Last weekend, the Air Force Academy opened its gates to thousands of parents, family and friends for Parents' Weekend, the first one I've attended since 1984 when I was a cadet. If you were among those who joined us, you may have hiked one of our multiple trails or visited the iconic Cadet Chapel or joined the over 37,000 other Falcon football fans who witnessed us dominate on the gridiron.
Occasionally, as I took my eyes off the game and looked down on the steady stream of traffic on Interstate 25, I couldn't help but wonder if those driving by knew just how much the Air Force Academy has to offer everyone - not just the parents of cadets.
It's understandable that some in the community don't see the academy as a destination open to the public.
Like the other bases in this military town, our gates are guarded by security forces that vigilantly stand ready to defend the academy's personnel and infrastructure. That's why we want our neighbors in the community to know there's a lot going on here - and you're all invited.
Saturdays in the fall offer the most obvious draw as the Falcons take to the football field. But you don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy Falcon football. Whether it's the thundering flyover by one of the Air Force's numerous aircraft, the Wings of Blue parachute team swooping into the stadium, a walk down the Falcon Alley fan experience or just tailgating with family and friends, there's something for everyone on game day at the academy.
And though football gets a lot of attention, especially after numerous trips to the White House to collect the Commander in Chief's trophy, we host 27 intercollegiate sports throughout the year that are all open to the public - and they're really good. Our hockey, swimming, lacrosse and track teams all won conference championships last year.
For those who are more of a participant than spectator of athletic events, come and hike or ride some of our many pristine trails or enjoy miles of roads with little traffic. Eagle's Peak offers one of the best views in the region for those ready for a tough climb. The New Santa Fe Trail, which travels across the Front Range and spans 7 miles of academy property, is perfect for bike riding and an up-close and personal view of the impressive academy grounds.
No structure is more iconic on the academy than the Cadet Chapel, the most popular man-made tourist attraction in Colorado. Although it can be viewed from almost anywhere in the Colorado Springs region, I want to invite the community to visit it in person before we close it in 2019 for much needed renovations.
After a visit, I hope you'll feel at home. And we hope to be more welcoming in the near future as we begin work on a new visitor center, which will be closer to I-25 and more accessible to the public.
This is your academy and we're proud to be part of your town. Come visit.
For more visitor information, go to usafa.edu/visitors
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria is the Air Force Academy's superintendent