I know why you’re here. You’re out walking circles around the shipping dock of a BestBuy and can’t for the life of you figure out HOW TO GET TO THE PENTAGON FOR YOUR TOUR, for the love of God. “Park at the Mall” they said. “There’ll be a tunnel” they said.
Well lucky for you, I’ve already gone through this hell and come out the other side. Which, indeed, was at the Pentagon through a pedestrian tunnel. But, of course, it’s not as simple as all that. Directions for the average Joe to access the world’s most top-secret and heavily-guarded spaces rarely are, I’m afraid.
When preparing for my recent Pentagon tour, I’d read they recommend you park at the Pentagon City Mall across the street and take the (what I thought would be blatantly obvious for some reason) pedestrian tunnel and voila! There would be the Pentagon! With a well-worn welcome mat and white wicker rocking chairs to boot. Turns out, the world is not the giant Cracker Barrel Old Country Store we all thought it was, despite the amount of useless crap we encounter on a daily basis.
I found the directions for how to get to the Pentagon for your tour to be… misleading and head-scratching at best. So to save you all sorts of time and frustration and an overwhelming fear of looking hella suspicious as you lurk outside the Pentagon walls, let’s get to it.
WHERE IS THE PENTAGON?
Oh, okay. So you’re at the very start of your Pentagon tour planning. In that case, I should point out that the Pentagon is actually not in Washington, D.C. at all. It’s in Arlington, Virginia.
Regardless, it’s just a short 5 to 10-minute drive from the Washington Monument, i.e. really damn close to everything you’re doing in Washington, D.C. anyway. Its address is: THE PENTAGON and, despite the massive protective wall, armed guards, and strict no photography policy, they’re happy to invite you in to take a tour!
If. you. can. find. it.
The Pentagon, headquarters for the Department of Defense that it is, is itself a master of disguise hiding in plain sight. You can be standing just across the street from it and STILL NOT SEE IT. They’ll invite you in, but approving your application is about as far as they’ll go in helping you achieve this. The rest is up to you, soldier tourist. It’s my firm belief that objective #1 in Basic Military Training is Find your way to the Pentagon Visitor Center, ya ninny!
Here’s where the Pentagon is:
HOW TO GET TO THE PENTAGON FOR YOUR TOUR… IF YOU’RE DRIVING
If you’re like me, you’re driving around Washington, D.C. in your own vehicle. It’s a perfectly commuter-friendly city so why the heck not? Therefore, you’ll also drive yourself to your Pentagon tour because you’ve got other things to see in Arlington later.
After getting approved, you’ll receive some information including, vaguely, how to arrive for your Pentagon tour. It will say: Sure, you can totally drive here! Well you can, and here’s how. But first, you should know…
WHERE TO PARK FOR THE PENTAGON
The Pentagon is SURROUNDED by parking space (bold, italics, all caps, and underlined for emphasis). But don’t you dare try to park there.
When taking a tour of the Pentagon, park in the “Pentagon City Parking Garage.” Its address is 891-895 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, VA and it’s the parking garage for the Pentagon City Mall also known as Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. But all you really need to know is “Pentagon City Parking Garage” because that’s how it is in Waze. Let’s not even pretend we know how to read maps anymore.
Parking in this garage you’ll pay a small hourly rate but it’s much more affordable than hiring a leading defense attorney when you get detained after trying to pull your car up to the Pentagon.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PARK AT PENTAGON CITY PARKING GARAGE?
- 0-2 hours: $3
- 2-3 hours: $4 — which is all you’ll really need for a Pentagon tour, max
- 3-4 hours: $5 — if you plan on eating lunch at the mall like I did
- 4-5 hours: $9
- 5-6 hours: $11
- 6-9 hours: $17
- 9-10 hours: $18 — if you are still so incredibly lost
- 10-24 hours: $20
- Maximum daily rate: $20 — if you’ve just completely given up and resigned to spend the night in your car
- Leading Defense Attorney: Powerball winnings + your first born
HOW TO WALK TO THE PENTAGON
After parking at the Pentagon City Parking Garage, if your Pentagon tour is the only thing on your agenda, exit the parking garage in the direction of Army Navy Drive (which is north if you’re one of the few people that sort of information is actually useful to). When you reach the sidewalk, you should have the entrance to the parking garage on your left, and Macy’s on your right.
Also on your left-hand side will be a street light and a crosswalk, cross the street here. Yes, towards what looks simply like a parking lot next to a concrete wall next to a highway. And, NO, you cannot park there instead.
