Probably the most interesting and important site in Annapolis, the Naval Academy occupies 328 waterfront acres along the Severn River and abuts Downtown. Men and women enter the USNA, established in 1845 on the site of a U.S. Army fort, from every part of the United States and foreign countries to undergo rigorous study in subjects that include literature, navigation, and nuclear engineering. Midshipmen (the term used for both women and men) go to classes, conduct military drills, and practice or compete in intercollegiate and intramural sports.
Your visit to "The Yard" (as the USNA grounds are nicknamed) will start at the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center. Note that all visitors 18 years and older must have a government-issued photo ID to be admitted through the academy's gates. Park on the street or in Annapolis public parking and walk through the Visitor Access Center at Gate 1—only cars on official Department of Defense business are allowed on campus. The Visitor Center
features an exhibit, "The Quarter Deck," which introduces visitors to the Academy's mission, including a 13-minute film, "The Call to Serve," and a well-stocked gift shop. From here you can join one of the hour-long guided walking tours of the Academy.
The centerpiece of the campus is the bright copper-clad dome of the interdenominational U.S. Naval Academy Chapel. Beneath it lies the crypt of the Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones, who, in a historic naval battle with a British ship, uttered the inspirational words, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Bancroft Hall is one of the largest dormitories in the world—it houses the entire 4,000-member Brigade of Midshipmen. You can't see how shipshape the middies' quarters are, but you can go inside Bancroft and see a sample room and the glorious Memorial Hall, a tribute to Academy grads who died in military operations. In front of Bancroft is the Statue of Tecumseh, a bronze replica of the USS Delaware's wooden figurehead, "Tamanend," which midshipman decorate for athletics events. If you're here at noon on weekdays in fair weather, watch the midshipmen form up outside Bancroft Hall and parade to lunch accompanied by the Drum and Bugle Corps. You also can have lunch on campus either at Drydock in Dahlgren Hall or the Naval Academy Club.
U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Displays of model ships and memorabilia from naval heroes and fighting vessels tell the story of the U.S. Navy. The Rogers Ship Model Collection has 108 models of sailing ships built for the British Admiralty. Kids of all ages will enjoy watching the restoration and building of model ships on the ground level and might even learn a few tricks of the trade should they wish to purchase a model ship kit to build when they get home. 118 Maryland Ave., 21402-5034. 410/293–2108. www.usna.edu/Museum/. Free. Mon.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 11–5.