Mom’s Guide to the Smoky Mountain Airshow


Mom's Guide to the Smoky Mountain AirshowHere’s our August 2022 updated tips for the Smoky Mountain Airshow coming in September 10th and 11th 2022. You can check out the airshow parking map and the event map below. {Also see our Facebook Live Q&A}

Air Show event mapThere are things that happen in your life that change the course of your history. Decisions or events that alter how you see the world or even which direction you ultimately take in life. As a parent you never really know when those moments are going to happen, but you can always do your best to create opportunities to change your kids’ lives forever.

For me, one major life-altering event was happening the moment I came into the world. I was born in California where my dad (a then-pilot in the US Air National Guard) was upgrading his pilot training to fly the KC-135 Air Refueling Tankers. Three weeks later we moved back to Kansas and I began my life as a National Guard Pilot’s daughter. This didn’t mean I spent my life moving from base to base like the Air Force kids, but it did mean I experienced some life-changing, history-making stuff.

And it meant I spent a lot of time around airplanes.

Like all good Air Guard daughters, I attended every airshow that came to town. I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a Blue Angel for a significant part of my life. I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on a B-2 bomber that seemed more like an alien aircraft. I remember watching in awe as the Harrier took off straight up in the air like a helicopter. And sitting in the cockpit of the KC-135 made me feel like I could go anywhere and do anything…

This was the stuff destiny was made of.

So about a year ago when I saw that familiar blue and yellow streak shoot across my Knoxville sky, and heard the rumor that they were coming to town, you can bet I marked my calendar.

My children will know airshows, and perhaps seeing those airplanes zooming across their childhood will one day take them places even I couldn’t imagine!

Childhood Angels

Are you ready for next weekend? Below is my Mom’s Guide to The Smoky Mountain Airshow so you can make the most of this great day with your children!

Mom’s Guide to the Smoky Mountain Airshow


Do Make a Day of It!

Ya’ll… everyone in East Tennessee is going to be at this thing. Don’t let that deter you. You just are going to need to turn up your patience meter and not make any other plans. Parking areas open at 7am; air show gates open at 8am; opening ceremonies begin at 10am; last aerial performance ends at 4:15pm. You will sit in traffic. You will be walking a lot (I’ll touch on this in a minute). And I’ll bet you a VIP pass and a Coke that they’ll save the best for last (cough, BLUE ANGELS, cough)! My landlady has lived overlooking the Air base for half a century. Her advice to us? “Go early. Stay late!”

Do Wear Tennis Shoes.

If you’re debating between flip flops and tennis shoes, I vote tennis shoes. There’s a 25 minute walk MINIMUM just to get in the gate. Then imagine black tarmac and concrete as far as the eye can see. Trust me.  Also… bring a stroller. You must. Not only will it hold your exhausted, excited, impatient kiddo(s), it will also hold your stuff!

Do Bring a Clear Bag.

Treat this like you are headed to a UT Vols game!

Do Bring a Refillable Bottle.

You can bring a refillable bottle but it must be empty when you go through security.

Do Bring Cash!

Just plan on spending money, okay? Vendors might not take cards. And you cannot bring in outside food or drinks. Empty, refillable water bottles ARE ok, and there will be free water stations located throughout the air show area. Also, think a UT Football game here—they are implementing a clear bag policy ONLY. This is with the exception of a diaper bag, but it must be accompanied with a child. That said, you ARE PERMITTED TO BRING STUFF FOR BABY! So come prepared to keep your kids content and hydrated. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll make you throw it out at the gate. (Here is a list of prohibited and permitted items!)

Do Use Ear Protection.

Ya’ll… these things are flipping amazing. And flipping LOUD! Like, you’ll either inspire your kid to be a fighter pilot or you’ll scar them for life. Bring appropriate ear protection. Little foam ear plugs. Here are some good hearing protection options on Amazon and you can find some at Academy Sports. Anything that helps protect those little ears! Oh… and wear a hat. And sunscreen. Just pretend you’re going to Dollywood, okay?

Do Bring a Veteran!

Got a favorite Vet in your life? There is nothing like seeing these aircraft through the eyes of a person who flew in them or worked on them or was saved by them or jumped out of them. Your child’s airshow (and yours) can only be enriched by having a Veteran there to experience it with them. Motorized scooters are not allowed, but there is a special lot for those with a valid handicapped tag. Accessible shuttles are provided to that lot. The base parking lots are also open on a first-come, first-serve basis to anyone with a current military I.D (that includes retirees).

Mom's Guide to the Smoky Mountain Airshow


Don’t Stay Off Base.

Ya’ll, I live over the hill from the base. I can likely see every aerobatic stunt from my front yard. BUT if you stay off base to save money, you’re going to miss the best part of the entire show (my opinion). The static displays! There will be over 30 different aircraft on display. Giving your kids an up-close and personal look at jets of all sizes, helicopters, old warplanes, even Lifestar will be there! Several of the displays will be available to enter, explore, and take photos with. Hands-on activities are so important for the growth and development of young minds, so even if you have to wait in line, DO IT! There will also be a kids’ area with hands-on activities, games, and prizes.

Don’t Forget Lawn Chairs and Blankets.

Just don’t forget them. You need these. Your kids need these. Get in the gate. Find a good spot. And park it! Bring a spouse or a friend or a grandparent who will help you take turns running the kids around (because they will need to run around). This will be a great home base for you to eat, rest, and enjoy the performers as a family. If you don’t want to lug around chairs all day, you can buy VIP seating, but that’s definitely optional.

Don’t Come Without a Plan.

Have a plan for the things you don’t want to plan for! Like if your family gets separated or lost. Have your information on your children. When you get into the gate, head to an Air Show Information Booth and get a wristband for your child. You can fill out your contact information on the wristband just in case you get separated. Make sure your cell phone is CHARGED (then stay off of it so you don’t wear down your battery). Dress your family in matching clothes to make them easier to see in a crowd. Create a meeting place after you get in the gate. Be aware of your surroundings. In short: be prepared to be safe.

Don’t Freak Out.

It’s time to turn on the “Chill Mama”. This is a huge event. There will be port-a-potties. Your toddler will eat French fries off the ground. You will bump into people. You will wait in long lines. Your kids will drive you crazy. BUT for one day you can turn off the OCD and let your children enjoy a rare and incredible experience. Get excited for them. Point out cool things. Wait in line with them to sit in the cockpit of the plane. Ask questions. Buy them a slushy. Listen to the announcer. Put your phones and tablets away and enjoy the sights, sounds, smells (yes, I said smells… tarmac and jet fuel will take me back to my childhood faster than ANYTHING) and awe-inspiring aerobatics with your children.

Mom's Guide to the Smoky Mountain Airshow    You never know if it will change the course of their history!

For full information on performers, parking, pricing, and FAQs, visit the Smoky Mountain Airshow Website.


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