The big Fort Lauderdale Air Show will roar over Fort Lauderdale beach from noon to 4 p.m. May 5 and 6, 2018.
For years, the Fort Lauderdale Air Show was a highlight of spring, drawing vast crowds to the beach at Sunrise Boulevard and A1A. There were so many people and so many cars that it took planning and strategy to avoid massive traffic jams and inconvenience. The air show wasn’t staged for many years, but it’s back. While the show is smaller, there’s little question the crowds, traffic and hassles will be back too.
I live two miles west of the prime viewing area at the beach and over the years my family has tried all different ways to go to the Fort Lauderdale Air Show.
There’s no question the best place to be is right on the beach, where you have fabulous sight lines and you can cool down in the water. But it’s not easy to get there and tickets aren’t cheap.
This year tickets are $29.75 each for the prime viewing area from Sunrise Boulevard to Northeast 14th Court. (This is essentially, the entire beach to the east of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.)
I have another strategy, however: See it by kayak. You won’t see everything like you do from the beach, but if you have your own kayak, it’s free and you’re likely to avoid crowds and traffic. Set your expectations correctly: You’re not “going to the air show.” You’re going out in your kayak and paddling around while the air show buzzes overhead.
My advice: To avoid mixing it up with speeding boats and wakes on the Intracoastal, stick to the Middle River. Put in your kayak at the boat dock at Colohatchee Park, 1975 NE 15th Ave., Wilton Manors. This park has plenty of parking (including across the street at the entrance to the dog park) plus a public restroom and water fountain.
From Colohatchee, paddle east on the Middle River as it winds through my neighborhood. You’ll go under Federal Highway and then head south on the wider section of the Middle River. At this point, you’re one mile west of the prime viewing area at the beach, so planes should be flying overhead or within view. It’s about three miles from where you put in.
If you know the area, you may be asking: Why not put in at George English Park, 1101 N. Bayview Drive, Fort Lauderdale, which is, essentially, where I’m proposing you reach by kayak. It might work, but in past years, Sunrise Boulevard backed up with traffic west of here during key times and parking filled up at George English Park very early in the day. You can give it a try, but I would have a back-up plan in mind.
An alternative kayak strategy would be to put in your kayak at Annie Beck Park, 100 N. Victoria Park Road. You can put in kayaks here, although there isn’t a lot of parking – just spaces on the street. From Annie Beck Park, you can paddle about a mile among the Las Olas Isles to the wider waters just north of Sunrise Key. Here, like on the Middle River, you are one mile from the prime viewing area and should see planes overhead.
The Thunderbirds, the showiest of the performances, are scheduled to appear both days. This team requires several miles to execute maneuvers, so they are easiest to see from a distance. In past years, the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels, flew directly over my rooftop repeatedly. (Note: As of April 27, the Thunderbirds have canceled and a replacement has yet been named.)
No matter which put-in spot you use, you can get much closer to the action if you want to paddle in the Intracoastal to the Sunrise Boulevard area. There aren’t easy places to land a kayak here, though, so don’t count on getting out when you get near the air show site. (Personally, I don’t enjoy paddling on the Intracoastal, but I may be a wimp about that.)
If you want to rent kayaks or stand up paddleboards, rentals are available on the Middle River at Sunrise Paddleboards on Federal Highway, which is quite close to the best viewing areas. (Check ahead to make sure a kayak or SUP will be available.)
View Fort Lauderdale Air Show by kayak in a larger map