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If you’ve ever driven on I-95 just south of Washington, D.C., you have probably seen an unusual structure that soars into the sky and wondered whether it was worth your time to stop and check it out. That building is none other than the Marine Corps Museum and it should definitely be a stop during your travel. Considering that this is an area that frequently backs up on I-95, why not take the opportunity to stretch your legs while learning about the Marine Corps?
Located outside of the gates of Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, the museum first opened its doors in November 2006. Construction began in 2004 and new galleries are still being added, meaning that future visits will include even more exhibits.
The shape of this glass and steel building evokes images of the iconic photo and statue of the Marines planting the flag in Iwo Jima. The circular shape of the building, which is only partially completed, allows visitors to move from one time period to the next.
The journey inside the Marine Corps Museum starts in the central gallery known as the Leatherneck Gallery. The open, airy space in this entrance has a few displays that introduce the visitor to the Marine Corps. This space is often used for special exhibits and events.
This Marine Corps Museum exhibit immerses the visitor in the experience of becoming a Marine from induction through boot camp. You’ll hear a Drill Instructor speech, try on a fully loaded pack (making you appreciate what they have to carry!), and test your skills on the M-16 laser rifle range. Stand on the yellow footprints where recruits arriving at the depot await a visit to the barbershop. You’ll get a taste of what it takes to make a Marine.
The Marine Corps Museum galleries are divided generally into eras:
- American Revolution
- Global Expeditionary Force
- World War I
- World War II
- Korean War
- Vietnam War
All of them feature signs explaining the history, artifacts from the era, and looped short movies. You’ll frequently experience it through the words of those present in the event showcased.
SEMPER FIDELIS MEMORIAL PARK
If weather permits, take a stroll outside the Marine Corps Museum in the Semper Fidelis Memorial Park. You’ll get a feel for the magnitude of the building by walking around it. Supported by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the park is a tranquil spot to remember, reflect, and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The park houses the Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel, a non-denominational chapel.
The Marine Corps Museum offers a few additional features for a fee. “Every Marine is a Rifleman” and you can test your skills on the rifle range for a $5 fee. There is no age or height restriction since the range uses an M-16 laser simulation system.
The Medal of Honor Theater plays “We, The Marines” daily every hour on the hour. The documentary lasts 38 minutes, and a small fee helps support the Marine Heritage Foundation, contributing to the expansion of the museum. Watch the trailer here.
“Superpower Dogs,” narrated by Chris Evans, showcases the use of canine power in the Marine Corps. The short film shows daily at 10 am and 2 pm through September 30, 2019. You can find information about fees in the “Know Before You Go” section below.
The Marine Corps Museum is still growing and different phases will open in stages through 2022. There will be exhibits dedicated to the post-Vietnam era, 9/11, the post-9/11 mission, as well as exhibits explaining the Marine Corps’ future, and the role of the Marines at home.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Admission and parking are free
- Open 9 am to 5 pm every day except Christmas Day
- Free tours offered at 10 am and 2 pm
- The gift shop sells Marine Corps merchandise
- Food is available in the Devil Dog Diner (cafeteria) or Tun Tavern (full menu)
- Superpower Dogs tickets cost $6, for ages 5 and above.
- We, The Marines tickets cost $8 for adults with discounted tickets for various ages and groups.
- Combo tickets for the theater and laser rifle range are the best deal ($7-$11, depending on age and group affiliation)
- If you want to fully explore the museum, plan on a three to four-hour visit, although even a shorter stop is worth your time.
YES, IT IS WORTH THE STOP!
If you’re traveling South on I-95, you’ll most likely have survived the traffic through DC. If you’re traveling North on I-95, you’re at the beginning of a heavy traffic area. This makes Quantico a perfect stopping point!
The Marine Corps Museum offers something for everyone. Designated pet relief areas will be a hit with your four-legged companions. A children’s playground located next to the parking lot will keep your young travel companions entertained.
Learn more about the United States Marine Corps and its servicemembers by stopping by this worthy museum. Visit their website for more details.
Can’t visit in person? No worries! They offer a virtual tour.
You may also be interested in reading these other posts:
- Weekend getaway to Richmond, VA
- Durham’s murals (walking map included!)
- Weekend getaway to Kinston, NC
- Weekend getaway to Goldsboro, NC
Annick, The Common Traveler