I have been meaning to do this write up for a little while but just now getting around to it. Many will encourage (and I would agree) pilots to try to visit a local ATC facility to get a better understanding of the other side of the mic so to speak. Earlier this year I visited the tower at a local Class D airport and it was a good experience. I decided I would take that to the next level and try to get a visit to a Class B ATC facility. I wasn't exactly sure how to go about this, so I just called the tower and asked if it would be possible to arrange a tour. I told them I was a local private pilot with an instrument rating and wanted to get a better understanding of the ATC side of things. The gentleman on the phone said he would see what he could do and get back to me, so I left my name and number. A few hours later, I get a call from another gentleman to set it up, we find a time that works and he gives me exact instructions of where to be and when, as well as who I would be meeting with. When I got there, I traded my driver's license for a visitor badge and parked at the base of the tower. When I walked to the door, a gentleman in a suit comes out of the tower as I arrive and takes me inside for the tour. He used to be a controller but has exceeded the age limits, now works as a staffer so he knew what he was talking about. First stop was the TRACON, after leaving our phones outside the door of course. For me, it was really something to see, well after my eyes adjusted that is, when I say it was dark in there, it was DARK. He first showed me a big screen on the wall, it showed all the flights coming into the airport from all over the entire country. Then we went over to a regular unoccupied radar screen, showed me the basics, what everything on each target meant, etc. Explained how hand-offs work and how there is a person primarily responsible for communicating with and coordinating with other surrounding facilities. This is where I also learned a fun fact I did not know, but controllers are required to have second class medicals. I'm sure many of you knew that, I certainly did not. We also had a good discussion about privatization of ATC, what he thought about it, the controllers union stance and more. I'll save that for another day. Then we went up to the tower, after taking the elevator as high as it went, we walked up the very old steel spiral stair case. Then we made it to the top, overlooking the entire massive airfield. It was a really cool view to take in, and off in the distance, the massive new tower being built to replace the one I was currently standing in. When I focused inside the tower, I was expecting a bunch of uptight, prim and proper controllers working up there. It was quite the contrary, it was a lot more laid back. Straight ahead of me was a new controller being trained by a seasoned guy, to my left a very nice lady sitting at a desk, looked to be handling ATIS if I remember correctly, to my right is a controller handling traffic wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey, and right in front of me was a guy sitting at a big computer screen handling clearances. In the trash can next to him, were a bunch of the old strips that they used to have the IFR flight plans printed on, I was surprised when he told me that was still how they were doing it up until a few months ago when they switched to a computer based system. I guess I should have asked why the trash hadn't been taken out in a few months, but I digress. While we were in the tower, he explained to me how the operations basically worked, which runways were primarily used for takeoffs and which were used for arrivals, which was primarily for international traffic, how ground traffic flow worked and their basic procedures for takeoff and landing sequences. It was pretty cool to see and I was surprised at how relaxed of an environment it was, or at least seemed to be to me. We made our way back down to the ground level, making small talk and following up on any questions I had from the visit. I told him even though I am just flying around in a Cherokee or 172 most days, I would like to fly into the Class B airport just to experience it, and I asked if I would be a nuisance to the controllers. He said that is no problem at all and they would be happy to accommodate me, just asked that I do it during their slow times. He then went into another office, took a copy of the slow times schedule off the wall and made me a photo copy. Walked me to the front door, shook hands and parted ways. Got my ID back at the guard shack on my way out and headed home. It was a really cool experience, I learned a lot and really appreciate them taking the time to show me the facility, how things worked, and going out of their way to answer any questions I had. To anyone who might be curious about what it is like, I HIGHLY suggest it. Sorry for the long post, but thought this would be good to share.