The event showcases the best in flight, as is put on as a free event via a partnership between the military and local Tampa businesses. For the Air Force, it’s a chance to say thank you to the Tampa Bay area for being a host. All events are free, as well as parking (if you can get it), with food, drinks, and souvenirs all being on sale. The last AirFest had 120,000 people attend despite poor weather, and up to 200,000 people have been to the Air Force Base at the tip of South Tampa in previous iterations.
The demonstrations start at 11 a.m. each day, and the Blue Angels will perform at 3 p.m. on both days to cap off the program. It’s some amazing free entertainment via your tax dollars (though VIP tickets are available), and a day not to be missed if you want to oooh and aaahhh over fancy sky cars that cost literally hundreds of millions of dollars. BTW: no, they’re not going to let you fly anything.
How to get there:
The biggest issue for many attendees will be parking. Gates will open at 8 a.m. each day, but keep in mind all visitors must go through a security check worthy of the home of CentCom. There’s three entrances: the Dale Mabry Gate on S. Dale Mabry Boulevard, the MacDill Gate on the parallel-to-Dale-Mabry S. MacDill Ave., and the Tanker Way Gate located on Interbay Blvd. You’re going to wait in line no matter which one you choose (we think Tanker Way might be a bit faster???), so be prepared to sit and entertain yourself in traffic no matter which one you choose.
So take the shuttles! They’re leaving from Britton Plaza on S. Dale Mabry every 15 minutes, but don’t park there: take a rideshare or taxi to this location. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll probably save time this way because of the security checks that will run far and wide for those entering the base in cars both days. You can also catch a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit shuttle to Britton Plaza from the Marion Transit Center in Downtown Tampa.
What should I bring:
“Expect TSA airport-level security. All vehicles, individuals and bags are subject to search and seizure. If you can’t take it on an airplane you can’t take into Tampa Bay AirFest 2018.” So yeah, be prepared for a full inspection, and don’t bring anything you wouldn’t on an airplane (though the deodorant and toothpaste are fine this time). This includes alcohol, emotional support animals (service pets are allowed), and heelies (no gliding around the highly-secure facility, kids!).
Also be sure to bring hearing protection, water and small snacks if you don’t wish to buy. Cameras are fine, but don’t go crazy with the lenses as bags bigger than a “small purse” aren’t permitted.
The 2018 Tampa Bay AirFest at MacDill is a chance for your friends and neighbors to show the general public what they do all day, and to say thank you to the area they call home. Get out and enjoy it, and also say thank you to those that serve: their honor and hard work is what gives us the freedom to do what we do each day.