A visit to the White House is the icing on the cake for a family trip to Washington D.C. White House tours are the hot ticket because they are not as readily available as they were prior to 9/11. Follow these steps and you might get to walk your family though the same halls as the former presidents and heads of state!
In order to request the White House tour, you must contact your Member of Congress in either the House or Senate. White House tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis and they must be requested a minimum of 21 days in advance of your visit. Requests can be submitted up to three months in advance. The earlier, the better! Only a limited number of spaces are available.
If your request is granted, you will receive a confirmation including date, time and other detailed instructions about two weeks prior to your visit along with a link to list all visitor names and personal information. Do not be tardy in entering your guests’ names or your spots will be redistributed! Only those listed on the RSVP link will be allowed to enter.
We arrived 20 minutes prior to our time and had a small wait. After going though an extensive security check point, the self-guided tour of the East Wing began. We entered into the East Colonnade and then passed through the Garden Room. The China Room, showcasing china and glass wear, was my favorite room on the ground floor. Seeing the variety of patterns chosen by the past presidents was interesting. Just how much does the china pattern reflect the former first ladies’ styles?
Up a rather wide stair well to the second level, the State Floor, looked like what I expected the White House to look like. The textiles are rich and chandeliers are grand. The East Room and State Dining Room are the larger rooms at either end of the State Floor. These rooms are used for larger gatherings. The smaller, parlor type rooms in between are known by their color schemes and include the Blue, Green and Red Rooms. Views from this floor were amazing!
Secret Service agents were stationed along the way to answer questions and were quite knowledgable and friendly as they interacted with my kids. The kids were fascinated when told that as soon as we left, the rope dividers are taken down and it is business as usual in the White House.
My six year old was in search of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait and just as he asked the Secret Service agent why he had not yet encountered Abe, he told him to look up and there he was in the next room! Right in front of his eyes was the portrait of Abe posing in a very thoughtful position! The portraits told the stories of Presidents and First Ladies past. The very portrait of George Washington that Dolly Madison cut out of the frame to save in the White House burning just before it went up in flames in 1814 is hanging there to view. I imagined that the portrait of John F. Kennedy looking down would have been the one that everyone rushed to see, but it was Ronald Reagan’s that seemed to be the most photographed on the day that we were there.
What a morning! We spent a bright sunny morning in the Nation’s most iconic political building. We are grateful that the “no photos” rule was recently overturned because we walked away with some memories and photos to think about for a while. We walked to lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill and had good conversation with the boys about what we imagine daily life is like in the House, yes, THAT House!