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.
Dec 15, 2013
My spouse and I visited the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis on a Friday afternoon in late October 2013. It is not possible to make reservations for tours (other than for large groups), but they occur at the top of every hour on weekdays and on the hour and half-hour on weekends. We paid approximately $10 per adult, and we were able to use a credit card to pay for our tours. You must pass through a security gate to access the campus of the
academy, which is surrounded by a high gray wall. We waited in line for about 20 minutes on the day that we visited (so you may want to plan accordingly), but other guests seemed to think the crowds that day were larger than normal. Visitors must show picture ID and pass through a metal detector to access the campus. There are other gates besides the main gate (Gate 1), and as we saw later in the day, access was faster at those ancillary gates. The main gate (on King George and Randall Streets) is closest to the Armel-Leftwich Visitors Center, though, where you will purchase your tour, and where you can visit the gift shop, use the restrooms, buy a cold beverage from a vending machine (which takes credit cards), and see a short 12-minute film. The movie is worthwhile – it gives you a visual representation of the process that the cadets go through from matriculation through graduation. You can also visit the nearby Drydock restaurant if you want a bite to eat or have a few minutes to spare before or after your tour. The walking tour takes about 1.5 hours and covers a lot of ground, so be prepared to stand for extended periods of time. Our tour included the Lejeune Physical Education Center (with its Olympic-size pool and wrestling venue), Dahlgren Hall, Tecumseh Court, and Bancroft Hall (the largest residence hall in the country, where you can view an example of a typical midshipman’s dorm room). Bancroft Hall also features Memorial Hall, a solemn and beautiful space that holds the famous “Don’t Give Up the Ship” banner. The lobby of Bancroft holds many photos and plaques of notable graduates, including Senator John McCain, former President Jimmy Carter, past presidential hopeful Ross Perot, and pro football player Roger Staubach. Because we visited on Halloween weekend, and a concert was scheduled for the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, we were not able to go inside the bright copper-clad dome, beneath which lies the crypt of the Revolutionary War Naval Officer John Paul Jones. Other important features of the campus include the Levy Center and Jewish Chapel, and Preble Hall (which houses a museum). You might want to consider taking a tour of the USNA with Annapolis Tours, where guides in Colonial dress show you around the historic district, as well as on the Naval Academy property (although this company independent from the USNA). We visited West Point in New York a few years ago, and our visit to the Naval Academy in Annapolis offered a great comparison and contrast between the two campuses and military prep schools; next up, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs!