Most hallways of the Pentagon have some sort of historic or current operations museum-type of exhibit. Many of the A-ring hallways are museums in and of themselves. Me being the type of person who likes to read each and every word of every display in a museum, it would take me a loooooooong time to get through all the Pentagon exhibits have to offer.
download a PDF of a self-guided tour from the Pentagon Tours website.
However, the official tour route doesn't go to a couple of spots I highly recommend like the Pentagon Building History (2nd corridor, 3rd floor) and the Army's Living History Exhibit (2nd floor, E-Ring between the 6th and 7th corridors). Because the Metro entrance is closed on the weekends, you have to bring your weekend visitors in through North Parking or through the 2nd Corridor entrance. As a result, I made my own tour-route, which I will list below for anybody else who is interested.
Before I describe the tour route, I want to tell you about two other things I did (and recommend doing) to prepare for a weekend tour.
First, go follow one of the official tour groups around on a weekday. You don't have to sign up or anything - you've got a Pentagon badge, just loiter at the back of the official tour group. The tour guides have a fairly set script they follow, but they have a LOT of interesting tidbits of information they use to keep people's interest as they walk their route, and they've put a lot of thought and effort into what sequence to cover what. You will get a lot of useful ideas of things to talk about with your tour group that you wouldn't get from just reading the PDF file Self-Guided Tour brochure.
Second, I made a scavenger hunt list of things for the five kids in my tour group to find. I told them they had to write down the first three digits of the nearest office address (like "3A5xx" for the 3rd floor A ring 5th corridor) for where they found each item, so I knew they really found it and didn't just cross it off the list.
Scavenger Hunt List
Aside: The hardest one for my group to find was a red lightning bolt. If you need help finding anything on the list, send me an email. There are at least two red lightning bolts, but they're very small and hidden in big paintings.
Since the Pentagon Gift Shop is also CLOSED on the weekends, I went to the gift shop ahead of time and got some little things like hats, magnets, stickers, or pins. When we finished with the D-Day paintings, I had them turn in their scavenger hunt sheets to me, and I gave them an oral quiz on some facts about the Pentagon to see what they had learned. In return for completing the scavenger hunt and passing "the quiz," I gave them each a "prize" (one of the things I had picked up in the Pentagon gift shop earlier that week). From there, we headed back to the 2nd corridor entrance to go back out to South Parking.
In order to help plan my route and to be able to find specific exhibits quickly, I made my own map of the exhibits in each hallway. I have NOT finished mapping it all yet, but I have all the A-ring hallways mapped plus a few of the interesting corridors and the Army Living History exhibit.
Click on image to enlarge.
Blunoz's Weekend Pentagon Tour Route
Given those constraints, I came up with my own tour path that went like this:
- Parked in South Parking, visited the Pentagon Memorial
- Enter 2nd Corridor Entrance (use restrooms there if necessary depending on how long your drive to the Pentagon was or how long you were at the Pentagon Memorial).
- Take elevator or stairs up to 3rd floor (remember - escalators are turned off on weekends)
- Pentagon Building History exhibit (3rd floor, 2nd corridor). I put together some notes to talk about the history of how the Pentagon got its shape and comparing its size to other things. I am happy to email you the powerpoint slides I made, just send me an email.
- At A-ring, turn right into NORAD hallway and go up escalator (walking up them like stairs) to 4th floor.
- USAF Aces exhibit (4th floor, A-ring between 1st and 10th corridor)
- USAF History and models (4th floor, A-ring between 9th and 8th corridor)
- U.S. Coast Guard history (4th floor, A-ring first half of hallway between 7th and 6th corridor)
- Naval Aviation history (4th floor, A-ring second half of hallway between 7th and 6th corridor)
- Down the stairs to 3rd floor. Here at the 5-6 Apex you can take a side excursion down the POW/MIA hallway (3rd floor, A-ring from 6th to 7th corridor) and then back again, or continue onward.
- MacArthur exhibit (3rd floor, A-ring between 5th and 4th corridor)
- Down the stairs to the 2nd floor.
- Soldier Signers of the Declaration of Independence (2nd floor, 4th corridor)
- Out at the E-Ring, take the stairs or elevator down to the 1st floor.
- 9-11 Memorial Chapel (end of 4th corridor on 1st floor)
- 9-11 Memorial Quilts (1st floor, 4th corridor) back to the A-ring then left into
- Eisenhower Exhibit (1st floor, A-ring from 4th to 5th corridor).
- Women in the Military exhibit (1st floor, A-ring from 6th to 7th corridor)
- Up the stairs to the 2nd floor.
- Go out the 7th corridor to the E-ring.
- Army Living History Exhibit (2nd floor, E-ring from 7th to 6th corridor)
- Continue along the E-ring past the 6th corridor to see something pretty cool. You can't miss it.
- Turn around, go back to the 6th corridor and out to the A-ring
- Disaster Relief Exhibit (2nd floor, A-ring from 6th to 7th corridor)
- ANZUS exhibit (2nd floor, A-ring from 8th to 9th corridor)
- Out the 10th corridor and make a U-turn to the left by the Hall of Heroes in order to see the D-Day Paintings in the ramp going up to the 3rd floor.
So you COULD take the route recommended in the Pentagon Self-Guided Tour brochure, and it would be shorter. You COULD take the route I developed and listed above that'll go to more of the exhibits. Or, you COULD make up your own route using my map up above.