The 10 Best Military Base Tours in America
Places Where a Sense of Duty Pervades
Is the ultimate military destination a military base itself? Perhaps, but there aren’t many opportunities left to witness our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in their habitat (and its only gotten harder since 9.11). Almost without exception, our military bases now require a security clearance to get in, and out most of those once “routine” base tours have been canceled. That said, there are some good ones left and we list them below.
Caveat. Check the base’s official website for any changes to the credentials requirements to get in. In almost all cases you must have a valid driver’s license and you will have to go through a brief security check. In some cases (but not all), you must also be an American citizen. Finally, in addition to the tours listed below, most bases will create a familiarization tour for you if you have a group of 15 or more. Contact the Public Affairs Office at the installation that interests you.
- Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Goldsboro, NC.
Home to our F-15E Strike Eagles and KC-135 tankers, Seymour Johnson offers a comprehensive base tour on the last Thursday of each month. On almost all tours, you’ll stop at the base BX for lunch (bring money; it’s a Subway).
- Fort Irwin, Fort Irwin, California (near Barstow)
Fort Irwin “Box Tours” are made available through the Fort Irwin Public Affairs Office. You will be taken on base to the observation deck overlooking “the Box” where military maneuvers take place often with simulated combat.. The tour last about six hours, including a stop on base for lunch (bring money).
- MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL.
MacDill Air Force runs a well-organized tour on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of the month. Stops typically include the air traffic control tower, the security forces’ working dogs area, the explosive ordnance disposal units (EOD), and the flight line to see a tanker and perhaps meet the pilots or a boom operator.
- Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Va.
Naval Station Norfolk has designated Tidewater Tours as their official tour operator. You will board a bus that takes you around the base including a visit to the piers, where the ships are, and to the Naval Air Station, where they have a display of decommissioned aircraft.
- Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rapid City, SD.
Home to the scary-looking B-1 bombers of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command, base tours here run on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month, April through October. Depending on the activity that day, stops usually include a visit to a B-1B with time set aside to talk to the airmen. You will also make a stop to buy your own lunch as you see the rest of the base facilities.
- Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Cherry Point, NC
Street Address/GPS Address:
Windshield tours take you around the base and are offered weekly on Wednesday mornings. The tours last about two hours. Great chance to see our AV-8B Harrier “jump jets.”
- Vandenberg AFB, Lompoc, California.
Tours of the Vandenberg AFB space port are offered on the third Tuesday of each month starting at 1PM. Just being here puts you in close proximity to one of our nation’s most unusual – and important—military and civilian space facilities.
- Travis AFB, Travis AFB CA (Located between San Francisco and Sacramento)
Travis AFB’s Heritage Center runs a shuttle bus Tuesday through Fridays that will pick you up at the gate (the Visitors Center) and bring you inside. The driver will deliver you to the museum where there is an outdoor display of 30 or so restored modern jets, old warbirds, and cargo planes.
- Fort McCoy, Fort McCoy, WI
Fort McCoy is a major U.S. Army training center with several Open Houses, and plenty to see inside. Watch for them on their web site or schedule your own tour of 15 or more during the week.
- Edwards Air Force Base, CA.
Edwards Air Force Base’s Flight Test Museum runs monthly bus trips into the base on the third Friday of the month, or you can organize a group of your own (minimium of 15 people) and coordinate it through the Edwards AFB public affairs offices. This is a good way to see the flightline of an iconic air base (The Right Stuff seems so alive here) on the way to an excellent museum.