Visitors

Welcome to Washington, DC, the nation’s capital. You will find an abundance of cultural, educational, and just plain fun attractions and events here. Start your trip planning with the useful resources below.

United States Congress

U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Book a tour, look at a Capitol map and find other useful information. The mission of the Visitor Center at the U.S. Capitol is to provide a welcoming and educational environment for visitors to learn about the unique characteristics of the House and the Senate and the legislative process as well as the history and development of the architecture and art of the U.S. Capitol.

Map of Capitol Grounds The Capitol, House and Senate office buildings.

Map of Accessible Transportation at the Capitol Accessible entrances and transportation servicing the Capitol and surrounding buildings.

Virtual Tour of Capitol Explore the nation's Capitol, including the old and current House chambers.

Library of Congress

Each of “America’s Library buildings”, named for a U.S. President (Adams, Jefferson, and Madison), contains millions of cataloged books and other print materials on 530 miles of shelving is a world-renowned research center for scholars easily accessible to both Congress and the public. Special exhibitions —including a permanent display of the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with movable type—make the Library a favorite tourist attraction. First Street and Independence Avenue, SE.

Supreme Court of the United States

“Equal Justice Under Law” is the promise on the portals of the Supreme Court building.Court sessions begin the first Monday in October and continue two weeks per month through April. Courtroom seats are available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis when the Court is in session. Twenty-minute courtroom lectures are available every hour on the half-hour when the court is not in session. Group tours are available and must be made in advance. First and East Capitol Streets, NE.

United States Botanic Garden

Located at the base of Capitol Hill, the conservatory features more than 20,000 plants, including exotic flowers and fruit species. First Street and Maryland Avenue, SW.

How Do I Tour the U.S. Capitol and See Congress in Session?

Learn all you need to know about visiting and touring america’s center of democracy..

UPDATE: The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. All tours are free and are led by professional tour guides and do not include the Senate and House Galleries. The tour route is subject to change. Note that advance reservations are required for a tour. Visitors enter through the Capitol Visitor Center, located underground on the east side of the Capitol. Please leave time to go through security and review the U.S. Capitol’s prohibited items list before your visit.

The U.S. Capitol Building is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and the center of American democracy. The world-famous domed building is home to the United States House of Representatives and Senate; where America’s congressmen and congresswomen conduct business, debate laws and pass bills on behalf of the American people. The U.S. Capitol and U.S. Capitol Visitor Center  is also one of DC’s most popular monuments and museums and welcomes millions of visitors each year.

Tour groups in United States Capitol Building Rotunda - Attractions and landmarks in Washington, DC

Tour groups in United States Capitol Building Rotunda - Attractions and landmarks in Washington, DC

How do I arrange a tour of the United States Capitol Building?

Plan your visit in advance! A public tour of the U.S. Capitol is free and open to anyone who makes an advanced reservation, although there are some same-day tickets available by standing in line at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center (note that lines will be long during spring and summer).  We recommend reserving a  reserving a tour date and time .

All tours begin and end at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Inauguration Day).  Tours typically take about 90 minutes and are  fully accessible for people with disabilities.

What will I see on a Capitol tour?

Guided tours begin with a 13-minute intro film, followed stops in the Capitol Rotunda, where guides point out the center point of the District of Columbia, as well as demonstrate the unique acoustical effect where a speaker several yards away can be heard more clearly than a speaker close to the listener. The Capitol Dome is encircled by murals, and the fresco on the eye of the ceiling is called The Apotheosis of Washington showing President Washington rising to the heavens in glory with Liberty and Victory/Fame beside him. Below, on the walls of the Rotunda, are large paintings depicting significant events in American history: The Signing of the Declaration of Independence, The Baptism of Pocohontas, The Embarkation of the Pilgrims, The Landing of Columbus and General George Washington Resigning His Commission. Other stops on the 45-minute walking tour include the Crypt, National Statuary Hall and connecting corridors of the U.S. Capitol, where you’ll see statues representing every state

Can I see Congress in session?

The guided tour doesn't include the Senate and House galleries. However, visitors can obtain free passes through their congressmen to view both chambers when Congress is in session. International visitors can ask about gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center. When Congress is not in session, the galleries are open to the public Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. However, viewing hours are subject to change and are not always the same for the House and Senate galleries. You can check the schedules with your Congressional office when requesting gallery passes. Read more information about  watching Congress in session  and viewing the House and Senate galleries.

@paddyleahy - U.S. Capitol Dome as seen from the Capitol Visitors Center - Washington, DC

@paddyleahy

What’s in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center?

You’ll find a cafeteria and gift shop in the Capitol Visitor Center. The gift shop carries merchandise inspired by the art and architecture of the U.S. Capitol. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for continental breakfast and lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you haven’t printed your tour reservation, bring along the number you were assigned. There are free listening devices in multiple languages for international visitors.

