[Updated for 2023]
The Yard is stunning throughout the seasons. The fall ushers in crisp air and parade calls. Spring showcases new buds and the cheers of spring sports. Summer brings new plebes and our milestone Induction day. But the winter is still and quiet. It’s a time to reflect and see the Yard, and its architecture, in steep relief. It’s also a time when things can seem a bit quieter, although there is always activity just inside the doors.
The Academy takes on a breathtaking quality in winter. The crowds have dissipated, the leaves have blown away, and the trees cut silhouettes against an Annapolis sky. Days shorten and the nights lengthen. The lights of the buildings beckon, and when you are outside taking it all in, there’s a magical beauty to this place.
Take a Winter Walk with USNA Tours
If you’re looking for things to do in the post-holiday time, try a winter getaway—there are so many wonderful Annapolis attractions and USNA events to see, and you must visit the Naval Academy. Bundle up and join one of the regular 90-minute public historical walking tours that depart from the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center throughout the day seven days a week, or schedule a private walking tour of your own. There are many to choose. For group tours try our popular Anchors Aweigh Music Tour, USNA Tour and Tea, or Navy Way Boot Camp for the kids. Tours feature fascinating history, behind-the-scenes midshipmen places and stories, and more. It’s also a great time to take any Navy hopefuls on an admissions tour so they know the ropes as they prepare to apply!
Take a Winter Ride
If you’d like to see even more of the Yard, you can charter your own land cruise ahead of time with a GEM tour, where you’ll ride aboard a comfortable five-passenger electric vehicle. These tours can take up to 20 people on a 75-minute excursion, hitting all the “gems” of the Naval Academy. With wheels, you can cover more ground in a short amount of time and really get a feel for the Yard. Each tour is different. GEM tours begin at the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, and take you to:
First Stop: Bill the Goat at USNA Gate 1
Navy Bill, also known as the Goat Mascot, is a sculpture depicting Bill the Goat, the United States Naval Academy's mascot, a billy goat. Designed by Clemente Spampinato in 1956, it was presented to the Academy in 1957 and stood inside Gate 1 until 2010. After a five-year refurbishment sponsored by the Class of 1965, the statue returned to Gate 1, and a second statue commissioned by the same class was placed in the north end zone of Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on June 9, 2015, with a rededication on October 24, 2015.
Second Stop: Bancroft Hall, Memorial Hall and Tamanend
You will view Bancroft Hall, a dormitory (and small city) that houses all 4,400+ midshipmen and ranks among the largest dormitories in the world. It is the highlight of many Annapolis tours. Make sure to take time to build into your visit (after the tour concludes) Memorial Hall, located inside Bancroft Hall, and pay your respects to those that have lost their lives in service to our country. In the courtyard, you’ll find the impressive Tamanend, a replica of the original wooden USS Delaware figurehead modeled after Chief Tamanend of the Delaware tribe. This icon now plays a role granting luck to midshipmen. He is referred to as the God of 2.0. The midshipmen need to maintain a 2.0 GPA, and will throw pennies as tribute to help them when studying for exams or to win on the gridiron.
Third Stop: The USNA Chapel, the Crypt of John Paul Jones and the Zimmerman Bandstand
The USNA Chapel is an incredible architectural gem not to be missed. You’ll view the Chapel entrance. Take time to go inside after the tour to see the stained glass, pipe organ, and brilliant blue aisle, culminating with the famous Tiffany stained glass windows behind the altar. The organ features over 15,688 pipes that fill the space with glorious, goosebump-inducing music. Under the Chapel is the final resting place of John Paul Jones, the first American Navy war hero. Outside, across from the Chapel, you can enjoy the famous Zimmerman Bandstand named for Charles Zimmerman, the bandmaster who composed the USNA fight song “Anchors Aweigh.”
You’ll likely fit in even more stops on your 75-minute tour. There is so much to explore at the Naval Academy. It boasts over thirteen miles of roads and fifteen miles of walkways.
When you’re hungry, you can enjoy any one of our dining experiences, from our two 1845 Coffee locations that are stocked with sweets, snacks, and beverages, to our Naval Academy Club, featuring fresh local cuisine in a modern maritime club atmosphere. To get the full Yard experience, you need to come here and rub elbows with the locals!
Don’t Forget the Visitor Center
The Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center is especially nice in the winter, when there are fewer people and you can really spend time taking in the “Day in the Life of a Midshipman” videos, The Call to Serve movie, colorful football posters from throughout the years, iconic photographs, historic Navy paraphernalia, and much more. The USNA Gift Shop, located at the Visitor Center, has unique and exclusive souvenirs and gifts for everyone in your group.
With over 175 years of history, the Naval Academy is full of fascinating places to discover, and winter is the perfect time to experience all of it. We are thrilled to take you on one of our official USNA Tours so you can walk in the footsteps (or drive the pathways) of the midshipmen and see what it’s like to be a part of this incredible tradition. Your tours give back to the midshipmen, as they help fund extracurricular activities like cultural arts, music, theater, club sports, and more. Come see us on the Yard and book your tour today!