by Kris Ankarlo

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WNEW) — Visiting Annapolis without stopping by the Naval Academy is like flying to Rome without walking through the Colosseum or passing through Cairo without so much as a glimpse at the Pyramids. Although, the Naval Academy doesn’t singularly define Annapolis, there’s no denying it’s central role to the city.

“In fact most people when they talk about the United States Naval Academy, they think that’s Annapolis,” says Mianna Jopp, manager of the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center.

Still though, there are some who pass through Annapolis without realizing that they are free to walk onto the campus and even take a tour. All you need is an ID to come through Gate 1.

“You don’t have to plan in advance,” says Jopp. “Our public walking tours are first come first served. So anybody who comes in if they don’t get this tour then in 15 minutes or a half hour they can take the next tour.”

In the visitor center you can watch a 13-minute film about the Academy, starting every fifteen minutes on the quarter-hour. After the film, the tour departs. It runs about an hour and fifteen minutes and cost $10 for adults.

“You can walk around the grounds, unfortunately there aren’t any signs telling you what you’re seeing,” says Jopp. “So taking the tour you learn about the history and the architecture of the Academy and the life of a midshipmen, and that’s what people really want to hear about. What do midshipmen do, how do they study, how do they live? And our guides can tell you that.”

The tour features Bancroft Hall, (which is the biggest or second biggest dormitory in the world, depending on who you talk to) Tecumseh Court, the Herndon Monument, the Chapel and the Crypt of John Paul Jones.

Jopp says June is the quietest month because the midshipmen are elsewhere. But, she says there’s a reason to visit all year long.

“It’s beautiful here in the winter when it snows, it’s beautiful in the summer we have a lot of trees and flowers,” Jopp says.

And if you haven’t been through in a couple of years, Jopp says it’s worth stopping by again to see the renovated museum.

“If you talk about the Smithsonian, in the same breath you can talk about the Naval Academy Museum. There’s naval history, there’s midshipmen history, there’s a wonderful collection of model ships. And when I say model ships, I mean the large ones that were used when the builders would go out in the 16th, 17th, 18th century to talk about selling a ship they would build an exact replica and that’s what these models are, absolutely amazing.”

There also some food options on the Academy grounds if you finish up your tour in a hungry state of mind. There’s the Drydock Restaurant in Dahlgren Hall, which is a cafeteria-style setup featuring sandwiches, salads and soups. If you’re looking to sit down, you can dine at the Naval Academy Club for lunch Monday-Friday.

And if you’re the type that struggles with itineraries…Jopp has you covered.

“My suggestion is that you do the whole package, come in see the movie take the tour have lunch and then go to the museum in the afternoon which is right across from the restaurant.”

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