How do I get to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center?

Because there is very little parking, it is best to travel via the  Metro or the DC Circulator. There are three Metro stops within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol: Union Station (Red Line), Capitol South and Federal Center SW (Orange, Silver and Blue lines). The Capitol Visitor Center, which serves as the main public entrance, is located beneath the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol at First and East Capitol streets.

Looking for more in the neighborhood? Take advantage of  our guide to Capitol Hill .

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Reserve Your Spot with Confidence! Full Refunds with 24 Hrs Notice. Reschedule at any point, even after tour, if space allows!

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How to Get US Capitol Building Tour Tickets

can i visit the capitol without a tour

This post is about how to get tickets to tour the United States Capitol Building.

We also include tips on how to get gallery passes to watch the Senate and the House of Representatives in action as well as tour highlights.

  • How to Reserve Tour Tickets
  • Plan Your Visit
  • Tour Highlights
  • Senate + House Gallery Passes

Tips From Locals and Travelers

Our sister company, VISITDCTours offers a tour that has reserved tickets to tour the Library of Congress and the US Capitol for you.

This semi-private small group tour is limited to ~12 people and does have a ticketed cost.

You will see the Supreme Court and enter the Library of Congress and the US Capitol. Your guide will tour the Library of Congress with you and give you tickets to the US Capitol tour after our tour.

Allow an additional 50 minutes after the tour for the Capitol tour.

You can book this tour with our sister company, VisitDC Tours!

Is the US Capitol Building Open to the Public?

Yes and no.

While you can schedule a free tour of the United States Capitol, it is not accessible to the public for any other purpose.

You must pass through security to enter the building; unless you have a tour scheduled, they won't let you through.

You do not need a reservation to enter the Capitol Visitor Center - where you can find the cafeteria, gift shops, museums, and part of the National Statuary Collection.

UNITED STATES CAPITOL TOUR TICKETS 

Taking a tour of the Capitol Building requires a ticket, which is free, but reservations are the only way to guarantee a spot (well, there's our tour as well ).  

can i visit the capitol without a tour

We recommend booking up to 3 months in advance if you plan to visit during the peak Spring/Summer touring months.  

Tours run Monday-Saturday every 10 minutes from 8:30 am - 3:20 pm, but this schedule can be changed for any of a number of reasons.

The Capitol (as well as the Library of Congress and Supreme Court) is closed on Sundays.

Tours can last between 50-80 minutes and the tour route can be changed without notice due to activities inside the Capitol.

There are no self-guided tours of the US Capitol Building.

There are 4 options to get tickets:

(Option 1) - Take a tour with a Capitol Visitor Center docent.  

These tours are staffed by professional docents, who have extensive knowledge of the building. 

Guests are organized into groups of 20 and listen to their guide through headsets. 

The docents are very knowledgeable, and the tour includes a short video of the building's significance and history before heading into the publicly accessible areas.

(Our favorite option) - Join us on our Capitol Hill & Library of Congress Tour.

This is our walking tour of the Capitol Building campus with a photo stop at the Supreme Court , visits to the interior Library of Congress, and ends with timed tickets for a tour with a docent of the Capitol Visitor Center we discussed above.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

(Option 2) - Book your US Capitol experience through the offices of your representative or senators.  

This option offers tours that are staffed by office personnel, usually interns.

The advantage here is that the groups are usually smaller, sometimes just your family.

Also, your guide is likely to be from your area or state, and it's always interesting to hear about their life on "the Hill".  

This option may give you the chance to meet your representative or senator.  

One potential drawback is that your guide may be pretty fresh and not as knowledgeable as the docents. We think this option is worth a try.  Book here .

can i visit the capitol without a tour

(Option 3) - Walk up.

If you want to try to get onto a tour without advanced reservations, there are walk-up options.

We do not recommend doing this during March and April, as well as the peak summer months. All other times are likely to be OK.  

The advantage here is that you have more flexibility when you decide to take the tour.  

Walk-up tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and are given out only for the next tour time slot, so you won't be able to grab tickets for later in the day.

Washington DC Travel Tips and Hacks

Capitol Visitor Center Hours:

One way to visit the U.S. Capitol Building without a tour is to stop in at The Capitol Visitor Center.

This center is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

There are occasions when the building is closed for special events or security reasons! These sometimes happen on short notice.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

In this section, we cover what to expect during your visit with tips on how much time you will need (below), how to get to the visitor center , parking, security , and dining options .

Depending on what you want to see, expect to spend at least 90 minutes to get through security and complete the tour and an additional 30 - 60 minutes to visit one of the voting chambers. 

Add an additional 30 - 60 minutes if you want to spend some time in Emancipation Hall (see highlights ).

The Capitol Building is adjacent to both the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress , and many visitors choose to visit all three at the same time. We recommend this as well.

