Sights & Activities

War History, with a Workout, at The Pentagon in Washington, DC

April 25, 2014

Photo courtesy of mindfrieze on Flickr Creative Commons

ARLINGTON, VA – The nerve center of our nation’s military, The Pentagon has long been synonymous with the U.S. Department of Defense. This iconic building just outside of Washington, DC, is where delicate military operations are coordinated, wars are strategized, and matters of national security are paramount. Back in the Cold War, it was considered “ground zero” for a Russian nuclear attack, and on 9/11, it sustained damage when a hijacked flight hit the building.

Kind of a somber place to take a tour in, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, the tours are serious business and run with absolute military precision. Getting in requires jumping through considerable security hoops: You must fill out a security roster at least three days in advance of your scheduled date and bring two forms of photo ID as well as your confirmation letter to check in. Once inside, you won’t be able to deviate from the tour script whatsoever−that means no dawdling or stopping to admire anything not on the program.

On the other hand, there’s a little bit of fun and levity in the mix. First off, it’s an honest-to-goodness workplace, so it’s not at all unusual to cross paths with actual Pentagon staff going about their business. It’s entertaining to look in on the activity of a working building, especially one as important as this. Don’t be surprised if you’re pushed out of the way of an employee in a rush! And secondly, given that the building itself is gargantuan (it has more than twice the floor space of the Empire State Building in New York), the tour is actually a great way to stretch your legs.

That’s right, you might want to bring a pedometer along because it’s an hour-long walking tour that covers one-and-a-half miles. The tours move at a steady clip, so this wouldn’t be a good trip for anyone with mobility issues (although there may be scooters available for the tour–inquire when making the reservation). The tour is, however, wheelchair accessible.

As you prance along, there’s a lot to take in. You’ll get a glimpse into the workings of the five US military branches. With 23,000 employees, the sheer vastness of this operation is truly astounding; it’s like its own mini-city with shopping, dining, a gym, and more all on the grounds. One interesting bit of trivia: there’s a cluster of stores inside dedicated to selling expensive jewelry, chocolates, flowers, leather handbags, and the like. This is known as “Bad Husband Row.” See, not all serious, right?

On a more solemn note, however, two of the absolute highlights include the National 9/11 Memorial and the Hall of Heroes. The 9/11 memorial room and chapel space were built to pay respects to those who perished in the terrorist events of that day. Also historically notable, the Hall of Heroes is the place to view all the names of all those who’ve received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration. These two special areas provide a keen reminder of the gravity of The Pentagon’s business.

So when you wear out those walking shoes on the tour, remember whose footsteps you’re treading in!

Read more about The Pentagon in our Washington, DC Guide.

The Pentagon

1400 Defense Pentagon
Arlington, VA
(1) 703-697-1776

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