As one of the many alumnae living in the National Capital Region, I am often asked “touristy” questions by sisters in other cities, states, and countries. I’ve lived in DC, MD, and Virginia on and off for a total of 18 years and there are still things I haven’t seen and places I haven’t visited. But I still have a few bits of advice that out-of-towners might find helpful.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to have a specific game plan for your vacations, you can line up quite a few tours before you even arrive by contacting your Senators or Representative. (Note: each Member of Congress has their own web page dedicated to tours.)
- United States Capitol — Many Congressional offices offer their own staff-led tours to constituent groups of up to 15 people, and most can assist you in reserving a general tour.
- The White House — The White House assigns tour times according to their scheduling needs between the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Fridays, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturdays (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted). It is recommended that you submit your tour request at least eight weeks in advance of your requested date, and that you select multiple dates to visit.
- Bureau of Engraving and Printing — The BEP grants special requests for tours made through the office of your local United States Senator or Representative. These tours take place Monday through Friday at 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. April through August, Congressional tours also run every 15 minutes from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Supreme Court — The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The court is open Monday through Friday (except Federal Holidays) from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A courtroom lecture series on the function of the Supreme Court and the architecture of the building is available through Members of Congress to groups of six or fewer each day at 2:00 p.m.
- Library of Congress — The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, and serves as the research arm of Congress and as our nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. Members of Congress can arrange tours for groups of ten or fewer Monday through Friday at 9:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m. or 1:45 p.m.
- National Archives and Records Administration — A limited number of tours can be reserved through Members of Congress with adequate advanced notice and are limited to groups with a maximum of 15 members.
- FBI Education Center — Tours of the FBI Education Center are currently offered Mondays through Thursdays at 9:00am and 10:00am and must be requested through a congressional office. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, tours typically include a firearms demonstration. The request must be submitted to the FBI at least one month in advance. (Note: Due to the sensitive and mature nature of many of the cases depicted in the Education Center, the FBI tour is not recommended for children under 16 years of age. Parents are responsible for determining whether their children should be exposed to these exhibits.)
Kennedy Center — Tours of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts include visits to the Hall of States, Hall of Nations, and five of the Center’s main theaters along with countless works of art, and gifts from nations all around the world. The tour concludes with a breathtaking 360-degree view of the nation’s capital from the Center’s Roof Terrace.
- U.S. Treasury Building –Tours are available for citizens and legal residents of the United States. The name, date of birth and social security number for each visitor must be provided when making a reservation. In addition, everyone must have a photo I.D. to gain admittance to the building on the date of their scheduled tour.
I haven’t actually been on all of these tours, but I have been on some of them, so if you’d like to ask questions in the comments, please do. If you have been on any of these tours and have a story to share, or know a Member of Congress who is especially responsive, please comment!