But plan 3 - 5 hours in total to do so. You can easily spend 60 - 90 minutes at the Library and another 60 minutes at the Supreme Court.  

How to Get to the Capitol Visitor Center

The Capitol Visitor Center entrance is on the east side of the Capitol, which is the side opposite the National Mall. Click here for directions to the visitor center .

Capitol Building Metro Stations

There are two Metro stations that are close to the Capitol, Union Station Metro, which is serviced by the red line as well as the Capitol South Metro, which services the orange, blue and silver lines.

If you are new to the DC Metro, then read our how-to guide to DC's subway .

All the major hop-on, hop-off, and shuttle tour bus companies make stops at the U.S. Capitol Building.  

Due to security restrictions, all tour buses must drop passengers off on the West Front (National Mall side) of the building.

Visitors then must walk up Capitol Hill for 8-10 minutes to reach the visitor center.  

There are motorized golf carts to take those who need assistance to get up the hill. Use this map for directions from the West Front drop-off .  

Be sure to read our post on choosing the best bus tour in DC .

There is no parking around the Capitol Building. In fact, unless you're in a taxi or your personal car - you won't be able to drive up there at all.

Coaches and large vans are not allowed near the entrance and must drop off and pick up guests on the west (National Mall) side of the building.  

You can find 2-hour on-street parking in the residential area around East Capitol and 2nd St NE/SE, but you, more likely than not, will spend some time finding parking.

A more reasonable option is to park at Union Station.

However, if you plan to visit Smithsonian Museums as well, then there are some parking garages south of the Capitol, in the Federal Center SW area. 

SpotHero  is a popular service in DC that makes finding parking a whole lot easier.

They allow you to view which parking garages will be accessible and book a guaranteed space near where you’re headed. Pretty simple.

Security Check

Security at the Capitol Building is pretty tight and similar to airport security (though you won't have to take off your shoes).

You will need to go through a metal detector and there are many items that are not allowed into the building:

  • Any food or beverage, including water, and anything bottled or unopened. (empty water bottled are allowed)
  • Any pointed object, including knitting needles.
  • Bag larger than 18 inches wide and 8.5 inches deep.
  • Mace or pepper spray, razors, and box cutters.
  • Any weapon of any kind, even army knives as well as replicas/toys.
  • Any liquids, gels, sprays, aerosols - like lotions, makeup, sunscreen.

You may bring in mobile phones, wallets, and cameras.

While strollers are permitted in the Capitol Visitor Center, they are not in the House or Senate galleries.

These are subject to additional screening at the entrance as well.

While you may not run into any congresspeople in the Visitor Center Restaurant, you may overhear some lobbyists, and it is a surprisingly good place to grab a bite to eat if you arrive early for your tour (or after).

It’s located on the lower level of Emancipation Hall, just to the side of the ticket desks.

They have a broad range of meals and snacks ranging from pizza to roast turkey to sushi.

We’re particularly fans of their breakfast sandwiches if you’re visiting in the morning, and the giant cookies are the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

Here’s a link to the menu .  They have received 4 of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

While we do our best to provide all the information you'll need to visit the US Capitol, sometimes you require answers to specific questions related to your personal experience.

Thankfully, our Washington DC Travel Tips group on Facebook is the perfect place to look for any answers you may need.

Here are a few examples of interesting and helpful tips and tricks provided by members of our group:

can i visit the capitol without a tour

This is probably the most common question about visiting the US Capitol Building, which is why we answer it at the top of this article.

As Jennifer notes, even if you just wanted to see the gift shop and visitor center, you'd need to pass through security (though as of 2024, you no longer require reservations just to enter the Visitor Center)

can i visit the capitol without a tour

One nice thing about the US Capitol Building tour is that it's reasonably paced, so you should have enough time either before or after for other activities.

The only real place to eat lunch in the area is the Capitol Building itself, but they actually have a lot of great menu options, so it's not necessarily a bad option!

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Many group members recommend getting a tour through your state representative because they will send down an intern and give you a less rushed experience. Despite some guest's experiences, you only sometimes get a private tour. In peak seasons, March-August, you'll often be with a large group.

That said, public tours are led by official docents, so you can trust that they will also provide an excellent service.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Diana notes that anyone who has booked a tour should show up at least a little bit early to ensure they can get through security without any issues and meet their docent on time.

10-15 minutes is probably sufficient for the entire process of getting from the entrance of the building to the starting point of your tour.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

This is another common question we see on our group, and the unofficial answer is at least 2 weeks before the tour and up to 90 days ahead of time.

Even so, some of our members have indicated they scheduled their tour through their representative's office 6 months in advance.

For more helpful advice and suggestions, make sure to check our Washington DC Travel Tips group on Facebook, and consider asking our users any question you may have!

CAPITOL TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

Exhibition Hall and Visitor Center Gallery

Once you get through security, you’ll find yourself in the beautiful Capitol Visitor Center.

