Plan Ahead for Washington, DC Landmarks & Tours

By DullesMoms, Apr 2019

Washington, DC, is a treasure trove of activity boasting museums, monuments, landmarks, and more! What better way is there to enrich your children’s minds and pique their interests in history than to explore the epicenter of our nation’s capital? Most of these amazing places require a bit of planning to visit but are well worth the effort!

The White House
Tours of the White House need to be made through your member of Congress. Visit the US House of Representatives website to determine your representative and send him/her an email to initiate the request process. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, and it is recommended to submit your request as early as possible — don’t be surprised if a response from your representative takes several weeks or months. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21-days in advance.

Tours are arranged for groups of 10 or more, so smaller groups and families should request to join a tour. Self-guided tours are available at select times on weekdays and weekends. Note: you will need to provide a government-issued ID or passport to enter the White House on the day of your tour. // Updated Apr 2019

US Capitol Building
The home to Congress is open for free tours during select times on weekdays and weekends. Advance reservations are strongly recommended and can be made in a couple of different ways: through the office of your senator, through the office of your representative, or through the online booking tool. Tours fill up quickly, and it is recommended to book your tour in advance, though a limited number of same-day tour tickets may also be available at the Capitol Visitor Center.

The Senate and House galleries are open to visitors whenever either legislative body is in session; however, the galleries are not included as part of the US Capitol tour. When the House of Representatives is not in session (see their schedule here) or when the Senate is in scheduled recess (see their schedule here), the gallery is open to those with passes — visitors may obtain gallery passes from the offices of their Senators or Representative. // Updated Apr 2019

Library of Congress
Those visiting the impressive Library of Congress have a few options to explore — there are guided and self-guided tour options as well as exhibits and installations on display. Free one-hour walking tours of the historic Thomas Jefferson building are provided by library docents during select times on weekdays and weekends. Docents discuss the library as America’s oldest cultural institution, its history, collections, and services. Space on these tours is available on a first-come, first-served basis for groups of fewer than 10. To join a tour, check in at the Visitor Tour area approximately 30-minutes before the scheduled tour times. If you choose a self-guided tour, check out the library’s handy brochure for a map and instructions.

Popular exhibits include a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s library and a Map Reading Room, which showcases the first known map that uses the word “America” to identify North America. The library’s website has a full calendar and exhibit listings. // Updated Apr 2019

State Department Diplomatic Reception Rooms
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State are used for official functions hosted by the Secretary of State and other high-level government officials. They are open for free, pre-arranged tours and feature an impressive collection of 18th-century American furniture, paintings, and decorative arts. Guided tours take place during select times on weekdays, and reservations are required. It is recommended to make your reservation 90 days in advance due to the large volume of tour requests. Learn more. // Updated Apr 2019

The Supreme Court
The highest federal Court of the United States is open to the public both when the Court is in session and when it is not sitting. Although guided walking tours are not offered, visitors are encouraged to tour the building on their own and take advantage of a variety of educational programs. The Court is in session from October through April, and visitors may view Courtroom sessions during select times on weekdays. Be advised Court sessions are open on a first-come, first-served basis, and it is suggested to arrive well in advance — seating begins at 9:30 am for those who wish to attend an entire argument, and shortly thereafter, a “three-minute line” will be available for those who wish to observe the session for only a brief period of time.

Other activities available include courtroom lectures, a visitors’ film, and other Court-related exhibitions. Lectures in the Courtroom generally take place every hour on the half-hour on days that the Court is not in session. (A modified lecture schedule is offered in December and January.) Trained Docents lead these 30-minute programs, which are designed to introduce visitors of all ages to the judicial functions of the Supreme Court, the history of the building, and the architecture of the Courtroom. Throughout the day, the ground floor theater continuously shows The Supreme Court, a 24-minute film that examines the history of the building and features interviews with the Chief Justice and both sitting and retired Justices. The Supreme Court website has a full listing of current events and exhibits. // Updated Apr 2019

Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery
Located across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of hundreds of thousands of military veterans and their immediate family, beginning with the Civil War, as well as reinterred individuals from earlier wars. The 600+ acre cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has a rich and controversial history that dates back to 1802 when George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of George Washington, acquired the land.

While visiting, don’t miss the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb houses three unidentified fallen members of the armed forces, who represent all those who remain unknown, and was created after the end of World War I. Since then, it has been guarded continuously. Normally, the guards relieve each other from duty every hour, but from April 1 through September 30, there are also half-hour changes, making the chance to witness the ritual even greater. From the immaculately uniformed soldiers to the inspection of the weapons, this is a must-see event. Learn more. // Updated Dec 2020

Pentagon Tours
The Pentagon, the Headquarters of the Department of Defense, offers a free walking tour that explores the missions of the Joint Staff, Armed Services, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Explore the world’s largest office building by scheduling a tour. Reservations can be made 14-90 days in advance; book early, as tours fill up quickly. Learn more. // Updated Apr 2019

White House Garden Tours
In 1972, First Lady Pat Nixon decided to open up the White House gardens for tours twice a year, and that tradition continues today. The tours feature the South Lawn of the White House as well as the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, and the White House Kitchen Garden. The White House Kitchen Garden is the first lady’s personal vegetable garden and was the first vegetable patch planted at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt tended to the Victory Garden in the 1940s.

For dates, visit the White House website and enter “White House Garden Tours” in the search box. Typically, the free tickets are distributed by the National Park Service on a first-come, first-served basis near the entry point each day of the tours beginning at 8:30 am. This entry point is located near the intersection of 15th St. and Constitution Ave. NW. Tickets are needed for all guests, including children. Learn more. // Updated Apr 2019

Washington Monument
The Washington Monument offers a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of Washington, DC. The monument is open daily, with extended summer hours (Memorial Day to Labor Day).

Same-day tickets are available at the Washington Monument Lodge, located along 15th St., on a first-come, first-serve basis. One person may obtain up to six tickets and request their preferred ticket time. Be aware that during peak season (April-September), tickets run out quickly, and many visitors form a line to wait for the ticket window to open well before 9 am. To schedule in advance, call (877) 444-6777 for individual tickets, (877) 559-6777 for group tickets, or order tickets online. // Updated Apr 2019

Disclaimer: Events and opportunities on this site are curated from public sources and subject to changes/cancelations that might not be reflected in’s content.

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