With roughly 18 million visiting the nation’s capital each year, some of the most heavily toured sites are restricted to time-slotted ticked entry. In an improvement from the long day-of lines that used to be standard practice for touring DC, the National Park Service and other operators have streamlined the process for reserving free advance tickets online (with some requiring a small processing fee). The most popular Washington, DC tours include the following:
One of the most sought after tours for visitors, White House tours are free but limited in availability and require advanced planning. Tour requests are submitted through the visitor’s member of Congress or embassy official not more than six months in advance but not less than 21 days due to security clearance. The self-guided tour starts on the east side of the White House and takes visitors through the Library, China Room, East Room, Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room, and the State Dining Room before exiting out the north side. Visitors can occasionally see the President boarding Marine One or the first dog being walked.
Cameras and photography are now permitted year round. Remember to bring a valid and current ID or passport that identically matches all of the information submitted to Secret Service at the time of reserving the tour. Tours can be canceled without notice due to the President’s schedule or security concerns, and it is recommended that visitors call the visitor line prior for a status update 202-456-7041.
United States Capitol:
The United States Capitol Visitor Center has eliminated most of the long outdoor lines that visitors used to encounter and now allows for tickets to be reserved in advance online. Visitors can also reserve tours through their member of Congress or gamble in the walk-up tour line (though walk-up is not recommended during spring or summer). The guided tour takes visitors through the crypt, rotunda, and statuary hall. Photos are allowed, but visitors are reminded to stay close to their tour group. Visitors should note that the Capitol’s dome is undergoing renovations to be completed in fall of 2016 during which the interior of the dome is tarped.
Capitol visitors can see the exhibits within the Exhibition Hall without tour tickets. Visitors wishing to see galleries of the House of Representatives and Senate need to obtain passes from their member of Congress. If time allows, use the tunnel from the Capitol to see the Library of Congress and skip the library’s lines and security.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
In an effort to provide a better visiting experience, the Holocaust Museum requires timed passes during the peak visiting season from March through August. Ticketing reservations can be made in advance online with a limited number of same-day passes available on a first-come basis at the museum. Timed passes provide a specific hour during which entry can be made to the Museum’s permanent exhibit. From September through February, advance tickets are not required.
National Museum of African American History and Culture:
After officially opening in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) remains incredibly popular for visitors. Timed passes are distributed online roughly three months in advance and go very quickly. Check the website for the exact release date and time of the advance tickets. For visitors looking for same day passes, a small number of tickets are released at 6:30 a.m online. A very limited number of walk-up tickets are also available starting 1 p.m. on weekdays only. Same day tickets are limited and in high demand, making the advance online reservation tickets the best option for visitors who do not want to miss the museum.
UPDATE: The Washington Monument is again closed for tours due to renovations to the elevator system and security screening area. The monument is not expected to reopen for tours until 2019. After being closed for three years for renovations following the 2011 earthquake, the Washington Monument’s observation floor reopened to visitors in 2014. The observation floor is reached by elevator provides a 360 degree view from 500 ft of the National Mall and the District of Columbia through eight small windows. With the Old Post Office Tower closed for renovations, the Washington Monument provides an unparalleled view of DC. Tickets are required to access the Monument and can be obtained online in advance (highly recommended) with a limited number of same-day tickets available on a first-come basis at the Monument. Tickets are for a specific time slot, and visitors should meet the park ranger at the base of the Monument prior to the tour start time.