This is where you’ll pick up your tickets if you’re taking a tour of the Capitol, but there are lots of things to check out before the tour even begins.

The beautiful, light-filled lower level is named Emancipation Hall , in remembrance of the slave labor that went into constructing the Capitol building and the United States as a whole.

Around Emancipation Hall you’ll see many statues ranging from a native Hawaiian king to an astronaut.

These are overflow from National Statuary Hall which you’ll generally see on the Capitol tour, and we discuss a few paragraphs down.

There are two gift shops on the upper level - North and South. There was a congressional order passed that everything sold in these gift shops must be made in America.

In the center of Emancipation Hall is a 19.5-foot (6 m) Statue of Freedom , the original plaster model of the allegorical figure that sits atop the Capitol dome.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

She is perfect to scale, and this allows you to get up close and notice the incredible detail put into the work.

Our favorite detail is the eagle’s head that sits atop her helmet and is adorned with a Native American headdress.

Just behind the statue of Freedom is the Exhibition Hall.

In this small museum, called Out of Many One , you can learn both about the history of the U.S. Congress and its work and the construction of the Capitol Building.

Highlights here include an 11-foot (3.5 m) tall model of the Capitol Dome , which you are encouraged to touch, and live feeds of the House and the Senate when they are in session.

It may seem odd to have a crypt in the middle of what is basically a government office building, but there are no actual remains interred here.

In some of the original plans of the Capitol, it was thought that George Washington and his wife Martha might be buried here.

But the first president wished to be put to rest at his home in Virginia, Mount Vernon, where he remains to this day.

The Crypt does still carry great importance, as it marks the center of Washington, D.C. Around the room are 13 statues, of important individuals from the 13 original colonies. 

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Old Supreme Court

The judicial branch of the United States government met in this room from 1810 to 1860, when it then moved to the Old Senate Chamber which is also often included on the tour.

Generally, you enter the robing room, where the Supreme Court Justices once all donned their black robes together before entering the court.

At the back of the room are Justice’s desks, some of which are original to the 19th century and were actually used by the Justices when the Supreme Court occupied this chamber.  

One of the most remarkable aspects of the room is the vaulted ceiling designed by Benjamin Latrobe which was inspired by medieval engineering techniques and resembles an umbrella.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

The Rotunda

The heart of the building and undoubtedly the most iconic aspect of the Capitol Building is the Rotunda.

It is where honored citizens have laid in state, including Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, and most recently, Billy Graham. 

can i visit the capitol without a tour

In the original design of William Thornton, the rotunda was intended to be a simple dome modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

However, when the building was expanded in the mid-1800s, it was clear that the dome needed to be enlarged as well, and construction of the massive wedding cake-style dome was begun.

Around the inside of the Rotunda are many pieces of art depicting important figures and events in American history.

At the center, there is the fresco the Apotheosis of Washington by Constantino Brumidi. It shows George Washington sitting in the heavens, flanked by the goddesses Liberty and Victory, and surrounded by 13 maidens representing the original 13 colonies.

Lower down the dome is a ring of friezes depicting American history from the landing of Columbus to the birth of aviation.

There are also many statues around the Rotunda, including one of Abraham Lincoln by Vinnie Ream, the first woman artist who received a commission from the American government.

National Statuary Hall

Like so many rooms in the Capitol, Statuary Hall is heavily influenced by ancient Greek architecture, drawing parallels between the origin of democracy and its rebirth in America.

Originally this room was intended to be a chamber for the House of Representatives.

However, the curved ceiling created strange acoustics, with whisper spots where someone speaking softly could be heard many yards away.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

It was distracting during sessions, and many of the members didn’t like the idea of rivals hearing their secrets, so the House was relocated.

For many years, it was debated what to do with the room, until it was decided to dedicate it as space for states to honor their most eminent citizens.

Each state is invited to send two statues of their choosing in either marble or bronze, depicting people who have made a significant contribution to the history of that state.

Originally, all statues were placed in Statuary Hall, however as more and more states began sending their statues, the hall became was severely overcrowded.

Statues had to be placed behind each other, in some places 3 statues deep, and there were worries that the floor could not hold the huge weight.

Today the statues are scattered throughout the Capitol building as well as in the hall.

Old Senate Chamber

Since the country used to be much smaller, the Capitol building was as well. This is actually the third chamber that the Senate has met in.

The first had to be abandoned after just 6 years because it was crumbling and rotting, and the second was burned down by the British during the War of 1812.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Finally, the Senate convened here for 40 years.

In 1859 the Senate moved to its fourth and current chamber, and the Supreme Court moved in until it got its own building in 1935 ( which you could also tour ).

