One of the most famous Washington destinations is the White House. There’s so much more to it than just the place where the president and his family lay their heads at night. It serves as the headquarters for much of the President and First Lady’s staff. And yes, you can actually tour the building. Just make sure you’re ready for some planning and follow-up.
Tours are self guided, free, and available from 7:30 AM to 11 AM Tuesday through Thursday; 7:30 AM to noon on Fridays, and 7:30 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays. The White House does not allow tours on federal holidays.
As soon as you know the dates you’ll be in Washington, start the process of getting White House tour tickets. The White House will process a request as much as six months in advance. The process can be long but with proper planning, tickets are possible.
Your U.S. Representative in the House is your point of contact for getting White House tour tickets even if you didn’t vote for him or her. If you don’t know your representative, go to the House website where there’s a map of the United States in the upper right-hand corner of the website that allows you to plug in your zip code.
Go to that Representative’s website and find out their process for getting White House tour tickets. There will be forms to download and possibly some to print out and fax. The representative’s office can also mail you the paperwork if you’re more comfortable having it in front of you.
Figure out the dates you’ll be in Washington. Getting White House tour tickets can be a challenge, so be prepared to be flexible. It’s much better to give a few dates that you’re available for a tour rather than just one specific date. White House tour tickets are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. So trying to get tickets during a popular time of year like Spring Break or summer may be a challenge.
Collect social security numbers, birth dates, and the birthplaces of the people in your party. The information will be requested by your Congressional rep so that security background checks can be conducted. You’ll also need to supply their full names, whether they are U.S. citizens, and the dates you would be available for a tour.
Look over the paperwork. And then check it again. One small mistake could delay the process or even cause your request to be completely rejected. The information about the people in your tour will need to be inputted to an Excel spreadsheet provided by your member of Congress. Make sure the information is inputted the way they’ve asked for it. For example, they want the person’s birth year in four digits rather than two digits.
Hurry up and wait. You should get a confirmation e-mail after sending the tour request to your member of Congress. Keep that e-mail and make a note to follow up with the appropriate person if you have questions. You will hear back either way two weeks before the dates you requested.
Once you get tickets:
-Celebrate! You’re going to see one of the most famous houses in the world.
-The White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. The best way to get there is by Metro since street parking is extremely limited around the White House. The closest Metro stations are Federal Triangle, McPherson Square, and Metro Center.
-The White House is an extremely secure building and therefore prohibits visitors from brining in the following items: handbags, book bags, backpacks, purses, food and beverages of any kind, strollers, cameras, video recorders, or any type of recording device, tobacco products, personal grooming items, any pointed objects like pens and knitting needles, aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, and knives of any size. Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones, and car keys are allowed. And no storage facilities are available for any of those prohibited items.
-Also keep in mind that tours can be delayed or suddenly canceled.