I’ve been traveling to Washington, D.C. almost every week for work for the past three months. A couple weeks ago, on my last day in the D.C., I finally got to visit the White House! It was the perfect way to end my time in D.C. and I highly recommend that anyone visiting D.C. comes to the White House. However, visiting the White House is not a very simple or straightforward process, which is why I’ve written this guide to help you plan your visit!
Once your tour request has been submitted, you can expect to receive confirmation two to three weeks before your tour date. It personally took eight days for me to receive confirmation for my tour (which was a little over a week before my tour date.) In your confirmation email, you will receive instructions about the tour, including a “Boarding Pass” that you must print before your tour and bring with you.
The self-guided tour starts in the East Wing of the White House, which is where the visitor’s reception area is. You will walk through the East Colonnade and East Garden Room before arriving in Center Hall. You finish in Cross Hall (the perfect place for a photo op in front of the Blue Room!) and the Entry Hall, then exit out to Lafayette Square. There are Secret Service agents posted in every room who are there to answer any questions you might have about the White House and its history.
The West Wing of the White House, home to the famous Oval Office and Situation Room, is not part of the public self-guided tour. Tours of the West Wing are typically reserved for VIPs and your best bet of getting one is knowing someone who works in the White House.
Christmas is one of the most popular times of the year to visit the White House, due to its fantastic Christmas decorations! There are themed Christmas trees in almost every room, along with plenty of other holiday decorations. Unfortunately, I was about a week too early to see the Christmas decorations, but if you’re visiting after Thanksgiving and before the second week of January, you should be able to see them.
If you aren’t staying within walking distance of the White House, you can take the Metro. The closest stations are Federal Triangle, Metro Centre, and McPherson Square. There’s no public parking at the White House, but you may be able to find paid parking nearby. The visitor’s entrance to the tour is on 15th Street at Hamilton Place. Plan to arrive 15 minutes in advance for your tour and dress for the weather because you will have to spend some time waiting outside. My tour was at 7:30 a.m. before I went to work for the day. I was surprised by how quickly I went through the tour. Altogether, I was only inside for under half an hour. Of course, you could spend longer if you wanted to. You will end up waiting outside for probably 15 to 20 minutes, so be sure to dress for the weather! On my tour day, it was quite cold in the morning and I saw some people who looked like they were freezing.