The Old Senate Chamber is richly decorated in crimson and gold and was inspired, like so much of Washington DC, by buildings in Paris.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES GALLERY PASSES

To visit the House of Representatives Gallery, which is where members of the House debate and take their votes, contact your representative or senator to obtain passes.

International visitors may inquire at the House of Representatives' appointment desk on the upper level of the Capitol Visitors Center.

Capitol Building Tour Tickets

These passes are not timed and can be used at any time during that year.

The House Gallery is open to visitors whenever the House of Representatives is in session ( see schedule ) until adjournment for that day.  

It is also "usually" open whenever the House is in recess, from 9:00 am until 4:15 pm, Mondays through Fridays.

You will have to go through additional security and leave all belongings outside of the gallery in storage containers.

You can bring a pen and paper, but that is about it!  Absolutely no photography.

PRO TIP:  You will need an additional 30 - 60 minutes to visit either of the legislative galleries. If time is short, then we recommend visiting the House Gallery.  

It is here that the President of the United States delivers his annual State of the Union Address and you are more likely to see action on the floor.

SENATE GALLERY PASSES

To visit the Senate Gallery, which is where members of the U.S. Senate debate and take their votes, contact your representative or senator to obtain passes.

International visitors may inquire at the Senate appointment desk on the upper level of the Capitol Visitors Center.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Open to visitors whenever the Senate is in session, from 30 minutes before the Senate convenes ( see schedule ) until adjournment for that day, which is usually 4:15 pm.  

It is also regularly open whenever the Senate is in recess for 1 week or more.

When in recess, visitors are permitted to view the gallery from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm, Mondays through Fridays.  

There is no access on Saturdays unless the Senate is in session.  

You could also call the Senate to confirm if the gallery is open - 202.224.0057.

You will have to go through additional security for either and leave all belongings outside of the gallery in storage containers.

You can bring a pen and paper and that is about it!   Absolutely no photography.

Related Posts

  • How to Tour the Supreme Court 
  • How to Tour the Library of Congress
  • Other Things to do in Washington, DC

Consider our guided tour of Capitol Hill , which includes tickets to tour the U.S. Capitol Building.

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can i visit the capitol without a tour

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U.S. Capitol Questions & Answers

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Can I take self-guided tour without booking beforehand?

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Yes - and no. You may enter the Capital Visitor's Center, a new addition to the side of the capital and see many interesting exhibits - use the food court, gift shops, etc. But you are not allowed to enter the main part of the capital unless you are on a tour or escorted by a staff member of one of your senators or representatives. Same day tour passes are sometimes available, especially off season, but you really need to plan ahead. It's worth it - take the tour!

can i visit the capitol without a tour

I didn't take any tours.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

Yes I think you can but you risk not getting a slot at your preferred time.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

I think you can just turn up but be prepared to queue. The restaurant is very good if you do have to wait. Our tickets were booked locally by relatives.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

We booked on the day of. It just depends on whether or not there is room.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

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The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

Visit The White House

The President and Dr. Biden are delighted to welcome members of the public to tour the White House. Public tour requests are scheduled through your Member of Congress and their Congressional Tour Coordinator. Constituents may reach your Member of Congress and Congressional Tour Coordinator through the U.S. House of Representatives Switchboard at 202-225-3121, the U.S. Senate Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or online at  www.congress.gov/members .

Consistent with prior practices, public White House tour requests must be submitted a minimum of 21 days in advance and no more than 90 days in advance of the requested tour date(s). Reservations cannot be accepted for tour dates outside this 21 – 90-day window.  

Public tours are typically available from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, excluding Federal holidays or unless otherwise noted. If your tour is confirmed, please note that you will be assigned a specific time.  All White House tours are free of charge. The White House tour schedule is subject to change, with little notice, based on inclement weather or official use.

If you are a citizen of a foreign country, please contact your embassy in Washington, D.C. for assistance in submitting a tour request.

Identification Requirements

All U.S. citizens ages 18 and older, and foreign nationals of all ages (including children), must present a valid, government-issued photo ID upon arrival for their tour. Acceptable forms of identification are below.

U.S. CITIZENS

  • United States Driver’s License
  • Valid United States Passport
  • United States Military ID

FOREIGN NATIONALS

  • Valid Passport
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • U.S. State Department Issued Diplomatic ID Card

A U.S. driver’s license is not an acceptable form of identification for foreign nationals. No foreign-issued state IDs, foreign-issued driver’s licenses, expired passports, photocopies, other transmissions of these documents, or other forms of identification will be accepted. Individuals without acceptable identification, or whose identification does not exactly match the information previously registered, may be denied entry.

Prohibited Items

  • Bags of any kind (including fanny packs and clutches)
  • Cameras with detachable lenses
  • Electric stun guns
  • E-cigarettes
  • Knives of any kind
  • Martial arts
  • Tobacco Products
  • Toy Weapons
  • Video cameras
  • Weapons/devices
  • Any pointed object
  • Any other item determined to be a potential safety hazard

Please note that storage facilities are not provided during your visit. Individuals who arrive with bags or prohibited items will not be permitted to enter the White House.

