Tours of the White House

Tours of the White House showcase a fascinating place that is quite possibly the most famous house in America. The symbol of the American presidency serves as many things at once—it's a family home, host for state dinners, and a working office.

The house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue also is one of the most visited locations in Washington, D.C. On some days, the White House hosts some 6,000 people who come tour and work.

While many of the museums and attractions in Washington, D.C. welcome drop-in visitors, the White House is not one of them. If you're planning to add tours of the White House to your Washington, D.C. itinerary, you'll need to make reservations. The best way to do this is to call the office of your local member of the Congress, and foreign residents can request tours through their embassies.

Staff members can help you get tickets for the tours, which are generally available every day except Saturday and Monday. The hours often are extended when the White House schedule allows, especially in the summertime.

Tours can be arranged at least 21 days in advance and up to six months out. Because they're available on a first-come, first-served basis, you'll want to call your Congressman as soon as possible in that time frame. All tours are free of charge and are self-guided. Once you've studied up on interesting White House facts, it will be quite a treat to see the house in person.

For even more details about the famous house, consider adding a trip to the White House Visitor Center to your tour. Open since 1995, the official welcome center offers a mix of exhibits and shopping. You'll also find the chance to watch a video about White House history and learn more about the social events and architecture at the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The White House Historical Association manages a small gift shop here, and proceeds help support their preservation efforts. It takes most visitors between 20 minutes and an hour to experience the visitor center; some visit before their white house tour and others stop by afterward.

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