The most important thing to know about White House tours is that the require serious planning. Check out our post about how to request White House tickets from your Member of Congress.
The second most important thing to know is what you’re going to see and what you are not. White House tours are an unguided walk and does not include the West Wing. So, unless you are friends with someone in the current presidential administration, you will not get to see the oval office, situation room, or any of the other spaces in the West Wing.
You got White House tickets, now what?
Once you have your confirmed reservation, make sure to review your all the paperwork you get from the White House very carefully. This paperwork will tell you exactly what to bring and also exactly what is prohibited. On the day of your assigned tour, show up on 15th Street NW at least 15 minutes before your assigned time. Photos are allowed on White House tours. However, you are not allowed to take videos.
White House security – what to expect
Security at the White House is tight. There are multiple security checkpoints before you can enter the building. The first checkpoint is the name check, where you will show your photo ID and Secret Service will check your name off the reservation list. Then, you will stand in line to have your photo taken. After that, you will stand in line for the second security check where they have the airport style metal detector. You should plan to spend 30 minutes to an hour in security lines depending on how early in the day your assigned time is.
A very crucial trip hack is to use the restroom before getting in line. The White House has no public restrooms. If there is a restroom emergency, you have to leave the White House grounds and go through the whole security process all over again. The closest public restroom is in the White House Visitor Center at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
What you see during White House tours
Once you clear security, you will enter the East Wing. Once you enter, you will see a corridor of pictures of past presidents. You will also see some photos of first families and first pets.
After that, you will be able to peek into some of the ground floor rooms like the Library, the China Room, the Map room and Vermeil Room. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to enter any of these rooms.
After that, you will go up and you can walk through the rooms on the state floor. First, there is the East Room which is the biggest room in the White House. The East Room is used for ceremonies, receptions, and has hosted several weddings. The Green Room is next – it is a parlor often used to serve cocktails during the reception. Then, there is the Blue Room which is where the president and first lady often receives guests. The Blue Room is where the White House Christmas tree is located. The Red Room is a small parlor and a personal favorite of some former first ladies. Finally, you will then see the State Dining Room which can host up to 130 people. Then, you will exit through the north side of the building.
How long White House tours take
Since White House tours are unguided, you can take as much time as you need to see everything. However, the average person takes 30-45 minutes. There are no tour guides. But, the Secret Service are stationed in all of the rooms and people do ask them questions. They go through special training and do their best to answer everyone’s questions.
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Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.