The corridors of the building are chock-full of smaller exhibits that you’ll pass as you stride along behind your agile guide. The corridor exhibits typically showcase various aspects of military life and history. Some highlight U.S. military cooperation with the militaries of other countries. One example is the Australia, New Zealand, and United States (ANZUS) corridor, which focuses on U.S. military cooperation and security friendship.
Corridor exhibits change routinely, but you’ll generally come across exhibits associated with a particular service branch (Air Force, Coast Guard, etc.) or more broadly with the Office of the Secretary of Defense or Joint Chiefs of Staff. A sprinkling of these might include subject matter ranging from the Buffalo Soldiers to important career civil servants, defense humanitarian relief, the Korean War 60th anniversary, or the last-known veterans of World War I, Army flags and streamers, Air Force art, or presidents in naval service.
To take a tour, you must book reservations between 90 and 14 days in advance of the tour date. U.S. citizens can reserve a tour online (https://pentagontours.osd.mil/Tours/tour-selection.jsp) or by contacting their congressional or Senate representative. Foreign residents must contact their embassy to reserve a tour.
You’ll hear bits about each of these as well as other pieces of information about life and work in the Pentagon from your guides. They know the subjects well, having had to pass stringent tests, including memorizing 33 pages of information verbatim. All volunteers, the guides come from military units across the National Capital Region like the Army’s “Old Guard” 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. They give tours to the general public, corporate and veterans groups, or high-strung school children. They also take celebrities and dignitaries through the Pentagon, from the stars of TV’s Duck Dynasty to the prime minister of Australia.
They literally keep it moving, walking the group through the exhibit spaces (with an occasional pause) throughout the tour. The motion makes for an efficient tour and aligns with the tour mechanics visitors should know beforehand.
The Practicalities of a Pentagon Tour
Every tour starts well in advance of actually showing up at the Pentagon. To take a tour, you must book reservations between 90 and 14 days in advance of the tour date. U.S. citizens can reserve a tour online (https://pentagontours.osd.mil/Tours/tour-selection.jsp) or by contacting their congressional or Senate representative. Foreign residents must contact their embassy to reserve a tour.
If you’re booking a group, keep in mind that group size cannot exceed 60 people. Tours are free and conducted Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tours are not given on weekends or federal holidays.
When you submit your reservation request, you’ll have to provide information and identification. The name of the group, the number of persons in it, the date and time the tour is requested, and the name and phone number of the person requesting the tour will be required.
For visitors 18 and over, one form of current I.D. with photograph is necessary. Acceptable types of identification include:
- U.S. Passport
- U.S. Passport Card
- Driver’s license or identification card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States, provided it contains a photograph and meets the REAL ID standards
- Identification card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies, provided it contains a photograph
- U.S. government Personal Identity Verification (PIV)/Common Access Card (CAC)
- DOD-affiliated identification cards (retirees, dependents, and inactive reservists)
- Native American tribal document
- U.S. Border Crossing Card
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-551)
- Foreign passport with a temporary (I-551) stamp or temporary (I-551) printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa
- Foreign passport
If a visitor is 17 years of age or under, no identification is necessary when accompanied by an adult with a DOD building pass or one of the above forms of identification.
Getting to the Pentagon is possible either by car or mass transit. The latter is most convenient, because there is no public parking at the Pentagon. Taking the Washington, D.C. Metrorail to the Pentagon Metro Station – via either the blue or yellow lines – is relatively straightforward. The security check-in for Pentagon Tours is adjacent to the Metro station exit at the Pentagon Visitor Center. Bus lines service the Pentagon as well, dropping passengers in the vicinity of the Metro station/Visitor Center.
By car, you’ll need to drive to Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, D.C., and just to the south of Arlington National Cemetery. Visitors can park at the Pentagon City Mall and walk approximately 10-15 minutes to the entrance through a pedestrian tunnel. The area can be confusing, so it’s wise to allot plenty of time to find your way to the Visitor Center.