The White House is a must-see when visiting Washington, D.C. with kids. However, viewing the President’s home through a large fence isn’t as gratifying as an inside perspective. Many families might not be aware, but you can tour the White House, and better yet, for free! Here’s how to do it on your next trip to the nation’s capital.
How to Request a Tour
Families who want to take a public tour of the White House need to first submit a letter of request to their Member of Congress. Include the names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth and contact information for all guests in the request, as well as the dates that you plan to visit Washington, D.C.
Requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance, but no more than six months in advance of your planned visit. Families are urged to write to their Member of Congress as soon as possible in conjunction with their trip. Visit the House of Representatives website to find your state’s Member of Congress and their contact information.
For families who wish to see the White House, but are visiting from another country, contact your nation’s embassy office in Washington, D.C. to request a public tour.
What to Bring
All ages are welcome to tour the White House. Adults and children 18 years and older are required to present a valid, government-issued photo ID before touring the White House. Valid photo IDs include driver’s licenses, military IDs and passports. Though the White House website does not state these requirements, we suggest that children under the age of 18 bring a school-issued ID, passport or copy of their birth certificate as valid forms of identification, just to be safe.
Certain items are prohibited during tours of the White House. These include food and beverages; tobacco products; personal grooming items; strollers; any pointed object; aerosol containers; and fireworks and weapons of any kind. We suggest leaving everything in the car or hotel room except for your forms of ID, money and cell phones prior to your visit. There are no storage facilities at the White House, so any guests with prohibited items on them prior to the tour will not be allowed to enter.
Note: As of July 1, 2015, cameras and smartphones are permitted in the White House, and visitors are encouraged to post updates with #WhiteHouseTour. Video cameras, tripods and other large recording equipment are not allowed.
For families with members who are mobility impaired, wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitors Center. Reservations are not possible for wheelchairs. Once on the tour, guests in wheelchairs will be escorted up the ramp from the entrance to the ground floor, and then will be escorted on an elevator from the ground floor to the State Floor.
Public tours of the White House are offered Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., and Friday and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tours are not available on federal holidays, unless otherwise noted. Hours are extended when possible. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Public restrooms are not available during tours of the White House, so go before you arrive. If necessary, head to the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion across from the south side of the White House before your tour.
Prepare With a Virtual Tour
After you’ve scheduled your tour, prepare the kids with a virtual tour via the White House website. Enjoy 360-degree views of the rooms that are featured on the public tour. It will get everyone in the family excited to see them first-hand. The virtual tour is also a fun option for those who can’t visit in person.