Discover why Washington D.C. is  a great place for a family vacation.


As you begin to think about a family trip to DC, the first call you should make is to your member of congress as they have a limited number of tickets to select sites that they are able to make available to their constituents. Each Congressman and Senator has a staff person in DC available to help you avoid the lines and gain access to some of the best sites in the city: The Capitol, White House, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.

First, how do you find your member of congress? Visit the House of Representatives and Senate website and type in your home address to determine your Congressman and Senators (Short civics lessons, you have one Congressman and two Senators). Visit their personal website, as most members of congress dedicate space to giving you information about tours, and call the office to let the staff know you’re coming.

So what specifically can members of congress help you with?

U.S. Capitol

Quick Facts:

  • Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Location: East Capitol Street, NE
  • Metro Stop: Capitol South or Union Station
  • Strollers are permitted on the tour, but if you can leave it in the member of congress’ office do, as there are lots of tight passageways and stairs.

Tour reservations are available through the U.S. Capitol website and can be booked 3 months in advance. These will be large group tours. Members of congress also offer smaller tours through their office. The tours will most likely be led by an office intern. Occasionally, if things are especially busy in the member’s office when you arrive you will be added to a group tour. The Congressional and Senatorial offices are located on either side of the Capitol on the capitol campus.

Allow two hours to make your way to the congressional office and complete the tour.

What You Will See

All of the buildings on the capitol campus are connected underground through tunnels and there is even a subway system connecting the buildings to the Capitol – the kids will love it! Once inside the Capitol some of the highlights include the Visitor’s Center (which is full of displays depicting the history of the building), the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. Within the Capitol each state has two statues representing famous statesmen (and women) from their state and most are located in Statuary Hall. Keep an eye out for the gold statue of King Kamehameha from Hawaii. The statues provide a great opportunity for a scavenger hunt for the kids! And be sure to ask your tour guide about the Whispering Gallery in Statuary Hall – a little magic! Also don’t forget to ask your member of congress for Gallery Passes. These allow you to go into the House and Senate Chambers and watch the proceedings if the House and Senate are in session.

The Capitol campus is divided into three main sections: the Capitol, the Senate side and the House side.
Security is tight and parking is extremely limited. If you do decide to drive, there is a parking garage located at Union Station on the senate side. But the best way to get there is to take the metro (DC’s version of the subway). If you want to start your visit at your senator’s office you will take the metro to Union Station (red line) and if you plan to visit your member of congress then you will take the metro to Capitol South (orange and blue line).


Going into any buildings on the capitol campus will require you pass through security. There are often long lines so allow yourself extra time. Basically the security procedures are the same as the airport – with no 3D scanners! This means you will not be able to enter the buildings with any large bag so leave your luggage at the hotel. Click here for a full list of restrictions.

The White House

Quick Facts:

  • Hours and Tickets: The self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Fridays, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturdays. The tour is free and tickets must be obtained through your Member of Congress or Senator.
  • Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  • Metro Stop: Federal Triangle, Metro Center or McPherson Square
  • Strollers are not permitted, along with a long list of other items. For more information click here.

You must request tickets to tour the White House through your congressman or senator. They are very hard to obtain because there is a limited number of people allowed though each day. I recommend you put in a request with both of your senators and your congressman to increase the chances of getting tickets. Your should put in your request at least 4 months in advance, but reservations can be submitted up to 6 months in advance.

You will be required to submit your security information (full name and social security number for each attendee) when you put in the request with your member of congress.

Allow an hour to get through security and tour the building.

What You Will See

The self-guided tour will take you through all of the public state rooms in the White House.

The White House Visitor’s Center has exhibits explaining the history of the White House and houses the gift shop. It is not part of the official tour and therefore you don’t need a ticket. This is a great place to stop if you are unable to get tickets to tour the White House. The visitor’s center is located around the corner from the White House at the southeast corner of 15th and E Streets and is open from 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Click here for a map.

How To Get There

As is true everywhere in DC, parking is limited. You will find office parking garages available around the White House and parking prices will be approximately $20. As always, the best way to get there is by metro and Federal Triangle (blue and orange lines), Metro Center (blue, orange, and red lines) and McPherson Square (blue and orange lines) are the closest metro stops.


As you can imagine security is very tight at the White House and you will have to go through a security clearance process similar to the airport. Click here for more information on identification and security procedures.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Quick Facts:

  • Hours and Tickets: There is no charge to tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Visitor’s Center is open Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm. Tour times vary based on the time of the year, see below for more information.
  • Location: 14th Street and C Street, SW
  • Metro Stop: Smithsonian
  • Strollers are not permitted on the tour.

Tickets for tours of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) are available without going through your member of congress, but it is a lot easier if you do make the request through them. Tickets are distributed weekdays on a first come first serve basis beginning at 8:00 a.m. at the BEP. The line forms early and all of the tickets are usually distributed by 9:00 a.m. So instead, skip the line and call your member of congress. Congressional tours are offered Monday – Friday during the peak months of the D.C. travel season which is March – August. During the non-peak season no tickets are required or distributed.

Allow one hour to tour the BEP and visit the gift shop.

What You Will See

The BEP in DC is one of the two facilities in the country (the other is in Fort Worth, TX) where the country’s paper money (Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all) is made. It is amazing to think just how much money passes through this building each day – you’ll see lots of security cameras. There is also a fun gift shop where you can buy sheets of uncut one dollar bills and bags of shredded money (gifts to take to the friends back home) or have your face printed on a $100 dollar bill.

