Midweek my kids had a day off school. Rather than sit around the house and ‘relax’ (aka ‘do nothing’ in kid speak) I wanted to take a road trip. Initially my plan was to visit both the Maryland State House and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, less than an hour drive from our home. Although we only managed to tour the Naval Academy I’m glad we spent the day on this beautiful 338 acre campus.
United States Naval Academy or simply, Navy, is one of our nation’s top public liberal arts colleges. The “Yard,” as its grounds are known, occupy a choice spot at the confluence of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay, making it one of Annapolis’s crown jewels. Navy educates officers for both the Navy and Marine Corps branches of the US Armed Forces. Navy began admitting women as midshipmen in 1976 along with all other military academies.
Before making the trip I did some research to plan our adventure. All the information you’ll need ahead of time is on Navy’s website. I wanted to be sure children would be admitted, check hours and tour times, and fees.
Since we were driving my plan was to park in downtown Annapolis, to give us a chance to wander the streets along the water and to have lunch nearby. Civilians cannot park on campus so I parked at the public garage at 150 Gorman Street, just 2 blocks from both the Academy and the State House. After just a short walk along the downtown Annapolis Harbor waterfront we entered through the Gate 1 pedestrian entrance on Randall Street.
We chose to eat in town after our tour and enjoyed a satisfying meal of homemade Southern comfort food at Iron Rooster, 12 Market Space, Annapolis. [FYI they have breakfast all day, although not the best choice for vegans and limited choices for vegetarians.]
NAVAL ACADEMY TOUR
We learned so many fascinating things on this professional guided walking tour, not only about the Academy, the architecture and life of the midshipmen, but also our nation’s history. It’s worth more than the price of admission. As I mentioned before, we didn’t have time to see everything, like the Naval Museum, worth paying another visit to see that one day.
After learning about some of the statues and monuments our guide hurried us over to see the noon formation on Tecumseh Court in front of Bancroft Hall. Held outside daily, weather permitting, the entire Brigade of Midshipmen assemble, in uniform, to march into lunch. This has been going on since 1905. Even if today it’s more about pageantry than preparing for battle, it is quite a sight to behold. The atmosphere is so charged with patriotism that I was moved to tears to think of these young men and women who would put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom.
Following the formation we entered Bancroft Hall, the single largest student dormitory in the world. You’ll take a peek at one of the dorm rooms inside, which must be kept neat as a pin as you would imagine. You’ll also be able to admire many noteworthy graduates including more astronauts than any other undergraduate institution and many prominent members of the government including one United States President, Jimmy Carter.
From the rear balcony you can look down upon King Hall, the dining facility for the Brigade. One of the most interesting facts we learned was how much food they ate in a typical day. Over 4,500 Midshipmen consume more than two tons of meat, a ton of green vegetables, 1,200 loaves of bread, 1,000 gallons of milk, 700 pies and about 300 gallons of ice cream A DAY!
We also saw the Main Chapel holding both Catholic and Protestant services which are open to the public. Some of its beautiful stained glass windows were designed by Tiffany. Below the Chapel you’ll see the Crypt of John Paul Jones, Revolutionary War naval hero and learn his story.
In Lejeune Physical Education Center you’ll learn about Navy’s impressive athletic history boasting many famous athletes like Roger Staubach and David Robinson. Even more impressive are the incredibly rigorous current physical educations requirements for graduation. Suffice to say the Brigade is fit!
By far my favorite building on the Yard is the massive Buchanan House finished in 1906. It serves as the home of the Academy’s Superintendent (equivalent of a college president) always a Navy admiral, currently Vice Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr. The 34-room, four-story mansion is about 15,000 square feet. It is the second most visited Department of Defense residence after the White House. Over 100 events are held annually hosting anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 guests. I’d sure love to be one of them!