Jones Beach Air Show: Guide to Visiting with Kids

The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels headline the Jones Beach Air Show for the first time since 2004. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ian Cotter
The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels headline the Jones Beach Air Show for the first time since 2004. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ian Cotter
4/26/24 - By Jaime Sumersille

The super-popular Bethpage Air Show returns to Jones Beach this Memorial Day weekend, featuring show-stopping aviation acrobatics. Hundreds of thousands of visitors attend this unofficial kick-off to summer, so we've put together the guide below to help make your visit to the Jones Beach Air Show as smooth as possible. 

For other open-air cultural offerings, check out our rundown of the best beaches and pools in the area, and bookmark our comprehensive Guide to Summer Activities.


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Why the Jones Beach Air Show is So Popular

During the Bethpage Air Show, civilian and military aircraft pull off gravity-defying aerial tricks and demonstrations that the whole family will find exhilarating. 

This year, the United States Navy Blue Angels are the showstopping headliners. The Skytypers Airshow Team paints the skies with smoky words, while Warbirds from the American Airpower Museum and biplanes show off their historic glory. Plus, the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team makes their 17th appearance. Once they land, head over to the West Bathouse for a meet and greet. While a full schedule is not announced due to several factors relating to each performer, the headliners usually start at 2pm. Did we mention how popular this show is? The most-attended show was in 2008, with a total of 444,000 visitors, although show organizers say the Saturday show is almost always less attended than the Sunday show. 

To help celebrate the 20th anniversary show in 2024, organizers are giving away 30,000 commemorative U.S. Navy Blue Angels signed posters to fans attending the practice show on Friday, May 24, and the weekend show on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26. The show will also feature other celebratory elements throughout the holiday weekend including a special, 15 ft x 20ft, anniversary cake weighing in at 1,000 pounds, which fans will be able to enjoy on Friday, following an 11am Jones Beach press conference. 

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How and When to Watch the Jones Beach Air Show

The early bird gets the worm here, and while the show itself is FREE, parking costs $10 and can be challenging. Parking lots open at sunrise, even though the show doesn't begin until 10am on both Saturday, May 25, 2024, and Sunday, May, 26, 2024. Parking is $10 per car–unless you have the Empire Pass. Each lot has designated handicap spots. NOTE: some local libraries rent out the Empire Pass daily. So check yours for availability and see if you can skip the fee! 

Whether by beach blanket or chair, pull up a cozy spot of sand and keep your eyes on the skies. You'll get great views anywhere along the beachfront from the East Bathhouse to the West Bathhouse. The center of the action is at Central Mall. If you're fancy, consider purchasing a Jones Beach Chalet. The chalet experience allows guests to view the show from a private beachfront area. Tickets include a fully catered continental breakfast, a hot and cold buffet lunch, beverage service, one parking pass per order, and the use of an upgraded private restroom for chalet guests only.

New for 2024: interactive virtual reality experiences courtesy of the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Climb aboard a U.S. Army MACK truck or grounded helicopter. Test your strength on the Army Combat Fitness Test. Or shoot for some fun with the bean bag toss or football throw.

If you were thinking of taking your boat out for a seaside view of the show, know that the Coast Guard and partner agencies will enforce a No Entry Zone for boaters off of Jones Beach State Park during the air show to ensure the safety and security of the event. The aircraft depart and land from the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, so if going to the Air Show itself seems daunting, perhaps head there instead. In a few occasions, we've parked along New Highway with our deli sandwiches and sat on the roof of our car! While we didn't witness any crazy tricks, it was a different way to catch the stars of the show.

Any way you choose to watch, tune into WHLI-1100AM to listen to an entire broadcast from your beach chair or blanket. You might also be able to hear the broadcast on the event's sound system, depending on where you're stationed on the beach.

Ready for a little-known secret? There is a full-length practice show (minus the broadcasting) on Friday, May 24, 2024, beginning at 10am. While the practice show has increasingly drawn more crowds over the years, it's still significantly less attended than the official Saturday and Sunday shows.

Skip the beach all together and hop aboard the Captain Lou Fleet out of Freeport for an Airshow sailing special! On both May 25 and 26, the boat will anchor up as close as possible to get the best aircraft views.

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Set up on the beach for a day of thrills at the Jones Beach air show. Photo by the author

What to Bring to the Air Show

Be prepared—like Boy Scout-level prepared—before tackling a day at the Jones Beach air show. Beach basics such as bathing suits, towels, change of clothes, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are important. Bring your blankets or chairs, as well as umbrellas. Pack a picnic with enough food and drink for the day, but leave the cutting utensils at home, as they might be confiscated since backpacks and coolers are subject to search. Along the boardwalk, visitors will find a fast-food-style restaurant on the east end of the beach and refreshment vendors scattered throughout.

The roar of the jet engines can be overwhelming for sensitive ears, so consider packing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones as well. A decent digital camera with zoom will help you capture the action better than your cell phone because of how far away the performers are. Kites, drones, and balloons are not permitted during the show. Unfortunately, families have to leave Fido at home as pets are not permitted at the beach.

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How to Know if the Jones Beach Air Show is Canceled Due to Weather

Show organizers are keen on getting cancellation information to the public in a swift manner. Follow the show on Facebook or download the Bethpage Air Show mobile app and turn on notifications. Local radio and news stations will be on top of announcements and, of course, we'll be sure to let Mommy Poppins readers know ASAP as well.

How to Get to Jones Beach State Park

Less than 20 miles from New York City, Jones Beach is accessible by car and public transit. Driving from the west, take the Grand Central Parkway/Northern State Parkway east to the Meadowbrook State Parkway south (Exit 38), then follow the signs for Jones Beach. From the east, take Sunrise Highway west to Robert Moses Causeway, then follow Ocean Parkway west to Jones Beach. Visitors can also take the Long Island Railroad to the Freeport stop and catch the N88 bus directly to the beach. The designated passenger drop-off area is at the West Bathhouse. Allow yourself plenty of time before heading out and expect lots of traffic upon departing.


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