial show put on by the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team.
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
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:
- A-10 Thunderbolt II (support aircraft)
- C-130 Hercules (military transport aircraft)
- C-17 Globemaster III (airlift aircraft)
- KC-135 Stratotanker (aerial refueling aircraft)
- C-5 Galaxy (transport aircraft)
- T-6 Texan II (pilot training aircraft)
- C-21 Learjet (passenger and cargo air-lift)
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)
There will be other aircrafts, too, like a T-45 Goshawk, a Boeing 737-800 from United Airlines, 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:
- Dronewerx – See displays and demonstrations about unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and talk to drone experts.
- US Army MULE – Get interactive with virtual reality displays put on by the U.S. Army’s Mobile Usability Lab Exhibit (MULE).
- USAF The Hangar – Take a tour through this US Air Force interactive experience where you can learn what it’s like to be an Airman.
- Cleveland Aeromodeling Society – Learn all about flying model airplanes.
- Tuskegee Airman Display – Learn about the first Black military airmen who flew fighter missions in WWII.
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.
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).
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 2021, though, tickets MUST be purchased online in advance.
Ticket prices are as follows:
- General admission: $30 for adults before August 30 ($35 after), and $20 for kids 6-11. Kids 5 and under are free.
- Box seats: $40 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 3.
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.
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.
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 $25 per car, and cashless payment is encouraged.
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.
Are there any COVID-19 restrictions?
As of writing, the main change to the Air Show thanks to COVID in 2021 is the fact that you must pre-purchase your tickets online in advance.
The Air Show takes place almost entirely outdoors, so while they are encouraging social distancing and cashless transactions, they are following CDC guidelines when it comes to mask mandates – which in this case means encouraging unvaccinated individuals to wear masks in crowded outdoor spaces, but not requiring them.
Find more info here.
We’re excited that the Air Show is back in 2021, 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?
Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of the state. Now, she wants to share her love of Cleveland with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE. She’s been running Cleveland Traveler since January 2019.