These days, it’s getting harder and harder to find events that truly appeal to each member of the family. Events seem to operate at the extremes, appealing either to young children or parents, but rarely meeting in the middle. 

Good news: the 2019 STIHL National Championship Air Races ticks all the boxes for family fun. 

From the STEM Education Discovery Zone to the thrill of the Thunderbirds to STOL air racing and static, hands-on displays, this event literally has something for everyone. In the end, each member of the family will leave the STIHL National Championship Air Races begging to come back next year. 

kids air races

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s on tap for families. 


The Air Races is proud to be home to one of the largest STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education Discovery Zones in the country. Last year alone, more than 6,000 school-aged children were introduced to the wonder of aviation through this unique, interactive display. 

Now in its fifth year, the GRADD-NVBAA STEM Education Discovery Zone will feature:

  • An outdoor netted Drone Zone for drone demonstrations and workshops
  • Eight drones of different sizes on display and for flight demonstrations
  • Sixteen flight simulators
  • Twenty ground robots of different sizes in the Robot tent
  • 3D printing display area
  • Table-top aviation museum
  • Robotic arms to demonstrate hydraulics
  • Aviation and rocket picture booth
  • Reno Air Races table-top mural
  • Three PACMAN games in vintage Samsonite briefcases
  • Five mini Tesla coils to showcase wireless transfer of electricity
  • Five electronic programmed guitars

These projects are created to inspire children to engage with each of the STEM categories while encouraging them to pursue careers in the aviation industry. Plus, children who participate in the STEM Discovery Zone will earn free access to the races for the remainder of the week.  

Air Racing Action

kids at air races

When you’re visiting the air races for the first time, sometimes it’s hard to know whether to look up at the action in the sky or down at the extraordinarily cool displays on the ground. Well, when the pilots take to the sky, your choice becomes easy: look up!

Visit the online race schedule for specific times. 

Did Someone Say “Thunderbirds?” 

That’s right. The elite Air Force flyers better known as the Thunderbirds are returning to Reno. Founded in 1953 as part of the brand new United States Air Force (which was known as the Army Air Corps until the 1940s), the Thunderbirds are currently based at Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada. 

This world-class performance team’s reputation precedes it, with the Thunderbirds enjoying fame around the globe as one of the fastest, most precision-based performance teams. Needless to say, a Thunderbirds show is not to be missed. Catch the practice show on Friday or the full shows on Saturday and Sunday. 

STOL Drag Racing Demonstrations

New to the Air Races in 2019 is the addition of the STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) Drag Racing demonstrations, a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. Using modified bush planes, a group of pilots, some of which call themselves the Flying Cowboys, fly low and fast on a designated track, landing once at each end, turning around and racing back to the finish. It’s a little bit like Top Fuel drag racing but, of course, the planes go airborne. The STOL drag racing demonstrations promise to be extremely exciting for all ages. 

Military Static Display

A longtime favorite of racing fans of all ages, this event showcases America’s military might and airpower superiority by allowing race fans to walk around a display of dozens of active military aircraft. From F/16s to Black Hawk and Chinook choppers to the always-impressive Nevada Air National Guard C-130, young fans can chat with pilots and (in most cases) explore the inner workings of the military craft. This display is featured every day of the races, but keep in mind that as many of these planes are working military aircraft, the lineup is subject to change at all times. 

Get in the Pits!

If you really want to treat the family this year, buy pit passes, which offer full access to the racing pits, pilots and crew members. Kids can get up-close-and-personal with their favorite pilots, even snagging the occasional autograph or selfie with Reno’s top racers. This option offers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the staging areas of the races while bringing young fans closer to the planes than they could imagine possible. 

family event

And seriously, just trust us on this one: you definitely want pit passes. (Note: pit passes do not grant admission. They must be purchased along with general admission or reserved seating tickets). 

Tickets are now on sale for the 2019 STIHL National Championship Air Races. New this year, reserved seats are the same price as general admission. For information, call (775) 972-6663.