Washington, D.C. Capitol Tour Tips

June 16, 2016

We are huge fans of the TV show ‘House of Cards’, so on a whim, we decided to book a trip to D.C. There is so much to do and see in Washington, D.C., so I put together a list of popular tours and tips to make sure you don’t miss out. Also, make sure you map out the museums you want to visit based off your interest. All the museums were free of charge, but do encourage donations. Keep in mind that some museums stay open later than others, so plan on going to those last.

You’ll find below our schedule based off our interest.  I also added additional information for popular tours we did not visit at the bottom of this post.

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Our itinerary:

Day 1 (Thursday)

  • Airport- Arrived to DCA which is about 15 minutes by Uber to Capitol Hill
  • Hotel– The George- Kimpton Hotel (hotel review coming soon)
  • Bike tour– Capitol sites at nite www.bikeandrolldc.com/tour/capital-sites-nite-bike-tour/
    • TIP– We like to book bike tours (or observation decks) Day 1 to get familiar with the area
    • TIP- Check Travelzoo for half-off discounts
    • You’ll see many of the memorials (Washington, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam Veterans and Lincoln) as well as the White House, the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institute.
    • TIP- make sure to go to the back of the Lincoln Memorial to take photos of Arlington and Potomac River

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IMG_7428 (2)Day 2 (Friday)

  • Rayburn House to our Congressman Ted Poe’s office for the Capitol Tour at 10am
    • TIP– make sure to write to your local Congressman at least 3 months in advance to secure a tour
  • Capitol Tour- an intern took us to the Capitol through the underground system
  • Tour the statue room, old Supreme Court chambers, old Senate Chambers, and up to the Capitol rotunda 
  • Ended the guided tour at the House of Representatives and Senate area. We chose the House of Representative because Congress was in session! Great experience, but no cameras or phones allowed. You will have to check those items in
    • TIP– make sure to ask the check-in areas what the hours are for the Senate side since it was closed by the time we were done on the House tour
  • We headed back to hotel to pick up Parker, take him for a walk through the capitol, and enjoyed the evening at Dacha Beer GardenIMG_7450 (2)

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Day 3 (Saturday)

  • Library of CongressThey recommend arriving about 20 minutes early to ensure your spot. Tours are offered Monday- Friday at the following times: 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm or 3:30 pm. They are also offered on Saturday at the same times except 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm.  Tours are located in The Thomas Jefferson Building on First Street SE, between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street.The link below will provide you with additional details:http://www.loc.gov/visit/tours/guided/jeffersonbuilding.html

    TIP- The LOC is closed on Sunday, so make sure to plan accordingly.

    TIP– be sure to stop by the Madison building first to sign up for a reading card. This gives you access to the reading room for ‘research’ purchases. It’s amazing to go in the library to check out a book and sit among history! No pictures allowed! I was too scared to break the rules 🙂

    -must be 16 years or older

    -must have a valid form of I.D.

  • National Air & Space Museum
    • TIP– If you are interested in an IMAX film or simulation ride, make sure to purchase tickets when you first get there, so you can plan your time around the museum accordingly

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Day 4 (Sunday)

  • Holocaust Museum
    • TIP– the permanent exhibits require a reservation that you can pick up at the info desk or book on-line beforehand. We had to spend an extra hour before our allowed time, so make sure to book on-line. There are open exhibits that don’t require a reservation that you can look at until your time. However, the permanent exhibit covers it all in chronological order.
  • National Art Gallery
  • National Museum of Natural History
    • TIP- go here last. They close the latest at 7:30pm

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Below are the rest of the tours that are popular, but we didn’t get a chance to see:

White House

Book a tour 3-6 months in advanced by writing to your local congressman. The busiest time is during the summer, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get approved. The tour is 30 minutes long, and you get to see three rooms. Unfortunately, we did not get a tour.

**Many of the attractions in D.C. also offer public tours, such as the Library of Congress, Supreme Court and Bureau of Engraving and Printing**

Supreme Court

Public lectures/tours are offered every hour on the half-hour beginning at 9:30 am with the last tour starting at 3:30 pm. They recommend arriving about 20 minutes early to ensure you have a spot in line. A line forms in the Great Hall on the First Floor before each tour. The link below will provide you with additional details:


Bureau of Engraving and Printing

The Bureau offers public tours on a first-come, first-serve basis. A line forms at the Visitor Entrance on 14th Street. Tours run every 15 minutes from 9:00 am-10:45 am and 12:30 pm-2:00 pm. The Visitor Center is open Monday-Friday from 8:30am-3:30 pm-door closes at 3:00 pm. March-August are their peak months, they recommend arriving about an hour early around 7:30 am when the line starts forming to ensure that you get a ticket. The link below will provide you with additional details:


Washington Monument

Book tickets 6-8 months in advance for observation. There’s an observation deck at the top:


There is so much to see and learn in Washington, D.C. Make sure to schedule out your itinerary before hand to book tours in advance. Also, remember to check hours of operation to adjust accordingly.




  • Reply Nick June 17, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    I really enjoyed the Library of Congress tour. Getting access to the reading room was an arduous task in itself! It felt like a scavenger hunt going to a different building for the card and following tunnels and staircases with no signs telling you where to go. The brochure doesn’t even have directions to get there, it only has an outline of where it is. You need to ask the information desk how to get there and they warn you a police officer will escort you out if you take any pictures. I’ve never felt so nervous going to a library but as you walk into the magnificent main reading room you realize how grand and spectacular it is. Marble is everywhere as imposing statues of Plato, Shakespeare, and Newton look down on you. It was an amazing experience and glad to have shared it with you!

  • Reply Nick T. June 17, 2016 at 10:34 PM

    These are really helpful tips for my upcoming visit. Thanks!

  • Reply Zondra B July 28, 2016 at 8:19 PM

    This was really helpful. My husband and I are actually going to DC next week. I will definitely keep these tips in mind. Thanks

    • Reply Swang July 31, 2016 at 11:50 PM

      Let me know how your trip goes!

  • Reply Katie March 1, 2017 at 12:09 PM

    Great blog post on D.C.! There is so much to see and do there, I only found time to do a fraction of it, I’m sure – but your tips were tremendous!! The part about getting a reading card was a clever and unique idea that I definitely wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and the helpful information on visiting the representatives’ offices so I could get passes for the House and Senate (and tour them after I did my Capitol tour) was excellent! I did the bicycle tour (capitol sites by night) – wonderful choice! I also stayed at the same hotel, Hotel George, and had a lovely experience there. Thank you so much for sharing your insight!!!

    • Reply Swang March 2, 2017 at 12:04 AM

      Thanks Katie! I’m glad the tips were useful. We loved D.C., and hope to get a White House tour next time

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