Founded in 1845 by George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy, the US Naval Academy, located in the heart of Annapolis, Maryland, is the college that trains officers for both the Navy and Marine Corps. What started as a 10 acre campus with 50 students and 7 faculty members has expanded to a 338 acre campus with over 600 faculty (half civilian and half military) and 4,500 students called Midshipmen (women are called Female Midshipmen), copied from the British naval ranking. Women were first admitted in 1976 and today, represent approximately 30 percent of Midshipmen. Each year, the Academy accepts approximately 1200 students, about 10% of applicants. All Midshipmen are on scholarship and are required to serve a minimum of five years in the Navy or Marine Corps following their four year college experience, culminating with a Bachelors of Science degree.
Over 80,000 people take guided tours each year, and over two million people visit the Academy each year. Our guided walking tour is one of the BEST tours we have ever taken and we think it is a must see and do when you’re exploring Annapolis, or driving through to Washington DC or Baltimore, Maryland, both a half hour away.
- Guided tours are offered seven days a week throughout the year. There are a variety of walking tours, car tours, and even a music tour. Check here for up to date information on booking a tour and tour fees. We recommend the 90 minute Historic Walking Tour.
- There is a small parking lot in front of the entrance to the Visitor Center; guests must check in a Naval officer and show photo ID. More information on parking in and around the Academy here.
- Restrooms and a large gift shop are located inside the Visitor Center near the admissions check in desk, as well as inside the US Naval Academy Museum at Preble Hall. **Museum is closed on Tuesdays and federal holidays.
- Dining options on the Academy campus include 1845 Coffee Shop at Gate 3 and a few other options here. Check here and here for a good list of local Annapolis restaurants.
- Plan on 90 minutes for a tour (it adds up to more than a mile of walking!), and additional time to explore the Museum at Preble Hall, Visitor Center exhibits, and gift shop.
11 Stops on the Tour of the Naval Academy:
- The statue of Bill, the Naval goat mascot. Since 1890, the Navy has competed against the Army in a football game called America’s Game. The legend goes that the Navy sailors brought a goat to the first game and considered it a good luck charm. Over the past 130+ years there have been approximately 30+ “Bills” who live on a dairy farm in a secret location (to prevent goat-napping) and attend Navy home football games..
- The Lejeune building, which is home to the sports Hall of Fame and many athletic facilities including the pool and wrestling complexes. Midshipmen are required to spend three hours every day (3pm-6pm) in athletic practices (they can choose their sport) and must pass annual physical fitness and swimming tests. The Hall of Fame includes displays and records held for each sport, the collection of footballs from wins against the Army (to date in 2023, Navy leads with 9 more wins over Army), the two Heisman trophy Navy recipients, and a list of Navy Olympians.
- Captain’s Row on Porter Road, where department heads live with their families. Built from 1900-1908, high ranking officers usually have three year tours at the Academy. Red flags out front indicate a Marine Corps family and black flags indicate a Naval or civilian family.
- Dahlgren Hall, named for Admiral John A. Dahlgren, the “Father of Naval Ordnance.” Built from Maine granite, the Hall is the oldest building on the campus. Inside there are offices and training spaces for the midshipmen not open to the public. The upper level displays (alphabetically) a flag from every US state and territory and a replica of the Wrights Brothers B1 Flyer. Outside, two Japanese torpedoes launched from Japanese destroyers in World War II are displayed.
- The Herndon Monument. It is a tradition dating back to the 1950s for first year Midshipmen to attempt to climb the 20 foot monument, which is greased by upper Midshipmen, to replace the hat at the top of the statue with a current Midshipmen’s hat. The Midshipmen form a human pyramid to try and reach the top of the statue, which honors Commander William Lewis Herndon, who died aboard the SS Central America, which sank during a hurricane in North Carolina in 1857.
- The Main Chapel, built in 1908 to seat 1200 worshipers with a 1940 addition of 800 additional seats. The copper plated dome can be seen from most points around campus. There are several Tiffany stained glass windows, a 4500 pipe organ, and a memorial pew (where no one is allowed to sit) to honor officers lost in action during the Vietnam War. Be sure to look up at the rotunda with the faces depicting the ages of man etched in the ceiling. There are weekly Catholic and Protestant services held in the main chapel, open to Midshipmen and military and Academy staff. The campus also includes nine other chapels for worship of other faiths, but they are not open to the public.
- The crypt with the casket of John Paul Jones, in the lower level of the Main Chapel. Jones was the first known naval commander in the Revolutionary War and was given the title “Father of the US Navy.” Jones never lost a battle as part of the Navy and is famous for saying “I have not yet begun to fight”. Naval officers went to Paris to dig up Jones’ grave in 1899 and bring it back to Annapolis. The crypt is black and white marble with replica seaweed cascading over it to resemble being buried at sea. The crypt is surrounded by sets of three flags: the Union flag, the Stars and Stripes flag, and the Serapis flag.
- Bancroft Hall, the midshipmen’s dormitory. Named for the Academy’s founder, the dormitory is spread out over 33 acres and houses all 4,500 midshipmen for all four years in 1800+ rooms. Visitors can peek inside a model dormitory room and read the wall of profiles of notable graduates and the running list of the Midshipmen Commanders of the Regiment. Midshipmen are not allowed to walk through the famous, main doors of Bancroft Hall until after they graduate.
- Memorial Hall, located inside Bancroft Hall, which is used for both quiet reflection and important ceremonies. Considered the “highest place of honor” at the Academy, the Hall displays a replica “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag, a Killed in Action scroll of honor and Operational Loss Panels for alumni who made the ultimate sacrifice, and several historic naval paintings.
- The Preble Hall Museum, free for all visitors and open six days a week (closed on Tuesday). Guided tours end near the museum, so guests can explore on their own (and it’s free to visit even if you’re not on a tour). Built in 1939 has hundreds of thousands of artifacts related to the Navy and US history. The first floor has extensive exhibits of naval history showcasing some of the 600 flags (and the original Don’t Give Up the Ship flag), 1,000 medals, and 6,000 naval history prints and paintings in the museum’s collection. The second floor showcases dozens of English model warships from 1860-1900, the largest in North America, and a short video highlighting the history of the museum.
- Visitor Center: Watch the 15 minute introductory video and walk through several exhibits showcasing the history of the Academy. Make sure to peruse the large gift shop for souvenirs.
Looking for more adventures in Annapolis? Check out our posts featuring the Maryland State House and the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Looking for other military sites to explore? Check out our feature of the US Marine Corps Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 90 minutes away from Annapolis.