Permitted Items

  • Baby carriers worn on the body
  • Breast pumps
  • Cell phones
  • Compact cameras with lenses less than 3 inches
  • Umbrellas without metal tips
  • All items needed for medical purposes (i.e. wheelchairs, EpiPens, medication, etc.)

Getting Here

Use of public transportation is strongly encouraged, as there is no parking available on the White House complex and street parking is limited. The closest Metrorail stations to the White House are Federal Triangle (blue and orange lines), Metro Center (blue, orange, silver, and red lines), and McPherson Square (blue, orange, and silver lines).

The White House Tour entrance is located in Sherman Park at 15th Street NW and Alexander Hamilton Place NW. If arriving by rideshare, use the White House Visitor Center (WHVC) as the drop-off address. The WHVC is located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20230, which is one block from the White House.

Restrooms are located at the White House Visitors Center, located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20230. There are no restrooms available once you arrive for your tour.

Accessibility

The White House tour route is wheelchair accessible. Visitors who wish to use a White House wheelchair should notify a U.S. Secret Service officer upon arrival.

Guide animals are permitted in the White House.

Health and Safety Guidance

Guests who receive a confirmed tour reservation will be issued a White House Tour Pass ahead of their tour date containing pertinent health and safety guidance.

Know Before You Go

  • Tours are self-guided and last approximately 45 minutes
  • Eat a snack and stay hydrated prior to arrival.
  • Dress for the weather, knowing you will be outside before your tour.
  • Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled tour time.
  • No late arrivals are accepted.
  • All guests must be previously registered via the RSVP link provided by the White House.
  • Please silence your cell phone and refrain from phone calls during the tour.
  • No flash photography or video recording is permitted during your tour.
  • Visitors may call the 24-hour Visitors Office information line at 202-456-7041 for latest updates and information relevant to White House tours.

can i visit the capitol without a tour

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can i visit the capitol without a tour

How to Tour the Washington Monument in DC

T he Washington Monument is one of the most iconic landmarks in Washington D.C. Standing at 555 feet tall, it offers incredible 360-degree views of the city from the observation deck at the top.

It took four trips to Washington DC, but I finally managed to get a ticket. The first few times, the building was under construction and the third time, I didn’t prioritize it.

What I didn’t realize was how cool it would be to walk inside.

How to Tour the Washington Monument

In order to tour the Washington Monument, you need to get tickets.

This past MEA break, we got to Washington DC and my son mentioned he wanted to go up the Monument. Thankfully I was able to make it happen, even without advanced planning.

Brief History of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first U.S. president and commander of the Continental Army.

Planning began shortly after Washington’s death in 1799. In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society formed to raise funds. Architect Robert Mills was chosen to design an obelisk surrounded by columns and statues.

Construction started in 1848 but halted in 1854 due to insufficient funds and the Civil War. When it resumed in 1879, the design was simplified to an unadorned obelisk.

The cornerstone was laid in 1848 using the same trowel as Washington used for the U.S. Capitol cornerstone. Memorial stones were donated from states and countries.

Completed in 1884 at 555 feet, it was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower surpassed it. The exterior is marble and granite, the capstone aluminum.

The monument has endured damage over time, requiring repairs. The most extensive restoration occurred from 1998-2001 when it was fully scaffolded.

Today it remains an iconic D.C. landmark, offering panoramic views from its observation deck to over 600,000 annual visitors.

How to get tickets to the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is managed by the National Park Services and is free to enter. You can reserve tickets online, 30 days in advance of the tour. To run the site, they charge a $1 service fee for online reservations .

I highly recommend you reserve your tickets exactly 30 days before you want to visit. Tickets are released at 10:00 a.m. and sell out in minutes. To improve your chances, create an account beforehand.

Same Day Tickets for the Washington Monument

If you can’t secure tickets, don’t stress out. Same-day tickets are also available.

Located just in front of the monument, on 15th Street, you’ll find the Washington Monument Lodge. Tickets are distributed on the back of the building starting at 8:45 a.m.

People start lining up around 8 a.m. or earlier. We arrived 30 minutes early and managed to secure tickets for the 9 a.m spot. Many people send one or two from their group early to get tickets for a later time.

Each person, 16 and over, can get up to 6 tickets. Tickets sold out within an hour. During peak season, Summer

Your timed ticket is a 30-minute window. We got to the ticket window a little after 9 a.m. and were still able to get 9 a.m. tickets.

Afte that, head over to the Washington Monument around the flags. There are two lines, one for the current window, and one for the next time slot.

Security Screening

Be prepared to go through airport-style security screening. You’ll need to remove all watches, belts, coins, phones, keys, etc. before going through the metal detectors.

