The Pentagon, the headquarters of the Department of Defense, is one of the world's largest office buildings with about 6,500,000 sq ft. providing office space and amenities for more than 23,000 employees, both military and civilian. The building has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and a total of 17.5 miles of corridors. Guided tours are given by military personnel and are available by reservation only. Pentagon tours last for approximately one hour and provide an overview of the mission of the Department of Defense and the four branches of the military: Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps.
The outdoor Pentagon Memorial that commemorates the 9/11 attacks is open to the public with no reservations required. It is not included in the guided tour.
Arranging a Tour
To take a guided tour of the Pentagon, you must make a reservation in advance. Tours are conducted Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm and Fridays between 12 pm and 4 pm. Reservations must be booked from 14 to 90 days in advance. U.S. citizens can reserve a tour online, but foreign residents must contact their embassy to reserve a tour. All visitors must pass through a security scanning device and no photography will be allowed on the tour. You must arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled tour and bring along your confirmed reservation letter and photo identification.
Getting to the Pentagon
The Pentagon is located off of I-395 on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. The best way to get to the Pentagon is by Metrorail and the Visitor Center is located next to the Pentagon Metro Station.
There is no public parking at the Pentagon, but visitors may park at the Pentagon City Mall and walk to the entrance through a pedestrian tunnel. If you are not familiar with the area, it can be confusing, so be sure to leave plenty of time to find your way to the Visitor Center.
The tunnel is located across the street from Macy’s on the far side of the Reserved Parking Lot. Once through the tunnel, walk to the right until you see signs for the Metro Station and the Visitor Center. (When leaving, note that the tunnel is at the far end of parking Lane 7).
Major Points of Interest on the Pentagon Tour
The Pentagon is a building with a long and significant history with many points of interest you won't find anywhere else in Washington DC.
- The Hall of Heroes: includes the names of all the recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government.
- Overlord Embroidery: 34 tapestries created by Sandra Lawrence depict the story of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
- Faces of the Fallen Memorial: an exhibit features individual portraits in honor of the service men and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- POW-MIA Corridor: the exhibit recognizes United States military personnel taken as prisoners of war (POWs) or listed as missing in action (MIA).
- Soldiers and Signers of the Constitution Corridor: numerous paintings in this corridor commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and portray the founding fathers of our nation.
- 9/11 Memorial and Chapel: commemorates those killed in the terrorist attack at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The indoor memorial displays the names of the 184 victims. The chapel provides space for prayer and remembrance.
- 9/11 Memorial Quilts: project initiated by Jeannie Ammermann to honor those killed on September 11, 2001 evolved into a multi-quilt project that drew volunteer quilters from all parts of the U.S.
- Pentagon Center Courtyard: 5.5 acres of outdoor space in the interior of the building includes food concessions and casual seating areas.
As you get ready for your tour, here are some tips to make sure the experience goes as smoothly as possible and you get the most out of it.
- Although, the Pentagon recommends you arrive 15 minutes before your tour, plan to arrive 30 minutes early to allow time to go through security.
- The best time to take the tour is mid-day when transportation to the Pentagon is less congested.
- The tour includes walking a distance of about one and a half miles through the Pentagon corridors and staircases, so wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Be sure to visit the Pentagon Memorial after your guided tour of the Pentagon. It won't be included in your tour.
- Enjoy a casual lunch at the Pentagon City Mall before or after your tour. The mall has one of the nicest food courts in the area and more than 170 specialty shops.