1. Learn about cadet life
Have you ever wondered what a military cadet does day-to-day and how it differs from a traditional college? You’ve come to the right place! Many of the Academy’s cadet areas, including the dorms, training centers, and academic buildings are closed to the public due to safety and security reasons. Fortunately, the Visitor Center features several life-sized exhibits!
Here, you can peek into a typical cadet dorm room in impeccable inspection condition, with a military bed so pristine you can bounce a coin off the mattress! Ordinarily, two cadets share a room with each having a twin-size bed, large closet, dresser, and desk. Take notice how there is a proper place for everything in the room.
Next, glimpse the array of cadet uniforms and learn about their rich legacy. The stylish cadet wardrobe was designed in the 1950s by Hollywood movie director Cecil B. DeMille, with a distinctive nod towards aviation and a touch of mid-century flair. The parade dress uniform of blue-grey jacket, white trousers, gold waist sash, and white peaked hat is still worn today, though newly-minted Space Force officers now sport a platinum sash during graduation.
Don’t miss the impressive display of the Cadet Wing’s 40 squadron patches. Each insignia makes a strong statement about the personality of the group and its traditions. Marvel fans will probably favor Squadron 20’s patch which features the Hulk while Star Wars fans will appreciate the X-wing on Squadron 39’s insignia. Can you spot any other famous characters?
2. Catch a quick flick about the Academy experience
Young men and women come to the Academy for an exceptional education and a one-of-a-kind experience. Our free film, A Year in the Blue, gives an in-depth look at what it takes to meet the demands of life at the Air Force Academy and to earn a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force and Space Force.
Sit back and relax in our comfortable 250-person movie theater and enjoy the 21-minute glimpse into the intense academic, military, and athletic experieances that define cadet life. This inspiring documentary follows the cadets of Squadron ‘Tiger Ten,’ as they experience the rigors of Basic Cadet Training, the challenges of the academic year, and the gravity-defying experience of soaring through the sky in glider planes. Watch as young ‘four-degrees’ (freshmen) transform from civilians into full-fledged members of the Cadet Wing.
Shows begin on the hour and half-hour. We recommend you arrive 10 minutes early, as our pre-show is blast!
3. Check out the Cadet Chapel exhibit
The stunning Cadet Chapel is currently closed for repairs and is encased inside of an enormous box to allow construction crews to work year-round. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, its strikingly iconic aesthetic makes it the most visited man-made tourist attraction in Colorado. Designed by Walter A. Netsch Jr. and originally constructed in 1962, the Chapel is shaped like a tetrahedron and features 17 aluminum and glass spires soaring 150 feet into the sky.
Did you know that the famed Frank Lloyd Wright almost designed the Cadet Chapel? When his team of architects lost the government contract in 1955, Wright chimed in with the Chapel’s sea of critics, calling it “a glassified box on stilts.” Despite the initial controversy of its unique design and use of non-traditional building materials, it is a masterpiece of modernist architecture.
While the Chapel is hidden from view, we invite you to check out the beautiful model of this architectural gem. Located directly under the nose of the yellow glider in the Visitor Center, it is an impressive 1:45 scale model of the original.
4. Grab some exclusive souvenirs to take home
The Visitor Center gift shop features many items you can’t find online. Whether you’re looking for hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, mugs, magnets, or more, we have an impressive variety of Air Force Academy souvenirs and memorabilia to satisfy everyone on your list.
Are you an Air Force Falcons sports fanatic? Start here for all your gear. The gift shop boasts an unparalleled selection of branded apparel for men, women, and kids so you can represent your favorite Falcon sports team with pride. All gift shop proceeds go towards Air Force Athletics to support our incredible cadet athletes.
For gift shop related questions, call 719-333-1300. If you are looking to purchase tickets to sporting events at the Academy, call 719-472-1895 or visit www.goairforcefalcons.com.
5. Chow down with a leisurely picnic
There is no denying the rugged beauty of our Colorado campus! Take advantage of the panoramic views at the Visitor Center’s indoor and outdoor eating areas. Whether you choose to bring sandwiches from home or get a grab-and-go lunch from our variety of dining options, our location can’t be beat.
For indoor seating that you can enjoy year-round, simply walk through the gift shop entrance and take the ramp located in front of the cash register, towards the window views of the mountains. If you prefer to eat at the outdoor patio, it is conveniently located to the left of the entrance. You cannot beat the experience of dining at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, with an average of 300 days of sunshine each year!
6. Enjoy a nature walk to the Cadet Area
Located to the right of the Visitor Center entrance is the trailhead for the Chapel Trail. This 1/3-mile paved nature trail leads to the Cadet Chapel, Honor Court, Polaris Hall, and the main cadet viewing area. It offers sweeping mountain views and several benches to enjoy the scenery throughout. The 14-foot-tall falcon sculpture at the beginning of the trail is made of bronze and weighs 350 pounds.
Experience Colorado’s fresh air and abundant nature on this short, but challenging hike. For those not acclimated to the altitude, please take ample breaks and drink water. Visitors with limited mobility may need extra assistance on this trail, or opt to get to the cadet viewing area by driving. There is ample free parking available next to the Planetarium, located at 2302 Cadet Drive.
7. Leave the planning to us
Not sure where to start your adventure? Explore our online self-guided tour or drop by the information desk so that our knowledgeable staff can help you make the most of your visit, including the most current information on airplane fly-overs, noon-meal lunch formations, or any major events occurring on base.
We also offer a kid-friendly scavenger hunt activity that is fun for all ages. Check out our top Instagram-worthy spots, while looking for hidden sightseeing gems throughout the campus. If you’re up for the challenge, instructions are available at the information desk.