You Can Take a Tour of the Pentagon

By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

People hear about what’s happening behind closed doors at the Pentagon regularly, but few people actually get to experience the hustle and bustle that’s inside.

Did you know you can request a tour of the building?

Navy Seaman Shakeem Serville gives a guided Pentagon tour to USS Arizona survivors, July 17, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

The Pentagon tours program has been going strong since it started in May 1976. It was originally supposed to last only through the Fourth of July of that year as a way to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial, but between the internal support it got and the public demand for it, leaders decided to continue it indefinitely.

And it’s just as popular now as it was then. The Pentagon hosts about 106,000 visitors yearly. In 1996, it reached its 2 millionth visitor and broke an all-time annual visitors record. The next year, it broke that record again, shuttling nearly 150,000 visitors through its doors.

What do you get to see?

Will you get to see the mysterious, classified side of the Pentagon? Probably not. But you might run into a high-ranking official in the hallways, and who knows, you might even get to see Defense Secretary Jim Mattis!

The tour is about 90 minutes and goes along about 1.5 miles of the building’s many corridors.  Each tour covers 20 items of interest, including the DoD’s mission and that of each of its branches. It also covers several displays that highlight and depict significant moments in military history. You can see photos of many of those displays by clicking here.

Entertainers take a tour of the Pentagon before a USO Tour, April 20, 2018. DoD photo by Army Sgt. James K. McCann

Who’s giving the tours?

About 30 lucky service members from all branches of the military are chosen to give the tours. They’re all stationed in the Washington, D.C., area in military ceremonial units (like the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Division, aka, “The Old Guard”).

Before they can give the tours, though, they have to learn the do’s and don’ts of the job. Each tour guide has to complete a two-week training course and then do two more weeks of on-the-job training. They’ll do the job for one year before rotating back into their respective units.

Entertainers take a tour during a visit to the Pentagon before departing on the annual Vice Chairman’s USO Tour, April 20, 2018. DoD Photo by Army Sgt. James K. McCann

Fun facts

Did you know that the Pentagon is one of the world’s largest office buildings? It has three times the floor space of the Empire State Building in New York and covers about 34 acres of land. It’s a virtual city in itself, with about 26,000 military and civilian employees.

The place is buzzing with people daily, from uniformed service members and civilians to contractors and VIPs from all over the world.

You can find pretty much anything you would ever need there. Have an anniversary and need flowers or jewelry? You can hit up the florist and the jeweler. Need a prescription? Fill it up at the pharmacy. Can’t get to your regular dentist or optometrist? Swing by the dentist and vision center in the building. There’s also a gym, post office, hair salon, nail salon, a few banks, and even a DMV branch!

Even though the Pentagon is technically located in Arlington, Virginia, it has six zip codes assigned to it, and they’re all listed as Washington, DC.

How to Request a Tour

If you’re in the national capital region and want to check it out for yourself, request a tour by clicking here.  You can also read up on tour guidelines and security information.

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