How To Get There

I’m starting to repeat myself I know, parking is limited and although there are metered spots around the BEP and parking lots are located at the southeast corner of 14th & D Streets, SW; at 12th & Maryland Avenue, SW and at 12th & C Streets, SW, it is advised to take the metro to the Smithsonian stop. The BEP is a block away. If you have a ticket or need to wait in line for a ticket, you will enter the building on Raoul Wallenberg Place (formerly 15th Street). To take a tour without a ticket during the non-peak season, enter the BEP at the main entrance on 14th Street. The 14th Street entrance is also where the gift shop is located.


Clearance for the BEP is quite simple. Backpacks, small bags, water bottles are permitted and you do not need a picture ID. You will have to go through a metal detector.

The Library of Congress

Quick Facts:

  • Hours and Tickets: There is no cost to tour the Library of Congress. Hours are Monday – Saturday from 10:30 am – 3:30 pm (the last tour on Saturday is at 2:30 pm)
  • Location: 101 Independence Avenue, SE
  • Metro Stop: Capitol South
  • Strollers are permitted.

You do not need a ticket in advance to tour the Library of Congress. Public tours are offered Monday – Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (the last tour on Saturday is at 2:30 p.m.)
Tours do fill up quickly though so to risk the hassle of showing up to find a tour is full you may arrange a specific tour time through your congressional office.

What You Will See

All tours are led by a guide who will share the history of the building and the mission of the Library of Congress. The tour also takes you to view the beautiful main reading room and collections of the library.

Allow one hour to tour the LOC.

How To Get There

The LOC is housed in three buildings, but the tour will take place in the Jefferson building which is located directly across 1st Street, SE from the Capitol. There is a tunnel connecting the Jefferson building to the Capitol Visitor’s Center (Great to know if you are visiting in August when the humidity can be oppressive.)

As always, parking is limited and so the metro will be the easiest way to reach the LOC. The closest stop is Capitol South. If you decide to drive there is a parking garage at Union Station which is within walking distance of the LOC.


The LOC is located on the capitol campus so security procedures will be the same as visiting the Capitol. You are not allowed to take large bags, food and beverages, etc. You will need a picture ID and will have to pass through a metal detector. Again, very similar to the airport. Click here for a complete list of guidelines.

The Supreme Court

Quick Facts:

  • Hours and Tickets: There is no cost to tour the Supreme Court. Hours are Monday – Friday from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm.
  • Location: 1 First Street, NE
  • Metro Stop: Capitol South or Union Station
  • Strollers are permitted.

Reserved tickets are not needed to tour the Supreme Court. Guided tours are available Monday – Friday every 30 minutes from 9:30 am. – 3:30 pm. If the court is in session there are no tours offered. Click here for a schedule. It is advised you arrive at least 15 minutes before the tour begins to wait in line. If you would like to plan your day and have a specific tour scheduled, your congressional office can reserve tickets for up to 6 people for the 2:00 pm tour on a first come first serve basis.

Allow one hour to tour the building.

What You Will See

The guided tour will take you into the court room and give you a history of the building and the court itself. There is a gift shop located on the ground floor.

How To Get There

The Supreme Court is also located on the capitol campus across 1st Street, SE from the Capitol. Click here for a map showing the entrance to the building. Taking the metro is advised as parking is limited and the two closest metro stops are Union Station and Capitol South. Again, if you decide to drive there is a parking garage at Union Station.


Because no tickets are necessary you will not need a picture ID. You will be required to pass through a metal detector and your bags will be searched. Food and beverages must remain in your bags at all times.

I Have Saved the Best for Last…

The Department of Interior

After all my years in the city even I didn’t know about this tour, so a shout out to my dear friend PB who shared the secret…The Department of Interior offers a VIP tour of the city’s main attractions. These tours can only be scheduled through your member of congress’ office one month in advance. Because this tour is not well known, you may find your congressional office has never scheduled one, but it is a wonderful way to get an overview of the sites from a knowledgeable tour guide. If you have a child that is a history buff then this is the tour for you!

The tour is conducted by a U.S. Park Ranger in a 12 person van. On the tour you will see: The Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Ford’s Theater, FDR Memorial, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. The tour begins at the Department of Interior at 8:30 a.m. You will make a stop for lunch at a spot determined by the Park Ranger and you will be dropped off back at the Interior Department at 3:30 p.m.

Because of the limited space, car seats are not allowed on the van, but they will allow you to hold your child if that is something you are comfortable doing. Honestly this is not the best tour for young children and is probably best taken advantage of when your children are a bit older.

So there you go, an overview of how you can make your government work for you! Plan ahead and get in touch with your member of congress as soon as you know you are coming to town.



  • Comment by Nelle — July 13, 2012 @ 5:40 am

    Congratulations Kirstie! What a great first post. I have NEVER been to printing and engraving even though my great aunt was the first Woman Director of the Mint! Must go now with your inspiration. Xoxo

  • Comment by Ginny Farwell — July 15, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

    Love your new web site. Cannot wait to take the grandkids to DC and your guide will make our trip so much easier. Thank you and congratulations on your new venture.

  • Comment by Sally McAllister — July 19, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    Great information! I will post on my fb page!

  • Comment by susan — July 19, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    this is the best thing EVER!!!

  • Pingback by We've Got Just the Ticket - Kids Will Travel Guide — September 28, 2012 @ 1:42 am

    […] such as the Supreme Court and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. To learn more, visit our site describing what your Congressman can do for […]

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