What To Expect When You Visit The Thunder Over Michigan Air Show

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What To Expect When You Visit The Thunder Over Michigan Air Show | via Wading in Big Shoes
Disclosure: Thunder Over Michigan provided admission and parking for this event for the purpose of this article and review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Affiliate link disclosure: This article may contain Amazon affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission on items purchased through those links at no cost to you.

No matter what time of year it is, it’s never too early (or too late) to be thinking about the Thunder Over Michigan air show in Ypsilanti. Held at the Willow Run airport, the annual event brings together a huge collection of really cool aircraft, historical reenactments, and live air shows (we’re talking stunts, people standing on top of moving planes, you name it!). After missing out six years in a row, Brad and I finally made it to Thunder Over Michigan last summer, and let me tell you: it’s quite the spectacle.

When You Get There

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Visiting the Willow Run Airport for the Thunder Over Michigan air show feels a lot like visiting a fairground for a huge flea market or...well, fair. First, you’ll drive through a checkpoint where you’ll either pay for parking or present your pre-paid voucher (see "Ticket Information" section below for pricing details), then drive a little further up the road to get to your space. You’ll likely have to walk a few minutes from your car to the entrance of the show (for accessibility information, visit the Thunder Over Michigan Site here), so make sure you have everything you need with you! You can leave and re-enter, but keep in mind you’ll need to go through security each time to have your bags checked (speaking from experience).

What To Take With You

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Thunder Over Michigan is an all-day event, so you’ll want to make sure you pack all the essentials for spending several hours on property. A sample of what we took:

*Lunch (sandwiches, snacks, water bottles, and juice packs). There may be a snack truck or two (something like carnival-quality nachos), but don’t expect anything too extensive. Also, keep in mind that coolers, cans, and glass aren't allowed inside the venue (see more in "What NOT To Take" section below).

*Backpack with camera and any camera accessories. We also use our camera backpack to store other small items and cut down on extra bags (click here to see which backpack we use!)

*Sunscreen, sunglasses, rain gear (umbrella, rain jacket, etc.you can never be too sure!)

*Camping chairs and/or picnic blanket (everyone brings these and having your own will help you claim a little spot to return to in between walking around the show)

*Whatever was in my purse that day (whatever you’d typically need)ibuprofen, tissues, hand sanitizer, souvenir money, etc.

**Packing tip: try to limit yourself to essentials since you’ll either be carrying everything around with you all day or leaving it with your chairs in the general seating area (not recommended if you have anything valuable). And make sure to condense! I like to carry a small clutch instead of a purse, and it fits into our camera backpack. It’s more convenient and much less stress on my back and shoulders. :)

What NOT To Take With You

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The Thunder Over Michigan air show restricts many common items (and they WILL check at security). You’ll want to avoid the following (not an extensive list): cans, glass, weapons, ice (ice packs are permitted), coolers (exceptions may be made for life-saving medicines and infant formula), and pets. For a full list of what’s not allowed, visit the official Thunder Over Michigan site here.

What You'll See/Experience

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Once you’re in, you’re free to roam about the runway! Being a lifelong lover of all things wheeled, winged, engined, etc., Brad was immediately captivated by all of the planes on display (the biggest ones were even open for people to walk on board and look around!). Me? I was mesmerized by the skydivers and OH THE PERSON STANDING ON TOP OF A MOVING STUNT PLANE OH MY GOODNESS HOW DID THEY DO THAT.

What To Expect When You Visit The Thunder Over Michigan Air Show | via Wading in Big Shoes
No matter where you stand, sit, or walk throughout the day, there’s plenty to experience. Need a break? Sit down and claim a “picnic spot” near all the action . . . you’ll be able to see the planes fly overhead without problem.

The Finale

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Now, the featured groups change from year to year (in 2017, it was the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and in 2018, it’s the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds), but there’s always a really cool show to wrap up the day. Going in, I thought, “yeah, cool, some planes are going to fly in circles and we’ll clap and smile.” But when you have super-synchronized jets fly thisclose to you at lightning-fast speeds, there’s a thundering roar like no other you’ve ever experienced. It overwhelms you and puts a huge grin on your face and it is just SO. COOL. And I don’t say any of this lightlythis is real talk coming from someone who, admittedly, started the day thinking she was merely doing this for her husband.

What To Expect When You Visit The Thunder Over Michigan Air Show | via Wading in Big Shoes
[To see an up-to-date list of which planes and events you can expect to see during your trip to Thunder Over Michigan, visit the official website here.]

Thunder Over Michigan Ticket Information

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Here’s the number-one thing you need to know about visiting Thunder Over Michigan: the earlier you buy your tickets, the better. Tickets go on sale WAY before the event (like, a year ahead of time) and prices increase slightly as the show gets nearer. Here’s what the pricing tier looked like for the 2018 show:

*$25 before 12/31/17, $30 before 6/17/18, $35 online afterward, $40 at the gate

*Parking as low as $10 prior to the event and $20 at the gate

Say you and your spouse decide to visit the air show and are debating whether you should buy your tickets early or wait until closer to the event. Two tickets purchased at the early bird price would be $50, and a discounted parking rate of $10 would bring your total to $60. Waiting to purchase those same tickets and parking pass at the gate would ring in at $100!

What To Expect When You Visit The Thunder Over Michigan Air Show | via Wading in Big Shoes
If, however, you absolutely can’t commit that far ahead of time and decide to visit last-minute (hey, I get it!), try to purchase your tickets online instead of at the gate. This will save you around $5 per person, plus $5 on parking (and those savings can really add up!). There are also various coupon codes floating around online and local businesses who sell discount tickets prior to the show (just be sure you’re buying from a reputable retailer), so keep your eyes open for those opportunities.

Good news for families: Kids 15 years and younger get in for FREE, so you don’t have to worry if you’ve got too many in your crew (it’s actually a better deal if you do). For more information about admission prices and VIP experiences, visit the official Thunder Over Michigan Air Show website here.

What To Do After The Show

Looking for something to do on your way out of the air show? Don’t miss the Yankee Air Museum (also at the Willow Run Airport) for an up-close look at additional aircraft and tons of WWII and Rosie the Riveter history (a super-cool experience for families, history buffs, and of course, airplane lovers)! Admission is FREE during the air show (a fantastic time to go!) and the experience perfectly complements the theme of the weekend.

If you’re thinking about dinner or shopping, head to nearby Ann Arbor or downtown Ypsilanti, both of which are colorful, creative areas with local shops and delicious food spots. For specific recommendations or questions, leave me a comment below and I’ll give you some of my best tips!

What To Expect When You Visit The Thunder Over Michigan Air Show | via Wading in Big Shoes

Thunder Over Michigan 2018: Event Details

Dates: August 25th & 26th, 2018
Location: Willow Run Airport, Ypsilanti, MI
Presented by the Wayne County Airport Authority
For more details, visit the official website here

Will you be experiencing the Thunder Over Michigan air show from Willow Run Airport this year? Let me know in the comments what you love about this show or any other questions you may have about the event!


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