Obtaining tickets to tour the White House during Christmas takes some advance planning but is well worth it. To obtain tickets, I wrote on my calendar to contact my Congressman in July. Tours are first-come, first-serve and requesting the tour earlier enables a better chance of getting a tour. When you submit your request, you must know how many will be in your party, all names, birthdates and social security numbers for your party; and a sampling of dates that you are available.
Your congressman/woman’s website will walk you through the process of submitting the information. A lot of patience is required because you will not know the date until about 2 weeks before your tour date via an official email. I handled the unknown by penciling in a few dates on my calendar that could be a possibility.
Tours are available 7:30 to 11:30 am Tuesday through Thursday and 7:30 am to 1:30 pm Fridays and Saturdays. During the Christmas season, the days are very limited because the White House is also closed on Sundays, Mondays and Federal Holidays. It doesn’t leave a lot of open dates and requires that children will have to miss school. It was still worth this hassle for us.
Our tour was at 11 am on a rainy Tuesday. We drove into DC and found two hour street parking near the Red Cross building. From there, we were able to get to the White House without walking too far. There are also a few garages open that are convenient if you plan to stay in the city for the day. You may want to stop at the bathroom at the Visitor center on the way.
The ticket that was received via email must be printed out before arrival. Adults also must have a photo ID. There is a list of items not allowed on the tour but the basics for parents are as follows:
- No bags of any kind are allowed on the tour (diaper bags, fanny packs, backpacks, etc.)
- No strollers are allowed
- No video equipment
- No food, drinks, etc.
- No bathrooms
- Coats, cell phones, small camera, keys, and umbrellas are okay
I went with my 6 children ages 10 and under and had to get creative. I brought my 2 year old in a backpack carrier. The baby was held or put in a front pack carrier. My older children walked. Every child was responsible for their umbrella and coat. When we arrived to the check in location, there was a very long line of about 60 ticketed people – mostly adults.
The line took 45 minutes and included 2 verbal check-ins and one security body scan and then we were inside the doors of the White House. There is nothing as beautiful and grand for my children than walking into that entryway. It was an instant delight for the senses.
We toured through all the rooms and lingered. We took a lot of photos in front of the trees and asked the Secret Service many questions. We looked at the large gingerbread White House. My children were very curious about the stairs that went up to the President’s personal living space.
The self-guided tour lasted about 45 minutes and we went through the East Wing – about 6 rooms. If you are able to get tickets, I highly suggest you go. If you prepare yourself ahead of time, it is quite a memorable family Christmas tradition.
Photos by Andrea Verwys