Located 12 miles north of downtown, Colorado Springs’ pride and joy got its start in 1954 when Congress authorized the establishment of a U.S. Air Force Academy and chose this 18,000-acre site from among 400 prospective locations. The first class of cadets enrolled in 1959, and each year since, about 4,000 cadets have enrolled for the 4 years of rigorous training required to become Air Force officers.

Open daily, the visitor center offers a variety of exhibits and films on the academy’s history and cadet life, extensive literature and self-guided tour maps, and the latest information and schedules on academy activities. There’s also a large gift shop and coffee shop. A short trail from the visitor center leads to the unmistakable Cadet Chapel. Its 17 gleaming aluminum spires soar 150 feet, and within the building are separate chapels for the major Western faiths as well as an “all faiths” room. Military buffs should expect to spend at least 2 hours here; non-military buffs might spend about an hour exploring.