The U.S. Air Force Academy
Established in 1955 at Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, the United States Air Force Academy moved to its permanent site in Colorado Springs in 1958. Its mission is to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the Air Force in service to the nation. The Academy is a free tourists destination, open to visitors 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Visitors can start their self-guided tour at the Barry Goldwater Visitor Center, a 31,600 square foot facility offering information and exhibits on Academy history and cadet life. Visitors can also view a 21-minute film on cadet life, which runs every half hour inside the visitor center theater, purchase souvenirs at the gift shop and dine at the snack bar. A 1/3-mile paved nature trail takes visitors from the Visitor Center to the Cadet Chapel, the most visited man-made tourist attraction in Colorado. The chapel's distinct architecture features 17 spires tha reach 150 feet toward the sky. Within the chapel are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist worship spaces, each with items of historical significance. From the Cadet Chapel, visitors can overlook the cadet area, designated a national historic landmark along with the chapel in 2004, and walk through the Honor Court, a display of bronze statues and aircraft memorials specific to the history of military flight. North of the Cadet Chapel sits Arnold Hall, where visitors can view military and Academy exhibits and dine at the food court. Between the Cadet Chapel and Arnold Hall is the Academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development. Scheduled to open in late 2015, the Center will serve as a venue to examine and conduct research on developing character and refining leadership for the Air Force and the nation. The Athletic Field House and Falcon Athletic Center is a short drive from the Visitor Center. Inside the Falcon Athletic Center, visitors can view the Athletic Hall of Excellence, offering a glimpse of the cadet athleticisim and spirit of competition that helps to mold future Air Force officers. Tickets to any of the Division I NCAA home events can be purchased at the ticket office located inside the Field House. The Air Force Academy is also rich in outdoor opportunities. Visitors are able to access the Santa Fe Trail that stretches along the Academy's eastern perimeter, as well as Eagle Peak, which stands approximately 2,000 feet above the cadet area. The Visitor Center and Cadet Chapel are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Sunays when the chapel is open to visitors 1-5 p.m. The chapel may close during normal visitor hours for weddings, funerals and memorial services. Both facilites are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. The Visitor Center is also closed Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The paved nature trail to the Cadet Chapel is uphill with some steep grades. Those with limited mobility should bring a wheelchair to help them get to and from the Chapel. To get to the Academy, take Exit 156 off of Interstate 25. For more information on the Air Force Academy, visit www.usafa.af.mil or call the Visitor Center at 719-333-2025.