I love Washington DC. We have just returned from the bustling capital city. There was no end of entertainment for our family of five plus grandpa. Museums, gardens, monuments, cool buildings, and charming neighborhoods, DC has it all and most of it is free. Logistically there are a few things that need to be planned ahead.
The White House – Make your request to visit the home of the Obamas six months in advance through one of your Representatives or your Senators. If you are a foreign visitor contact your embassy. The White House is receiving 1000 requests a day for tours! You will need to be able to provide Social Security Numbers and full names for each member of your party.
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The Capitol – Again you can request a visit via your Representative or Senator. Or go to the Capitol website at www.visitthecapitol.gov where you can easily make a reservation and print it off at home. You can also just show up and take your chances that you won’t have to wait long for the next open tour. The building closes at 4:30 so if you have picked up tickets to see the gallery from your Representative or Senator then give yourself time. I didn’t realize the tour was going to take an hour and a half. As a result of that and the time I reserved for our tour, we did not have enough time to visit the Gallery (where the House or Reps meet). You can access the Gallery through the Visitor Center but you do need special passes and the access was not obvious so ask someone to direct you. Most of the Representatives and Senators have their offices in buildings near the Capitol. Security takes a while but that is the only line you will have to wait in if you have your reservations already made. There is a nice cafeteria in the Visitor Center if you get the munchies.
The Holocaust Museum: We made reservations for this as well. The museum runs out of time slots quickly. You can make your reservations through their website under “plan a visit” and then tickets.com actually provides the reservations for a small fee. The museum does not charge admission. Our tickets did not print properly at home but they were able to see our reservation in their computer. Please note there are understandably some very disturbing images and films in the exhibit. The museum has made certain footage inaccessable to younger children.
We did not have any similar constraints in any of the other government buildings or museums. Our personal favorite was the Library of Congress which has changing exhibitions, Jefferson’s Library and one of the loveliest interiors.
For transportation, we used the subway or our feet. The last day we used our car without much difficulty. There are some decent sized parking lots near the Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial. We even found a metered spot near the White House, but it was very early in the morning.
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