West Point, NY
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point (USMA), my alma mater, is one of the most impressive college campuses in the United States.
The castle-like, neogothic buildings that stand over the wide parade ground project an image of martial power and tradition going back to the early 1800s. While I was a student there, I definitely appreciated he beauty of the campus and its natural setting on the Hudson River, but I think I was too busy to really understand how special and uniquely American this place is.
I don’t go back to West Point very often, but I took my fiancé up for the afternoon during a visit to my parents’ house in NJ to show her around. We watched a Rugby match between Army and Penn State at the new field down by the Hudson River, and then went to a BBQ sponsored by the USMA Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, for which my friend is a professor.
The best spot for viewing the heart of the campus is atop the bleachers next to the huge lawn called The Plain and look out across that grassy parade field at the grey dormitories and academic halls ahead. The castle-like Cadet Chapel, set back on a hillside above the campus, looms above.
Storm King Mountain is on your left, and on your right down at the water’s edge is Constitution Island. During the Revolutionary War, American forces draped a huge chain across the river there to prevent British ships from sailing upriver and dividing the Colonies. Revolutionary-war battlements can still be seen on Constitution Island as well as at Fort Clinton, above the Chapel near Michie Stadium.
- If at all possible, try to get a tour of West Point that includes a tour of the massive Cadet Mess Hall during a school day, when all 4000 cadets march in from their formations and eat lunch together. One of the wings has a huge painted mural depicting various scenes from military history.
- Be prepared to have your car searched as you enter the main gates of West Point from Highland Falls. Trunk, glove compartment and all.
- Check out the Visitors Center in Highland Falls on your way home.
- The West Point Museum, next to the Visitors Center, has a great collection of military equipment from past conflicts, as well as a cool Medal of Honor display that lists all the West Point alumni who have earned the Medal.