After you cross two crosswalks, on your right-hand side you’ll see what appears to be a dark hole in the side of the concrete wall—that’s the Pentagon pedestrian tunnel. It looks sketchy as all get-out, I know, but most likely you’ll be the sketchiest person in there. For that’s the path to the Pentagon.
HOW TO GET TO THE PENTAGON VISITOR CENTER
Getting into the Pentagon compound is one thing. Finding the Pentagon Visitor Center is another. But don’t worry, I stopped everyone wearing a military uniform and everyone with a huge gun along the way to ask for directions so you don’t have to!
After you walk through the pedestrian tunnel, you’ll find yourself in an even-larger parking lot that you can’t even think about parking in. When the tunnel opens up you’ll be ushered into another walkway—continue down this path because there are literally no signs telling you where to go and you really don’t have any other options. Plus, knowing how out of place you must seem in a place like this is starting to make your pits sweat. It’s like they don’t want people just casually walking into the Pentagon off the street. Weird.
Walk down this pathway until you can’t walk any farther (because it dead ends at a short wall, behind which is another parking lot. With great military might comes a great need for parking, apparently.) Turn right here. Walk alllllll the way down until the sidewalk curves slightly left, then turn left to follow the sidewalk.
Continue straight down this path until the actual Pentagon is on your left. Eventually you’ll see a clear entrance into the building surrounded by, yes, uniformed members of the military with really large guns and a pleasant overhang protecting you from the elements. Before attempting to enter the Pentagon of your own volition, it’d be best to check in with one of these fellas/gals to further inquire where to head next.
I’d like the record to state that I DID NOT take the next three photos. These are screenshots from Google Maps, please don’t arrest me. I repeat: I DID NOT TAKE THESE PHOTOS. (You just know they’re listening…)
From this point on you’ll gloriously only have the option of going where you’re told to go. You did It! Mission accomplished! Look out, Tom Cruise! Outta my way, Liam Neeson! The name is Smith, Ashley Smith, and I’ve got a particular set of travel skills.
HOW TO GET TO THE PENTAGON FOR YOUR TOUR… BY METRO
If you’re fairly adept at using public transportation, how to get to the Pentagon for your tour may be a little easier by train. And if visiting the Pentagon is the only business you have to take care of in Arlington, this would be a great option for you. If, like me, you had plans to visit the Marine Corps War Memorial et al afterwards, you should probably just drive.
The Pentagon actually has its own stop on Washington’s Metrorail system via both the blue and yellow lines. And guess what? Exiting the Pentagon metro stop puts you virtually directly in front of the Pentagon Visitor Center. Is it really that easy? I dunno, will you inevitably be insulted by that infuriating peg game every time you dine at Cracker Barrel? (That’s a yes.)
If you’re traveling to the Pentagon from Washington, D.C., you’ll catch either a:
- Blue line train in the direction of “Franconia-Springfield” or
- Yellow line train in the direction of “Huntington”
- DC Metro rail map here.
Exit the train at the Pentagon Metro Station – not the Pentagon City Metro Station. If you get off at the Pentagon City Metro Station, you’ve gone too far—either hop back on in the opposite direction, or continue via the HOW TO WALK TO THE PENTAGON directions above.
Exit the Pentagon Metro Station and you’ll be just about face-to-face with the Pentagon Visitor Center and the heavies that guard it. (It’s the big blue M next to the word Pentagon in the animation above.)
HOW TO GET TO THE PENTAGON FOR YOUR TOUR… BY TAXI OR RIDESHARE
Now that you know there’s a Metro station at the Pentagon, that’s going to make your life a whole lot easier (unless you’re driving, in which case SORRY SUCKA—Just kidding, driving yourself around is cool).
To take a taxi or Uber or Lyft or Flibbityboo or whatever to your Pentagon tour, simply have them drop you off at the Pentagon Metro Station. Chances are they’ve done this before and know exactly where to go. There’s also a small chance they may not be keen on venturing to the land of “all vehicles are subject to search.” In which case, Thank you, next. Ain’t nobody got time for “that’s not mine, I swear!”
Lack of parking and accessibility aside, a tour of the Pentagon is totally worth it. Getting to go inside one of the most secure and important buildings in the entire world is an amazing feeling and honor. You’ll see things you’ve never even imagined and rub elbows with the country’s military elite. And you’ll ride that high until they remind you that you don’t have enough security clearance to even use the restrooms in there.
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