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Consider beauty at Air Force Academy

Posted 1/30/2012   Updated 3/20/2012 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Steven M. Przyzycki
Air Force Academy Band

1/30/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Today's economy, coupled with post-holiday bills, may limit opportunities for those on a fixed budget, but the Air Force Academy attracts thousands of tourists from around the world year round, but is often overlooked because it is in our own backyard. Best of all, this attraction offers a variety of activities suitable for the whole family and the admission is free.

The U.S. Air Force Academy is the youngest of the five service academies and is the nation's premier institution for producing leaders of character. Its mission is to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.

Even if you have already visited the Academy, a return trip offers the opportunity to view the many wonders it offers. Recent testimonials posted by patrons on travel websites:

- "One of America's Gems: The campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy is unbelievable ... the views are incredible."

- "At 7,500 feet, the air is crisp and clean, and the deepest blue skies anywhere. The architecture is spectacular. The history and beauty makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and makes me proud to be an American. I applaud our brave men and women of the U.S. Air Force Academy."

- "Awe-inspiring! The U.S. Air Force Academy should be on the top 10 list of 'must visits.' It's touching to see our young men and women on their campus-they are so earnest. The chapel is beautiful, as is the hike up to the Visitor Center."

- "This is a place that I could visit over and over again and still could not get tired of being there."

The Academy is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. All visitors must enter through the North Gate entrance, accessed from Exit 156B on Interstate 25.

The Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center serves as the gateway to the Academy, providing information on its history and cadet life to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The center was built with donated and borrowed funds totaling $4.5 million. The private organizations that donated the building to the Air Force named it in honor of retired Arizona Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, an avid supporter of the Academy.

The facility, which opened its doors in June 1986, has 31,600 square feet of exhibits, a snack bar and a gift shop. The exhibit area features displays on history and cadet life with specially-designed exhibits to explain the Academy's four Pillars of Excellence: character development, and academic, athletic and military training.

Also featured at the Visitor Center is a 13-minute movie that highlights the Academy experience and is shown throughout the day. A one-third-mile paved nature trail east of the facility allows visitors to walk to the Cadet Chapel.

The Cadet Chapel's unique architecture has made it the most photographed building in the state of Colorado. The 17 spires on the roof of this structure project 150 feet into the sky. Visitors can tour the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist worship areas within the chapel. Check out the Cadet Chapel webpage for services and tour information at http://www.usafa.edu/superintendent/hc/ or call 719-333-2636 or 333-3818.

Arnold Hall contains several military and Academy exhibits, a small food court and an auditorium for special events or official functions.

The Honor Court is located between the Chapel and Arnold Hall and contains bronze statues and aircraft memorials from various groups.

On Mondays and Fridays during the academic year, visitors may observe the Cadet Wing marching to lunch in the noon meal formation. In August and September, the Air Force Academy Band provides musical accompaniment. Noon meal formations are subject to cancellation without notice.Visitors may view the formation from the Honor Court wall or the wall surrounding the Cadet Chapel that overlooks the Terrazzo.

The Athletic Field and Falcon Athletic Center sit a short drive away from the Visitor Center. The field house has an indoor athletic field, ice rink, the Clune Arena basketball court and a snack bar. The athletic center is located next to the field house, and holds the Athletic Ticket Office where visitors can purchase tickets to any of the Division I intercollegiate home events and the Athletic Hall of Excellence.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 800-666-8723 or visit the website at www.goairforcefalcons.com.

Self-guided tour maps and information on the academy are available at the information desk.

As a courtesy to visitors, wheelchairs are provided for use within the Visitor Center, however, they cannot be taken out of the facility. The paved nature trail is a strenuous walk with a variety of hills, and the walk from the Cadet Chapel to the Visitor Center is mostly uphill with steep grades in some areas. People with limited mobility should bring a wheelchair to help them get to and from the Chapel.

Visitors may also park in the Arnold Hall parking lot to reach the Cadet Chapel. This is still about a one-third-mile walk but with a more natural grade.

The next time you're looking for something to do with the family that will not put a dent in your wallet, be sure to check out your Air Force Academy. Any time of year, it promises a good time for the whole family, all at a price you just cannot beat.

2/5/2012 11:50:52 AM ET
The US Air Force Academy is indeed one of the beautiful places in this country. It was an honor and a privilege to to see how the best and the brightest are trained to be come leaders of the our great country.
Ron Krosnar, Harrisburg PA
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