Monday, March 11, 2013

Keep It Local: U.S. Naval Academy

We've been to Annapolis plenty of times, but mom and dad had yet to take us to the U.S. Naval Academy. I think they sort of forgot about it, but on a nice day, it's a great place to visit -- tons of space to run around, random weaponry on which to climb, fancy buildings to check out, and it's all right along the water. There is a nice visitor center and a museum, but the real fun is roaming about the Academy grounds. Dogs are welcome too (although only service animals are allowed in buildings and ceremonial areas) -- back in the day they used to take Vegas, but they thought all of us might be a bit to handle for our first visit.

The weather this past Saturday was too ridiculous not to take a little Annapolis roadtrip, so we headed out around lunchtime and stopped at the popular Middleton Tavern for lunch, which is very close to the water (citydock) and is smack downtown in Annapolis. Kane was a little upset that we didn't go to Cantler's for lunch, which is usually where we go on our Annapolis trips. But after chowing some shrimp, oysters and crabcakes, he seemed to get over it (they have a good old regular kids menu, too).

The Academy is just about a 2 block walk from Middleton's and we got to steppin'. Despite having chowed a gigantic lunch, we were both a little whiney for the ice cream we'd been promised. The plan was to spend some time at walking off lunch and then head back downtown for ice cream from Storm Bros. Ice Cream Factory. But we aren't fans of delayed gratification. So instead we stopped in for a quick treat to the Drydock Restaurant located in Dahlgren Hall and open to the public (even if you aren't eating, Dahlgren Hall is a neat building to check out -- it used to house the Academy's ice rink).

Fueled by sugar we spent the next several hours booking it all over Academy grounds. Mom and I checked out a bit of the museum in Preble Hall (mostly because mom knew I'd love the Cinderellasness of the ballroom) and met up with the boys on the track field for some serious wrestling and racing. After running all around, I discovered while in the museum that I'd grown too big for my shoes. I kept taking them off to check and, back outside, finally decided to just leave them off. I raced like a mad woman in bare feetsies to the cheers of many hanging out around the field. It was pretty awesome.

We watched regatta team practice and even checked out some of the classrooms. Out plans were to check out the Chapel before heading back to our car (which we'd parked in one of the public parking lots right downtown by citydock), but I wasn't interested in putting my shoes back on or walking, so we just hit the bricks and headed out.

The U.S.N.A. visitor center is open every day of the week, except for certain holidays. You can check out the schedule here. Access to the grounds depends on what's going on -- we like weekends better, but you can watch noon formation during the academic year during the week. Anyone over 16 needs a photo ID to enter the Academy.

The Academy offers public walking tours and we saw a private tour led by a guide dressed in colonial attire that looked pretty awesome, too. If your kids are a little older and really into it, there are kid-friendly bootcamps for littles as young as 6. For additional visitor tips and ideas on Academy activities, click here.

One last thing -- the Academy is participating in the upcoming "Maryland Day Celebration" March 22nd - 24th and will have special activities for kids. You can check out what's going on by clicking here.

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