Academy welcomes tourists, visitors

  • Published
  • By Ray Bowden
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
The Academy might be home to more than 4,000 cadets and nearly 2,000 active duty Airmen, but those numbers are vastly outweighed by the number of visitors the installation hosts each year.

"We want everyone to know that this is their Academy and that we're definitely open for business," said David Cannon, the Academy communications director. "In fact, we host more than 400,000 visitors on an annual basis. Simply put, the Academy is open to virtually everyone ... for free."

Visitors are welcome to see the Academy's tourist sites 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., seven days a week, Cannon said.

"They just need to enter the base through the North Gate and understand that all vehicles - including those driven every day by our Airmen here - are subject to search at any time," he said.
Master Sgt. Jason Holland, 10th Security Forces Squadron, said visitors are not allowed to bring weapons of any type, including handguns and rifles, onto the installation.

"The only personnel who can bring weapons onto the installation are other law enforcement officials performing official duties," Holland said. "And, we don't store weapons for visitors so they should leave them at home (or in their hotel rooms). Academy Airmen living in base housing who enter the installation with rifles or handguns must go directly to their home once they leave the gate. Airmen living in the base dormitories cannot keep any weapon in their room, including pellet or BB guns."

Visitors are also prohibited from possessing any form or amount of marijuana here.

"Marijuana is still illegal on all federal installations, so visitors cannot bring any amount of marijuana onto the Academy, regardless of whether or not they have a prescription or a medical marijuana card," Holland said. "Any military dependent or Defense Department-affiliated person who attempts to bring marijuana onto the Academy could be subject to debarment."
Holland said he'd like to remind visitors to have their ID card ready and know where their vehicle's trunk-latch is before reaching the North Gate.

"This will help speed their entry onto the installation," he said.

One family said the Academy was easily accessible and a pleasure to visit.

"We had to wait a little in traffic, but once we got to the North Gate, it took (the 10th SFS airman at the gate) all of 30 seconds to let us through," C.J. Harris said. "They asked for my drivers license and how many people I had with me."

Harris' family of nine is from the Poughkeepsie, Idaho, area and Colorado Springs; they're not affiliated with the Academy in any way except their deep-seated "love of football," Harris said.

"We're here today because we love the Academy and what it stands for, so it's great to be able to see it on a nice day like today," he said.

Academy attractions

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

While the Cadet Chapel is the state's No. 1 manmade tourist attraction, not to mention its most regularly photographed building, there are a variety of other attractions visitors can enjoy here, including the Honor Court, numerous hiking trails and the Barry M. Goldwater Visitor Center.

The Academy is open to visitors 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. All visitors must enter through the North Gate entrance, accessed from Exit 156 on I-25. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Cadet Chapel is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. Sundays. The Chapel may close during normal visitor hours for weddings, funerals and memorial services. Both facilities are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. The Visitor Center is also closed Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

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 gift shop. The exhibit area features displays on history and cadet life with specially-designed exhibits explaining the Academy's four Pillars of Excellence: character development, academic, athletic and military training.

Also featured at the Visitor Center is a 21-minute movie shown throughout the day highlighting the Academy experience. 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 or call 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 Harmon Hall and contains bronze statues and aircraft memorials from various groups.

During the academic year, visitors may observe the Cadet Wing marching to lunch in the noon meal formation, Mon. - Fri. 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 overlooking the Terrazzo.

The Athletic Field House 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.

Call 1-800-666-8723 or visit to purchase tickets or for more athletic information.

Self-guided tour maps and information on the Academy are available at the information desk in the Visitor Center.

Disabled Access

Wheelchairs are provided for use within the Visitor Center, however, they cannot be taken out of the facility. The paved nature trail to the Cadet Chapel is uphill with some steep grades. Those with limited mobility should bring a wheelchair to help them get to and from the Chapel. Visitors may park in the Arnold Hall parking lot to reach the Cadet Chapel, about a one-third-mile walk but with a more natural grade.