Here in Annapolis, the “Yard” is the stately campus of the United States Naval Academy, where future officers are educated for the Navy and Marine Corps. Naval Academy students are midshipmen on active duty in the U.S. Navy, attending the Academy for four years and graduating with college degrees and commissions as officers.
The student body is called the Brigade of Midshipmen. Perhaps you've seen these young midshipmen in their starched uniforms walking around downtown Annapolis. Maybe you’ve heard the chants, “Go Navy, Beat Army.” Your visit to Annapolis is a great time to learn more about this outstanding institution and to take in its cultural traditions.
Tour the Yard
Nestled in the heart of historic Annapolis, the Academy campus is filled with wonderful opportunities for visitors. A guided tour is a terrific way to start.
Stop by the Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center just inside Gate 1 near the Annapolis City Dock. Chat with a Visitor Center information specialist; view the 13-minute film, The Call to Serve; and take a walking tour of the campus with a professional guide.
Enjoy the natural lush beauty of the Yard, learn some naval history and, if you’re lucky, witness firsthand noon military formation—an impressive display of midshipmen that happens, weather and schedule permitting, weekdays during the academic year and Monday through Saturday during Plebe Summer. Afterward, grab a casual bite at the Drydock restaurant in historic Dahlgren Hall or at the Naval Academy Club, which is open to the public for weekday lunch.
An Afternoon at the Museum
The Naval Academy Museum in the Yard’s Preble Hall houses fascinating exhibits about the history of sea power and the Navy. The first floor presents the history of the Navy and the Academy. On the second floor, find an unforgettable collection of detailed antique ship models crafted with remarkable precision. The exhibit includes the bone ships—models carved from bone by prisoners during the Napoleonic era. The museum is free and open daily to the public.
Throughout the Yard, tree-shaded monuments commemorate heroism while inspiring some quirky Brigade traditions. The Herndon Monument is a 21-foot tall granite obelisk that the upper-classmen traditionally grease up for the first-year students, or “plebes”, to climb at the end of plebe year. This “plebes-no-more” ritual is a timed display of teamwork and leadership that can last for hours. The climb culminates with replacement of the “Dixie cup” sailor-style hat at the top with a “combination cover” traditionally worn after plebe year.
The Tecumseh Monument graces the front of Bancroft Hall, where passing midshipmen give pennies and left-handed salutes in return for passing grades and sports wins. Tecumseh is routinely coated in war paint and dressed in various themes during football season and Commissioning Week. Look for other monuments throughout the Yard, all with long histories and quirky Brigade traditions.
Major events in the life of a USNA Midshipman are celebrated in style. These include Induction Day, Plebe Summer, Parent Weekends, and the culmination, Commissioning Week. Commissioning Week brings the Blue Angels air show to Annapolis, a huge must-see event that has the locals and Naval Academy personnel playing hooky to watch it.
The Yard is surrounded by an impressive stone wall. Just so you know, all visitors to the Naval Academy who are 18 and older must show one* forms of government-issued picture ID**, and bags and backpacks may be searched. Civilians may not drive cars onto the grounds. Visitors can walk through the Visitor Access Center just inside Gate 1 at the corner of King George and Randall Streets near Annapolis City Dock. You can also sometimes enter through Gate 3 at the end of Maryland Avenue.
*Visitors from the states of Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Washington, or American Samoa are required to present a second photo ID.
**Acceptable forms of identification are as follow: U.S. Government photo ID, passport, credit card with photo, student ID (not expired nor photocopied).
Want to Become a Midshipman?
You don’t need an appointment to attend the daily one-hour Admissions Office briefings for an informative talk given by a Navy or Marine Corps officer. And be sure to stop by the gift shop for your official Navy gear, where sales of tours and merchandise benefit Brigade activities.
Students can apply to attend the Summer Seminar, a six-day experience for rising high school seniors interested in pursuing a service academy appointment. If you’re a little younger and like engineering, the summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program may be for you. Educators can also apply for a four-day visit to the Academy designed to encourage teachers to return to their communities and mentor students to become future midshipmen.
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