Is there anything quite as exciting as a treasure hunt? The puzzle to piece together, the thrill of the chase, the excitement of the final find? This winter, if you’re looking for things to do in Annapolis, you can go on a treasure hunt at the U.S. Naval Academy. Sometimes, the best time to find these hidden treasures is when the leaves have been swept away and the crowds are smaller.
Find Some Best-Kept Secret Monuments and Relics
The Naval Academy boasts myriad monuments. You may have seen the more well-known ones, like Tecumseh 2.0—but you probably haven’t experienced the Macedonian Monument yet.
Commemorating a Resounding Victory
This larger-than-life tribute to the ship and crew of the USS United States celebrates the important win over the British frigate Macedonian in 1812. When the battle ended, the U.S. had killed 36 men and wounded 68, leaving 100 shots fired into the great ship’s hull. The monument to this victory proudly displays the figurehead of Alexander the Great surveying his domain. It, along with the four eighteen-pound cannons protecting its base, are original pieces from the conquered ship, and you can find the flag in Mahan Hall. This monument still looks out from its original position, a rarity for monuments on the Yard. As you walk around it, you can feel the enormous gravity of this event echoed in its commanding presence.
Showcasing a Mysterious Invention
Outside Dahlgren Hall, you’ll find a sizable “gun park” featuring guns and cannons brought to the Yard from various places. One of Rear Admiral Dahlgren’s most famous inventions resides here. Called the Dahlgren rifle, this cannon is thought to be an experimental model that has been mislabeled on the plaque. While it features the smoothbore form Dahlgren favored, it’s too small to be a real service shell gun. An investigation in the 1960s revealed that the bore had been plugged and someone had painted one of the digits on the side. See if you can find those clues!
Explore the USNA Museum
One of our favorite Annapolis things to do is wander through the USNA Museum. This space is full of priceless treasures collected over the history of the Navy itself. There’s a U.S. Navy Trophy Flag collection that boasts over 600 relics, bursting with both historic American and captured foreign flags. You can see the original “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag that inspired the Navy’s motto, the first American ensign flag which was flown in Japan in 1853 and the historic flags and banners that brought our mission all the way to the moon. The museum also features a rare and varied collection of books capturing these flags with beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations.
While you’re there, you can see real treasure too! Have fun gazing upon 1,210 beautiful commemorative coin-medals that have been brought together from thirty countries and date from 254 BC to 1936.
There are thousands of items to pique your interest, such as intricate ship models, authentic uniforms and captivating prints. This is just scratching the surface of the treasures you’ll uncover!
Scavenger Hunt! Find These Historical Objects
Now that your appetite is whetted, you can seek out some off-the-beaten-path bits of history hidden in plain view on the Yard. Here’s a fun scavenger hunt to help you locate some of these treasures:
Object 1: There is an inert SM-2 missile standing guard in one of the buildings on the Yard. It’s so big that the building’s 2002 renovations were designed around the object as a three-story showcase. See if you can find where this is!
Object 2: This Victorian-style ceiling is one of the few still existing on the Yard. If you go to the place where smoking was once encouraged, you can find it—along with the antique dolphin sconces lighting this now smokeless space.
Object 3: The “Figure of Hope” bronze gun turret ornament rests in this open space. It was collected from the USS Rhode Island and brought to the Yard in 1922.
Happy hunting! Let us know in the comments below, or on social media, when you’ve found them. For those still looking—don’t peek!
As you can see, you can spend weeks (or a lifetime, really) enjoying all the Yard has to offer. Come for a weekend and discover the incredible history and treasures lying in plain sight. Who knows, you might dig up some real family fun while you’re here too! Book one of our famous Annapolis Naval Academy tours or come dine with us to fuel up for the hunt. No matter what you do, you’re bound to create some treasured memories too.