Scenes from the rehearsal for the Bethpage Air Show at...

Scenes from the rehearsal for the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in May 2023. Credit: Alejandra Villa Loarca

This year’s Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach promises a lively carnival atmosphere on the ground to match the spectacular overhead show by the returning U.S. Navy Blue Angels and other military and civilian performers/daredevils.

When the zooms, booms and loop-de-loops above don’t have your eyes on the skies, the 2.2-mile boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean offers a fitting side show with attractions stretching from the West Bathhouse through the Central Mall to the East Bathhouse.

The Geico Skytypers perform at the Bethpage Air Show preview...

The Geico Skytypers perform at the Bethpage Air Show preview at Jones Beach in Wantagh. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Offering fun for the whole family, representatives from the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines will be setting up trailers featuring interactive virtual reality experiences. Visitors can also get a thrill climbing aboard a real live helicopter or Humvee parked outside. Free swag will be handed out and Blue Angels and Air Show merchandise will be on sale at locations along the boardwalk.

“It’s a fun experience all around,” George Gorman, state parks regional director for Long Island, says of the annual show. “Not only do our Air Show spectators see amazing performers and aerobatic displays, they enjoy all of the activities on the ground, from an airplane simulator to a helicopter on display.”

Here are five ways to get the most out of the big show when you’re not looking up.

Go immersive with the U.S. Navy

Learn about the modern Navy by donning an oculus rift virtual reality headset for a 17-minute, interactive mission inside the U.S. Navy VR (virtual reality) Tractor Trailer “Nimitz.” The experience includes a military-style briefing and debriefing, and participants also get a dog tag. Those who register must be at least 14 years old and have a parent or guardian sign a waiver if under 18. Outside the trailer, stop at a photo booth for a portrait with a Navy F-35 jet gif.

Not to be outdone, the U.S Air Force will let guests take turns in its own video game/simulator trailer. Attractions also include a blow-up, two-hoop basketball toss. Commemorative pens, pencils, water bottles, lanyards and towels can be scooped up for the ride home.

Crowds gather to view the Bethpage Air Show at Jones...

Crowds gather to view the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach.  Credit: JOSEPH SPERBER

Sit in the pilot’s seat

If you’ve never been inside a military aircraft, here’s your chance to climb aboard a U.S. Army helicopter (parked on the ground, that is). Two Humvees and a MACK Truck will also be on display and accessible to visitors. Think you’re tough? Challenge yourself on the Army Combat Fitness Test pull-up bars. The kids can compete on the child-friendly obstacle course or join bag toss or football throw activities.

The U.S. Marines will be nearby, offering their own interactive trailer featuring an indoor shooting simulator.

Take home Blue Angels swag

Got some empty wall space back home? Keep an eye out for the Air Show organizers handing out 30,000 U.S. Navy Blue Angels commemorative posters all weekend.

On Sunday, promoters will be strolling the boardwalk and handing out commemorative items tied to the new “The Blue Angels” Amazon MGM Studios documentary. The film, which opened this month in IMAX theaters, features “never-before-seen footage that chronicles a year with the Navy’s elite Flight Demonstration Squadron — from selection through the challenging training and demanding show season,” according to Imax.com.

Air show fans along the beach watch the Golden Knights.

Air show fans along the beach watch the Golden Knights. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Meet the High-Flyers on Land

After the famed Golden Knight parachute team touches down, they’re scheduled to walk to the U.S. Army recruiting area at the West Bathhouse for a meet and greet with the public. They’ll be joined on Sunday by the U.S. Army Drill Team.

Sample summer’s boardwalk treats

Memorial Day weekend marks the opening of the Boardwalk Café, as well as spots for lemonade, roasted corn and gyros.

20th anniversary Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 25-26, at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh. The show is free to the public, but there is a $10 vehicle use fee.

MORE INFO bethpageairshow.com; 631-321-3510.

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