Touring the White House


The White House – Home of the First Family


Though this is the Executive Mansion, home to the First Family, you have only a random chance of seeing any member thereof unless you luck into a news White Houseevent or photo op—although the Obamas seem to be a little more visible than some of their predecessors. This 20-minute, hands-off tour passes through the ubiquitous metal detectors and into the East Wing lobby, with a glimpse of the Rose Garden. Then it’s up the stairs to the East Room, the Green Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, and the State Dining Room, and out. It’s hard to dispute the emotional pull of the presidential residence or its sumptuous beauty, but if you’re on a first-time visit to Washington and on a limited schedule, consider visiting the White House on another trip, preferably in the fall or winter.

The White House Visitor Center, which is open 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m., except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1, is large and attractive, featuring lots of carpeting, places to sit, nice restrooms, static displays on the White House, a gift shop, and a video tour of the mansion.

White House Touring Tips 

Requests for tour passes must be submitted through one’s member of Congress and are accepted at least three weeks and up to six months (a much better idea) in advance; start early because tours include only 10 people at a time, and slots are filled on a first-come basis. (International visitors should contact their embassies about passes.) All visitors should call the 24-hour Visitors Office information line at 202-456-7041 before arriving. Also read the list of prohibited items on the website. No food available on site. While you’re making advance reservations, check to see if your trip might coincide with a White House garden tour; that would give you another chance to get into the grounds.

Location: The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Nearest Metro stations: Federal Triangle, Farragut North, or McPherson Square. Tel: 202-456-7041 or 202-456-2121 (tdd) Admission to the White House is free, but reservations are required. Hours: Tours are scheduled Tuesday–Thursday, 7:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. (excluding federal holidays). Tour hours will be extended when possible based on the official White House schedule. All guests 18 years of age or older will be required to present a valid, government-issued photo identification. All foreign nationals must present their passport. All other forms of foreign identification will not be accepted.

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