Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Summary: Day 4 of our Washington DC trip featured a timed entry at the White House scheduled with our local Congressman. If you are a US Citizen, you can find your US Representative here. Sign up for timed tours of the White House and other governmental offices such as the US Capital, National Archives and more. After the White House we went on an urban hike at Rock Creek Park and then spent time with friends that live nearby. This was an entirely cost-free day for us except for transportation. This blog post is part of 6-part series related to our time in Washington D.C.
What You Should (and Should Not) Bring to the White House. Smart phones and compact cameras with lenses no larger than 3-inches are permitted at The White House. This means our photos are limited and were taken with our phones instead of our usual camera. We also left our backpacks at home too. Bring some patience too since the security line takes quite a bit of time to get through. Note: Since access to the Whitehouse is limited, we did not have any great photos of the outside except the one below which is visible during the tour.
Getting there. We left our Air BnB in time to arrive at The White House for a 11:30 a.m. tour via an Uber. There is also public transportation available. To get to the Rock Creek Park, we took the Green Line on DC's Metrorail system to L'Enfant Plaza. From there, it is about a 1-mile walk to Rock Creek Park. DC's Metro system has an easy trip planner tool where you can plan all your Metro trips in advance.
Visiting the White House. While managed by the National Park Service, tours of the White House must be scheduled through your local Congressman or Congresswoman. International visitors must schedule through their embassy in Washington DC. These free self-guided tours are scheduled between 21 and 90 days before your arrival, though we recommend scheduling closer to 90 days in advance. All visitors must submit their social security number and ID for a background check. At your timed-entry, your name will be on a visitors' list and your valid ID will be compared with that name. Arrive early enough to get through the security line prior to your timed entry.
The Tour. This unguided tour takes you through the East Wing (and not the West Wing). Here, visitors will see portions of the East Wing such as the Green Room, Blue Room, and the State Dining Room. What was actually most surprising was how small some of these rooms look in real life.
Unexpected stop. Our tour, incidentally, was limited because we were all ordered to leave when then President Trump was scheduled to leave by helicopter. we watched his helicopter arrive and then were escorted off premises before he left The White House to board. We are told this is not unusual and knowing this in advance helped with potential disappointment.
About The White House. Besides serving as the official residence of the President of the United States since 1800, the White House also serves as the location of the Oval Office and other Presidential offices, where portions of the Executive Branch carries out its services. The President also hosts State dinners for foreign dignitaries and other notable guests, among other events. Security is rightfully very tight in this building.
Rock Creek National Park. After the White house, we left on public transportation to go hike Rock Creek National Park. This Park dates back to 1890 and was just the third designated National Park in the U.S. During our visit in March, the trees were still bare but we could see what a gorgeous place this Park must be during the summer and especially in the Fall. The Park itself has a Nature Center and Planetarium, Horseback Rides, and plenty of trails to hike in this urban 1700+ acre Park. Even without the foliage, it was fun to hike through one of the oldest Parks in the U.S.
Visiting Friends. Rock Creek Park was conveniently located near our friends' house so afterwards we enjoyed dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood. Washington DC is hugely diverse and as a result, visitors and residents alike get to enjoy authentic ethnic cuisine. We highly recommend Letena for dinner near Rock Creek National Park.
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