5 To Try: Centennial of Naval Aviation in Coronado

History that literally flies off the pages is my kind of history! The spectacular Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA) is coming to Coronado this Saturday. The ‘Crown City” is gearing up for thousands of expected spectators to view an historic “Parade of Flight,” featuring over 200 aircraft – from vintage planes to the famous Blue Angels. It’ll be the largest naval aircraft flyover since WWII… yep, you’ll be telling your grandkids about this one!

The Blue Angels to soar over Coronado!

Coronado is where naval aviation began, in 1911, when aviator/inventor Glenn Curtiss trained a Navy officer to fly a seaplane from the sandy, formerly scrub-covered isle.

Following are five fun – mostly free – things to do in (and just off) Coronado to celebrate this momentous occasion:  

  1. Flight of fancy… The US Navy is packing 100 years of naval aviation history into one day – February 12 – showcasing its rich and exciting aviation heritage. Most anticipated event: the colossal CONA Parade of Flight, starting at 1 p.m. and lasting approx. two hours. Prime viewing spots: Coronado Beach and the bayside Coronado Ferry Landing.

    Vintage planes to fly in historic Parade of Flight.

  2. Make waves… If you want to see the Parade of Flight nautical-style, reserve your seat for Hornblower Cruises & Eventsexclusive three-hour CONA Parade of Flight Spectator & Lunch Cruise on San Diego Bay. They promise the best views from the water, as planes fly high overhead. It includes a gourmet lunch and free-flowing champagne. Now that’s the way to toast the Centennial! Tickets: $54.95. ($30 sans lunch); discounts for children, seniors, and military.
  3. On the house… Before/during/after the parade, check out NAS North Island’s CONA Open House (event gate opens 9 a.m.). Festivities include aircraft carrier/ship tours, 75 static aircraft (my father, CAPT Ret., flew the classic H-3 Sea King helicopters), Leap Frogs parachute jump team demo, classic car show, stunt motorcycles, Centennial Historic Village, live entertainment and more. Best part: it’s all FREE! – Free admission, free parking and free blanket seating to watch the once-in-a-lifetime air show.

    Flying into the history books over Hotel del Coronado.

  4. Wing it… In conjunction with CONA, the Coronado Museum of History & Art opened a “Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation” exhibit (continuing through Sept.), featuring “fly” artifacts from yesteryear, including a pilot license signed by Orville Wright(!), helmet of one of the first female naval aviators and scale model of the original seaplane designed/built by Curtiss and flown off Coronado’s shores.  Admission: free.

    Glenn Curtis trains first naval aviator in Coronado.

    The Coronado Historical Association also proudly presents “Home Front” Project – free self-guided driving tours of over 150 former naval aviators’ homes with a brochure/map and brief bios on each pilot.

  5. By the book… The Coronado Public Library has six high-flying CONA programs scheduled throughout 2011, including exhibits, talks and films, starting with the Emmy Award-winning documentary, “Glenn Curtiss: The Forgotten Eagle” on Feb. 18. John Wayne even makes an appearance – in “Flying Leathernecks” – on May 20. Cost: free. ‘nuff said.

See you Saturday in Coronado for the big Centennial of Naval Aviation launch!

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Robert Arends

About Robert Arends

I’m a native San Diegan and man of many hats: PR, roadside America traveler/backyard tourist (especially our mountains and Anza-Borrego Desert), photographer (motto: capture the moment!), music fan, sci-fi buff, tiki collector and constant gardener. What would you do on your ideal San Diego day? I would spend the day snorkeling in La Jolla Cove. It’s like swimming in a huge aquarium – Garibaldi fish, lobsters, sea lions, oh my! If you were invisible, where would you go? I’d go surfing in Coronado. I’ve never surfed, but have always wanted to. If I was invisible no one would see me fall (again and again! – LOL). What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity? Walking the Prado in Balboa Park; feels like I’m in Spain. The architecture is amazing!  I also enjoy hiking Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see the annual wildflowers and exploring the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument. Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine? Linguine and red wine (wine list, please!), with tableside views of San Diego Bay. Latest music purchases for my iPod/MP3 player are… Magic Man: Paris, Bear Hands: Giants, Capital Cities: I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo, Man Man: Head On, London Grammar: Nightcall (Freemasons Remix). Follow Robert on Twitter @groovestar