Visiting the White House

13 Oct
The White House and Gardens

The White House and Gardens

A couple of years back, on our first visit to Washington DC with our son, we stopped at the iron fence in front of the White House so he could see it.  “Mommy, I want to go inside” is all he kept saying.  Apparently, gazing at the White House from afar was not satisfying enough.

In class, my son had learned all about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and it’s 6 floors, 35 bathrooms, 132 rooms, etc.  Why WOULDN’T he want to see the inside?  Come to think of it, I would like to see the inside.  So, I decided to look into getting a tour.

Tours of the White House are given to groups of 10 or more.  One must request a tour through their Member of Congress and requests are accepted up to 6 months in advance.  Tours are available from 7:30am until 12:30pm Tuesday through Saturday and are offered on a first come, first served basis.  Confirmation of the tour is received approximately one month prior to the tour date.  White House tours are free of charge and there is a hotline to call for more information:  202-456-7041.  Accommodations are available for those with special needs.

Things to keep in mind:  you must have a group of 10.  Restroom facilities are not available on the tour.  Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, the following: handbags, book bags, backpacks, purses, food and beverages of any kind, strollers, cameras, video recorders or any type of recording device, tobacco products, personal grooming items (make-up, hair brush or comb, lip or hand lotions, etc.), any pointed objects (pens, knitting needles, etc.), aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size.  The U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit any other personal items.  Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones and car keys are permitted.  There are not any storage facilities at the White House so if you have a prohibited item, you will need to either dispose of it or not go on the tour.

A few months ago, I submitted a request to tour the White House through our Member of Congress via her website.  I received a prompt email confirmation and then, a few days later, mailed confirmation.  I’ll post an update here after our tour date.

If you would like to tour the White House Gardens, they are going to be open this weekend!  This Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, from 12pm-4pm, visitors to the gardens will be able to view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children’s Garden and the South Lawn of the White House.  Tickets are required for all attendees, including small children!  The National Park Service will distribute free, timed tickets at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15th and E Streets on each tour day beginning at 8:00 a.m.

12/11/2008 – update********* Looks like our visit to the White House is a bust.  We never received any further communication from our Congresswoman’s (Thelma Drake’s) office.  When I called earlier this week to inquire about that staus of our request, I was told that we had been assigned a tour date of December 6th.  Well, no one ever communicated that to me (via email, phone or regular mail) and the person I spoke with didn’t seem to be surprised nor offered any alternatives.   Because Congresswoman Drake lost her bid for re-election, she is in the process of shutting down her offices and obviously, no longer feels a need to serve her constituents (though she is still receiving a paycheck from the taxpayers). I called Randy Forbes’ office and spoke with a very nice woman there; however, they were unable to help since Congresswoman Drake’s office was supposed to assign me one of her “slots”.   What have I learned?  1.  Do not request a tour from a congressional representative who is up for re-election.  2.  Do not plan on any specific date or time of the year.  3.  Follow up with your congressional representative because they probably won’t follow up with you.

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