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Five things you don't want to miss at Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show Baltimore

Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show Baltimore, running through Tuesday at the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Locust Point, Fort McHenry and Martin State Airport, includes visits from more than a dozen military vessels from three countries, flyovers from the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds and other activities celebrating the region’s maritime heritage.

The best way to enjoy the weekend may be to just show up with an open mind and go where your instincts tell you. But if a little pre-planning is your thing, here are five activities you should consider.

1. Look up at the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

Jets flying in close formation, at times just 18 inches apart, are always a crowd-pleaser, as anyone who’s been to any of these big-time waterfront celebrations since 2012 thrillingly knows. In 2012, 2014 and 2016, it was the Navy’s Blue Angels that thrilled us; this year, the Air Force gets a turn. Home base for the planes will be Middle River’s Martin State Airport, and there’ll be all sorts of ground-based activities there on Saturday and Sunday, including chances to meet the pilots. But to watch the Thunderbirds do what they do so well, best to find a vantage point along the flight path — and some of the best will be at Fort McHenry — while they’re in the skies above Baltimore, from noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

2. Tour the USS Milwaukee.

Navy combat ships don’t normally show up at the Inner Harbor, but for this weekend, the Milwaukee, a 378-foot-long littoral combat ship that was commissioned in November 2015 will be berthed along its west wall, near the visitor center. Tours will be offered from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Monday, giving visitors the chance meet some of the military men and women assigned to the ship. You may have to wait in line for a while, but it’ll be worth it. (All the other ships will be open the same hours at the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Locust Point. So if the lines for the Milwaukee appear too daunting, fear not — there are plenty of other ships whose crews are anxious for a visit.)

3. Show some love to our visitors from foreign shores.

Ships here for Fleet Week include Canada’s HMCS Moncton, a minesweeper with its home port in Halifax, Nova Scotia (docked at the Inner Harbor’s Pier 1), and Great Britain’s HMS Monmouth, also known as the Black Duke, a frigate with more battle honors than any other serving warship in the Royal Navy (docked at Locust Point’s Under Armour pier). Both ships will be open for visitors the same hours as their American counterparts, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Monday.

4. Stroll through the Fleet Week Festival or the Martin Airport open house .The ships and airplanes are definitely the stars this weekend, but there are plenty less-grandiose things to do. Both the festival and open house will feature vendors, educational opportunities, music, food and — with hundreds of sailors disembarking in Baltimore for the celebration’s duration, as well as the Thunderbirds pilots and other support personnel — the chance to meet and spend some time members of our military.

5. Bid the ships a fond adieu as they sail out of Baltimore Tuesday.

Ships will be setting sail for the open seas throughout the day Tuesday, and watching them — particularly those under full sail — can be thrilling. Plenty of vantage points will offer views that will stay with you forever, but among the best are Federal Hill, Fort McHenry and, for the unforgettable image of them passing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. Then you can start counting down the days to Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show Baltimore 2020.

ckaltenbach@baltsun.com

twitter.com/chriskaltsun

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