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Up on the Hill

On day 2 we geared up for an early and big day up on the Hill! We toured the White House, Library of Congress, Supreme Court and the Capitol building. 

Getting Tickets

We had to request tickets to tour the White House and Capitol Building through our congressional members. Do this at least three weeks in advance (ideally more like three months) It was an easy process but we had to keep our schedule flexible because we didn’t know exact days and times until a week before we left. 

You have several choices in what to tour through your congressional member. I chose the White House and Capitol Building, but you can also choose FBI building, Quantico, etc. If you have older children I highly suggest the later and wish I had done so for the girls.

The White House & Welcome Center

After getting through a very extensive security process which included name check with photo ID and going through a metal detector (the process took 30 minutes) we started our self-guided tour through all of the public rooms. 

We entered the East Wing and loved looking at the photos of the past presidents and their lives in the White House. We also got to look at party of the rose garden through the windows. Next we peaked into some of the ground floor rooms: the library, the map room, a movie theater, the vermeil room and my favorite, the china room where all the first ladies’ china patterns are located.

Standing in front of the White House
Standing in front of the Presidential Seal

After climbing a flight of stairs we walked through the state floor. First stop was the East room which is the biggest room in the White House. This room is used for ceremonies, receptions and weddings.  The Green Room is next which is primarily used as parlor during a reception. Then the Blue Room (where the White House Christmas tree is located) and Red Room. The last room is the State Dining Room which can host up to 130 guests.

It took us about an hour to go through this tour by ourselves. There are no tour guides but Secret Service agents are stationed in all of the rooms to answer questions.

Read through the instructions you receive carefully. The Secret Service is very strict on what you can and can’t bring in. Remember there are no public restrooms.

Be sure to visit the White House Visitor Center across the street. It includes 100 historical artifacts including Ronald Reagan’s jar of jelly beans and a very informative film featuring past Presidents and First families and their reflections of living in the White House. 

It’s free to the public.

The Library of Congress

The front of the Library of Congress

One building I really wanted to see was the Library of Congress. This beautiful building houses millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps, newspapers and manuscripts. The rotunda and the floor of the library are awe inspiring.

The girls really liked the picture and memorabilia exhibit of the suffragette movement. It featured the 70-year history from conventions to state-by-state to push through the federal amendment. 

I loved the recreation of Thomas Jefferson’s library with both original and reproductions. All the books were divided into categories like memory, reason and imagination with forty-four further categories breaking down his multifaceted interests.

In order to visit the actually reading rooms you have to have special permission by the librarian.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court building, also known as, The Marble Palace, is located next door to the Library of Congress. This building opened in 1935. Before that it was located at the Capitol. (We got to see the Old Supreme Court Chamber on our tour of the Capitol Building.)

We were able to see the big portions of the first and ground floor with mock ups of the judges chambers and information on each judge. The Courtroom is located on the first floor and we were able to peak in because court was out of session.

I really liked the special exhibit of Sandra Day O’Conner, First Woman on the Supreme Court that follows her journey to the highest court on the land.

Senators office and the Capitol Building

We got to our senator’s office early so the girls and I went exploring. We somehow ended up in the basement and saw a group of reporters waiting at an elevator. Before we knew it Mitt Romney walked out and gave an impromptu interview. A few minutes later we were at the snack bar and his interview was showing on national TV. We also found the big cafeteria and senate gift shop during our adventure.

We checked in at our senator, Cory Gardner’s office and met his aide that would take us on the tour.

The tour of the capitol started with a ride on the Senate “subway” car. This fun minute ride thrilled the girls and made us feel like VIPs.  During our tour we got to see the crypt, rotunda, old Supreme Court room, the National Statuary Hall, and got passes to the Senate and House Galleries. It took about 90 minutes to see everything and answer all of our questions.

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