It is a well-known fact that the White House is the majestic official residence and principal workplace of the president of the Unites States of America. Located in Washington D.C., no trip to this state would be complete without seeing the White House. With proper prior planning, you can make your trip an informative and enjoyable one.
Public tours of the White House are available to all United States citizens. In order to go on one of these tours, you will have to first make a request to your Member of Congress. These requests are accepted up to six months in advance and so, you have ample time to organize for a well-planned trip. All White House tours are free of charge but the availability for slots may become a problem because the tours are scheduled on a first come first serve basis. So, it is best to book well in advance to ensure that you do not get disappointed. Also, keep in mind that you cannot book for your tour less than 30 days in advance. If you are a not a United States citizen, you will be expected contact your embassy in Washington D.C. for more assistance regarding submitting a tour request.
Timings of the Tours
These self-guided tours are available for the following timings:
- Tuesday through Thursday – 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
- Friday – 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
- Saturday – 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Tours will not be provided on federal holidays. Tour hours may sometimes be lengthened whenever it is feasible, based on the official White House schedule.
Visitor Center of the White House
The White House Visitor Center offers a wealth of information for its visitors on details such as the architecture of the White House, its furnishings, social events, first families who have resided there and so on. There is also an interesting thirty-minute video. The Visitor Center is open on all the days of the week. from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is located in the south east corner of 15th and E streets. It is advisable to allocate anything between half an hour to one hour to see all the exhibits. You can visit the Center either before or after your tour. The White House Historical Association also sponsors a sales area. Rest rooms are provided but there are no food services offered.
Tour Facilities for Mobility Impaired, Hearing and Visually Impaired Visitors
If you are scheduled for a tour and require the loan of a wheelchair you should tell the officer at the Visitors Entrance upon your arrival. Unfortunately, these wheelchairs cannot be reserved beforehand. If you are using a wheelchair, or have any other mobility impairments, you will still use the same Visitors Entrance but will be escorted by ramp from the entrance level to the Ground floor, and then by the elevator from the Ground floor to the State floor. You can contact your Member of Congress should you require assistance during your White House tour for hearing or visually impaired visitors.
Visitors Office Information
If you have any questions or wish to notify any last minute modifications to your tour schedule, you may call the 24-hour Visitors Office information line at 202-456-7041.
List of Prohibited Items
It is important to note that there is no storage facility to keep prohibited items in the White House while you go on your tour. Any person carrying a prohibited item will be denied entry to the White House. Also, the U.S. Secret Service reserve the right to prohibit any other personal item on the body of the visitor which they perceive to be unsafe or unacceptable. Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones and car keys are allowed.
The list of prohibited items include:
- handbags, book bags, backpacks, purses
- food and beverages of any kind
- cameras, video recorders or any type of recording device
- tobacco products
- personal grooming items (make-up, hair brush or comb, lip or hand lotions, and so on)
- any pointed objects (pens, knitting needles, and so on)
- aerosol containers
- guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons / devices or knives of any size
White House Spring Garden and Grounds Tours
The tours inside the White House will not be held on the same days as those that hold the Garden Tours. Also, in case of unfavorable weather, the Garden Tours maybe cancelled. The Visitors Office Information line can be called to check on the status of the tours. These tours are open to the public but for the attendees of small children, a ticket will be issued. Tickets will be distributed to one person each on a first come first serve basis. They will be available at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15 and E Streets on the tour days beginning at 8:00 a.m. The tickets are free of cost. Visitors can enjoy the following during their Garden Tours:
- Children’s Garden and the South Lawn of the White House
- Jacqueline Kennedy Garden
- Rose Garden
The White House Kitchen Garden can also be seen during the course of your tour route. An explanation will be provided for the tourists to enjoy and appreciate various aspects of the garden.
List of Prohibited Items During the Garden Tours
Similar to the rules applicable for the White House Tour, the U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to deny entry to any visitor if they carry any of the following prohibited items. They also hold the right to prohibit entry to a visitor should he / she be carrying any other personal item on their body which the security perceive to be unsafe or unacceptable. The list of prohibited items include:
- fireworks / firecrackers
- duffel bags / backpacks / suitcases
- aerosols of any kind
- simulated or real weapons / ammunitions
- food or beverages of any kind
- animals except guide dogs
White House Kitchen Garden Tours
The White House Kitchen Garden Tours does not include the tour inside the White House. These tours are available to elementary, middle or high school students. They are available on a first come first serve basis. A form can be accessed from the official website of the White House to enquire about the tour status.
Make sure to plan your trip properly and well in advance. Ensure that you do not have any of the prohibited items with you. Have a safe and enjoyable trip to the White House!