Photography is allowed once you’re through security.

When my Husband and I asked each other what the most intense security was we went through in DC, my husband thought this was it. Keep in mind, we also went into the White House, the FBI and the US Capitol.

What’s inside the Washington Monument?

After getting through security, you’ll get a short tour of the monument as you wait for the elevator. One of the most notable things is getting to see the sculpture of George Washington.

French sculpture Jean-Antoine Houdson made the life-size sculpture of Washington in 1788. It was made from a case of the president’s face, making it one of the most realistic statues.

This particular one is a copy of the original marble statue in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

The Elevator to the top

The high-speed elevator whisks you up 500 feet to the observation deck in just 70 seconds.

Before the fast elevator ride, visitors went up 896 steps. Thankfully that’s no longer required. But the stairs were closed in 1971 due to safety concerns.

The Observation Deck

At the top, you’ll have 360-degree views of Washington D.C. sights like the Lincoln Memorial, White House , Capitol Building, National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and more.

Each side has two windows. The left most window has a step allowing younger visitors access to the window.

Museum Level

After fishing up your view of the city, take the steps down one floor. Sitting at 490 feet is the museum level.

This is where you’ll find out all the details about its construction and artifacts.

Commemorative Stones

Along the way, you can view commemorative stones donated by states and organizations during initial construction. The 194 commemorative stones were used as a fundraising tool.

Minnesota is made from Pipestone quarried from Pipestone National Monument .

Each stone is quarried locally and has the donator’s name carved in. For information on where the stones are located in the monument, check out NPS.gov.

When you catch the elevator back down, it will slow and dim the lights to spotlight some of the memorial stones as you descend.

Washington Monument Fun Facts

The blocks comprising the Monument are freestanding masonry, meaning there is no cement holding them together.

When the Monument first opened, the original elevator ride took 8-10 minutes to reach the top observation deck. Today’s high-speed elevator makes the journey in just 70 seconds.

There are 896 steps climbing to the top of the Washington Monument for those wanting to take the stairs.

The interior staircases were closed to the public in the 1970s due to vandalism and safety issues. While ranger-led stair tours were once offered, staffing challenges have prevented these opportunities in recent years.

The aluminum cap at the very tip of the Monument represented innovative metallurgy for the time.

DC building height laws restrict most buildings to no more than 160 feet tall. As a freestanding structure, the 555-foot Washington Monument remains the tallest building in the city.

From the observation deck, views span out over 30 miles on a clear day.

The Washington Monument was once the tallest building in the world at 555 feet. However, it was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

The marble’s color changed visibly because construction was stopped for over 20 years due to a lack of funding.The new marble came from a different quarry.

The Monument incorporates stones from Maryland, Massachusetts, and other sources.

In today’s money, the $1.2 million construction cost equates to over $30 million.

The same ceremonial trowel used by George Washington to lay the Capitol cornerstone was used to lay the Washington Monument’s cornerstone.

The original design envisioned 30 columns surrounding the Monument and statues of Declaration of Independence signers.

How early should I arrive to the Washington Monument?

Aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before your ticket time to go through security.

How long do you need to visit the Washington Monument?

Plan for at least 1 hour up and back down, plus time at the top.

Can I take photos?

Yes, photography is allowed once you clear security. Tripods are not permitted.

Would I recommend visiting the Washington Monument?

Yes, we had a fabulous time visiting. It was an impulse decision to see it and I’m so glad my son asked to go. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

The Washington Monument is one of the most iconic landmarks in Washington D.C. Standing at 555 feet tall, it offers incredible 360-degree views of the city from the observation deck at the top. It took four trips to Washington DC, but I finally managed to get a ticket. The first few times, the building was under construction and the third time, I didn’t prioritize it. What I didn’t realize was how cool it would be to walk inside. How to Tour the Washington Monument In order to tour the Washington Monument, you need to get tickets. This past MEA break, […]

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  4. The US Capitol, amazingly, without any tourists in the photo : r/pics

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COMMENTS

  1. Visit the U.S. Capitol

    Learn how to visit the U.S. Capitol with free tours, exhibitions and activities. Reservations are recommended for tours and some activities may be subject to change.

  2. Can I go inside the Capitol & look around without

    Votes. Yes and no. The tour of the Capitol means you stay with the tour group. However you can then walk independently to and around the Senate and House of Representative galleries, doing it at your own pace and staying as long as you like. We did a tour first and returned to the same spot.

  3. How to Tour the U.S. Capitol & See Congress in Session

    We recommend reserving a reserving a tour date and time. All tours begin and end at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and Inauguration Day). Tours typically take about 90 minutes and are fully accessible for people with disabilities.

