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Air Shows, Aviation Museums and "Top Gun"

Explore and Celebrate San Diego's Aviation Heritage

San Diego has a long history regarding aviation. In 1911, Glenn Curtiss, the Father of Naval Aviation, demonstrated his Model D-III from San Diego Bay for the US Navy and a year later the Navy established the first aviation squadron on the northeast side of Coronado's North Island. A decade later, Ryan Airlines designed and built Charles Lindbergh's iconic Spirit of St. Louis in a factory located right next to the San Diego International Airport, known locally as Lindbergh Field.

Flying ahead to 1986, the region’s aviation recognition soared when the blockbuster film “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise was released, and the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School at San Diego’s Naval Air Station Miramar gained international fame.


Blue Angels at the Miramar Air Show

Air Shows

MCAS Miramar Air Show

One of the most popular events in San Diego, MCAS Miramar Air Show features two full days of flying and entertainment, food and novelty booths, children's activity area, military displays, trade show and more! The annual air show regularly hosts spectacular flight demonstration squadrons including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds, Patriots Jet Team and the Canadian Forces 431 Snowbirds

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Aviation Museums

Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

What sets this museum apart from all others is the fact that it is the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving the incredible contributions made by United States Marine Corps aviators and their ground support personnel. A dedicated group of staff and volunteers preserve and restore the more than 30 Marine Corps aircraft displayed throughout the museum grounds. Bring the kids to one of the Open Cockpit Days so they can sit in the cockpit and feel like a real pilot

San Diego Air & Space Museum

California's Official Air and Space Museum, the San Diego Air & Museum in Balboa Park houses a collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft from all over the world, including a flyable replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the actual Apollo 9 Command Module spacecraft, the only real GPS satellite on display in the world, MaxFlight® and Space Shuttle simulators, a 3D/4D Theater, interactive kid zone, ever-changing traveling exhibitions and the Flight Path Grill serving up food and a million-dollar view of Downtown San Diego from the Observation Deck.

USS Midway Museum

Imagine living aboard a floating city at sea with 4,500 shipmates on the USS Midway, the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century! Exploring the galleys, officer's country, sleeping quarters and the four-acre flight deck. Walk through helicopters, ride three types of flight simulators, climb in bunks, and sit in ejection seat theatre. Admission includes a self-guided audio tour to over 60 locations from the engine room to control tower, narrated by Midway sailors who lived or worked in each.

Kansas City Barbeque in Top Gun Movie

Iconic "Top Gun" Locations

Kansas City Barbeque

One of the film's most memorable scenes was filmed at Kansas City Barbeque, located just a short walk from the USS Midway Museum. This unassuming, casual sports bar was where Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) play "Great Balls of Fire" at the piano. Proudly sporting a "Top Gun" neon sign on its front window, Kansas City Barbeque displays a large collection of Top Gun and U.S. Air Force memorabilia including mementos, autographed posters and photos from the filming.

West Laurel and Union Streets

The scene where instructor Charlie (Kelly McGillis) driving in her Porsche stops Maverick on his motorcycle to admit she's "falling" for him is set on the corner of West Laurel and Union streets in Bankers Hill. As you drive up the steep incline along West Laurel from downtown's bayfront toward Balboa Park, you'll see a big palm tree on the right hand (south) side of the street at Union; this is the exact location where the romantic scene was shot.

New Point Loma Lighthouse

Located at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula under Cabrillo National Monument, the New Point Loma Lighthouse is the setting of Viper’s (Tom Skerritt's) house in the film. During Viper's and Maverick's walk in the garden, the audience gets to enjoy a glimpse of the coastal house and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Today, the lighthouse keepers’ quarters house U.S. Coast Guard officers who are fortunate to enjoy the prime oceanfront property.

Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows

Maverick and Goose embarrass Charlie with a tuneless rendition of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" in a crowded bar scene during the film. The scene was not shot not in a bar but the Mississippi Ballroom of the historic Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows in North Park. Opened in 1946, the Lafayette Hotel is no stranger to Hollywood. Designed by former Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller, the Lafayette's pool has seen the likes of Ava Gardner and other Hollywood royalty over the years.

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