Did you know you can take a tour of the Pentagon? You can! It takes a little legwork from you and some advance planning, but it’s absolutely doable if it’s on your list of things to do in Washington, D.C. My dad wanted to take a tour on his most recent trip to visit me, so we gave it a try! Here’s how to get a chance at a tour for yourself.
Know Before You Go
- Tours are FREE!
- You must request via the Pentagon’s website.
- Tours are available Monday-Thursday 10:00am-4:00pm; Friday Noon-4:00pm; not available on weekends or federal holidays.
- Tours are only available for groups of 60 people or fewer.
- The tour lasts about 45 minutes.
- Tours should be requested between 90 and 13 days in advance. Tours requested outside of this range will not be approved. And tours fill up, so waiting until 13 days before your trip is not a good idea!
- You must arrive 60 minutes before your scheduled tour time to get through security.
- You must Metro as there is no public parking at the Pentagon. Not sure about taking the Metro? Check out my post: DC’s Metro System: A Guide.
- No photography on the tour. I know, I was disappointed, too!
- In fact, you will have to turn off your phone before the tour begins.
- Purses are acceptable but subject to search.
- To apply you will need each visitor’s first and last name, date of birth, social security number, and current city and state of residence.
- The one exception to the photography rule is in the waiting area after you pass through security. There are a couple of photo-ops, a small exhibit on each branch of the military, and a gift shop to keep you occupied while you’re waiting for your tour! You will not be allowed back in this area after the tour, so make sure you get these photos and souvenirs before your tour!
9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Another thing you can do if you arrive early to your tour and are not allowed inside yet is to visit the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial around the back, where the plane hit. It’s very moving and meaningful. Just follow the signs.
1. Visit the Pentagon Website
This will give you the most up-to-date information and get you started on requesting your tour. This is also where you can request your tour. Unlike tours of several other government buildings, you cannot request this tour through your Congressperson.
2. Review the Tour Guidelines and Security Information
3. Click “Request a Tour” and Agree to the Terms of the Department of Defense
This message will pop up:
4. Enter Point of Contact (POC) Information
This message will come up telling you to continue after checking your e-mail. The e-mail will include an attachment outlining security measures. Please read it and the e-mail before clicking on the link to continue.
5. Enter Your Available Date Range and Group Size
Remember that the dates must be between 14-90 days, no more, no less.
6. Choose an Available Tour Time
If the dates you selected are available for tours, the tour times will show up here. I selected October 19-22, but only October 22 was available, and only three time slots on that day.
7. Review the Tour Guidelines and “Agree”
I know this is getting tiresome, but I highly recommend reading the guidelines each time they come up!
8. Enter Each Person’s Personal Information
You will have to enter each person’s information. The first will be the POC’s information, and you can select the box next to “attending the tour” to indicate whether or not the POC will be on the tour. On the next page you will be able to enter everyone else’s information. Be sure to have the following information on hand before you start the process:
- Full names
- Dates of birth
- Social Security Numbers
- Current City and State of Residence for each person
Only the POC needs to provide an e-mail address and phone number.
7. The Waiting Game
Like most other tours of government buildings, you’ll have to wait for your answer! You will be notified by e-mail between 1-14 days before your requested tour date. I know it’s hard to make plans when you don’t know about the tours you want, but my best advice is to plan as if the tour (or tours) will happen, and be pleasantly surprised with extra free time if one or more of your tours don’t happen.
8. Check Your Tour Status Update 2-3 Business Days Prior to Your Requested Tour Date
Our requested tour date was Monday, October 22. On Thursday, October 18, we got an e-mail stating that our status had been updated. The e-mail did not give a “yes” or “no” about our tour; we had to log in from a computer with our confirmation number (in the e-mail) and my e-mail address. It was a little confusing, but here is how you check your status update:
- Click the link in the e-mail.
- Click “Request a Tour.”
- Click “Check an Existing Tour.”
- Enter your confirmation number and e-mail address.
- Click “Submit,” and the next page will either show approval or disapporval.
9. Get Your ID in Order
Before you go to D.C., get your ID in order! You must show at least one form of photo identification for your Pentagon tour (and for many other tours in the D.C. area). Acceptable forms of ID are below:
- 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 PIV Card (CAC for DoD Personnel)
- 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 or I-551)
- Foreign passport with a temporary (I-551) stamp or temporary (I-551) printed notation on a machine readable immigrant visa
- Foreign passport
Visitors 17 years of age and under require no identification when accompanied by an adult with a DoD Building Pass or one of the above forms of identification.
10. Check the Pentagon Tours Operating Status Before You Go
The Pentagon is the Department of Defense first and foremost. Next it is an office building. Farther on down the list it is a place the American public can visit. Since tours are on the list but not a top priority, tours may be off the table at any time. They may also be cancelled due to weather in the winter. Check the status of your tour before you leave you accommodation for the day.
Our tour was excellent! Our guides were personable and put us at ease
- Your tour will be led by a handsomely uniformed member of the military’s Honor Guard. Mothers, hold on to your daughters!
- The exhibits on the walls are exceptional, but you will not have much time to look at them very closely. Ask questions if something catches your eye! There are scale models of airplanes, works of art, artifacts, and more.
- The history of the Pentagon is much more interesting than you might think! You’ll get some background at the beginning of your tour, and some of the facts might surprise you!
- The outdoor Pentagon Memorial is quite moving and very nicely done, but there is also a memorial inside, where the plane hit. Your guide will explain it all to you in detail, but more importantly he will invite you to sign a book and write some encouraging words for the survivors and the families of those who died in the Pentagon attack. Each day or so, the book of notes is uploaded as a PDF to be read online.
Want to know about more tours in D.C.? Check out my post all about D.C. Tours to Request in Advance!
Want more on D.C.? Check out my Washington, D.C. Page!
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