  4. U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

    Visitors can begin their Capitol experience at the Visitor Center by visiting the Exhibition Hall, perusing the Gift Shops or dining in the Restaurant. There are also a number of special tours and activities offered beyond the general tour of the Capitol Building. All visitors wishing to tour the Capitol start at the Capitol Visitor Center.

  5. U.S. Senate: Visiting the Capitol

    Visiting the Capitol. Your visit to the historic U.S. Capitol begins as you enter the Capitol Visitor Center —the main entrance to the U.S. Capitol. Through films, exhibits, and tours, you will learn about how Congress works, how this magnificent building was built, and how citizens can participate in this extraordinary experiment called ...

  6. Visitors

    United States Congress. U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Book a tour, look at a Capitol map and find other useful information. The mission of the Visitor Center at the U.S. Capitol is to provide a welcoming and educational environment for visitors to learn about the unique characteristics of the House and the Senate and the legislative process as well as the history and development of the ...

  7. Building Access & Hours

    The U.S. Capitol is open to the public for tours Monday - Saturday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. It is closed on Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Inauguration Day. The Capitol Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Tours are available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors with official business appointments may ...

  8. How to Tour the U.S. Capitol & See Congress in Session

    We recommend reserving a reserving a tour date and time. All tours begin and end at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and Inauguration Day). Tours typically take about 90 minutes and are fully accessible for people with disabilities.

  9. How to Visit the US Capitol Tour in Washington DC

    To book through a local representative, visit the website of the senator or congressperson in your district. You can check if their site allows you to schedule a tour, or you can send an email to their official address. Include your requested tour date, as well as a few alternative dates, if sending an email.

  10. US Capitol Tours

    Tours can last between 50-80 minutes and the tour route can be changed without notice due to activities inside the Capitol. There are no self-guided tours of the US Capitol Building. ... One way to visit the U.S. Capitol Building without a tour is to stop in at The Capitol Visitor Center. This center is open Monday - Saturday from 9:00 am to ...

  11. Visitor Information

    Visitor Information. To ensure you have a pleasant visit, please review the following information for general access, awareness, and navigational ease throughout the Capitol Complex. In addition, it is strongly encouraged that all guests review the established regulations and prohibitions for the U.S. Capitol Complex prior to your visit.

  12. Regulations & Prohibitions

    The following links provide details on what activities are allowed within the Capitol Complex, what items are prohibited within Congressional facilities, and any penalties associated with the violation of any of the rules and regulations. Prohibited Items. No Drone Zone. No Advertising, Vending, or Soliciting on U.S. Capitol Grounds. Traffic ...

  13. Can I take self-guided tour without booking...

    Yes - and no. You may enter the Capital Visitor's Center, a new addition to the side of the capital and see many interesting exhibits - use the food court, gift shops, etc. But you are not allowed to enter the main part of the capital unless you are on a tour or escorted by a staff member of one of your senators or representatives. Same day ...

  14. How Can I Tour the White House in DC?

    Public, self-guided tours are 45 minutes and are run between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays unless otherwise noted. For complete details on White House tours, visit the White House tours and events page or call the White House Visitors Office 24-hour information line at (202) 456-7041. The White House is located at 1600 ...

  15. Plan a Visit

    Reserve a Tour of the Capitol. Login. Available Limited Availability Not Available. May 21st, 2024 To May 27th, 2024. Date /. TIME. Tue 21 May. Wed 22 May. Thu 23 May.

  16. Book a Tour

    U.S. Capitol & U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Tours of the U.S. Capitol can be booked several ways. U.S. residents can go directly through the offices of their Representative or Senators. These Congressional offices typically offer their own staff-led tours and most can assist in reserving a general tour. You can locate your representative here or ...

  17. Visit The White House

    Constituents may reach your Member of Congress and Congressional Tour Coordinator through the U.S. House of Representatives Switchboard at 202-225-3121, the U.S. Senate Switchboard at 202-224-3121 ...

  18. How to Tour the Washington Monument in DC

    The Washington Monument is managed by the National Park Services and is free to enter. You can reserve tickets online, 30 days in advance of the tour. To run the site, they charge a $1 service fee ...

  19. Michigan Capitol visit: Your guide to touring the building

    Still, tour times can change due to staffing levels, so if you're interested in a guided tour, it's wise to call the Capitol Tour Service in advance at 517-373-2353. If you're planning to visit ...

  20. Home

    See all events on the Calendar event. May 27 2024 | 11am - 12pm. Education Program - Family Program. event. May 27 2024 | 11am - 12pm. Outdoor Tour. event ... Live, Virtual Capitol Tour. Live, Virtual Capitol Tour. Our Apps. Our Apps. Discover the Capitol Architecture. Discover the Capitol Architecture. Discover Capitol Symbols .

  21. Yes, you can visit the Michigan Capitol

    Yes, you can visit the Michigan Capitol. May Oyler, a Capitol educator, smiles as she opens the doors to a room during a school tour inside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday, Dec ...