Bright and early our first full morning in DC, we had our White House tour. We had to get up pretty early to get there for the 7:30 tour! Luckily, we got there early, which put us near the front of the line, which becomes important later!
The way they line you up now is different from the last time we went on a tour. Last time, we went right near the White House and went straight in. Now they group people up and line them up on the other side of the Treasury building. We’ve been on tours with Bush, Obama, and now 45.
When they finally let us in (they were late – figures), we showed our IDs in front of the Treasury building. Then we walked to the White House and had to show our IDs again. Then go through X-rays and metal detectors. Then a dog sniffs you and you can head in.
We apparently got “lucky” and they were testing out new VIP tour guides. So instead of the usual self-guided tour, we had a tour guide through the White House. While this was nice, and we learned quite a bit about the White House, it took WAY longer than normal, which is not ideal with small children or when you have another tour in just a few hours.
They kept us in the hall of the East Wing until we were all together. Interestingly, they now have a pop-up gift shop outside the White House movie theater – kind of odd. They kept us in the lobby area around the gift shop for about 10ish minutes, then the tour guide lead us through the White House.
The tour was nice to first – learned stuff about the House I’d never known before! But then when we got to the green and blue rooms and she started telling us about EACH portrait and piece of furniture in the rooms, is when I got worried about our toddler being fussy (usually, we would just walk through the White House, go “oh look! How nice,” and go to the next room… now we had to wait for the guide to tell us EVERYTHING about each room😜)
We made it to the Red Room and I seriously almost cried. There were sooo many portraits on the walls. I was seriously eyeing the secret security guy that was “grading” the lady, trying to say we really needed to move on before this toddler explodes (and mom too – I apparently don’t have patience either). Thankfully, it was the second to last room, with the last room being just the large dining room, that doesn’t have many portraits! Whew! We made it through the red room (and ALL the portrait explanations.) and they let us look at the rest of the hallways, etc. on our own. Thank goodness! What would usually take about 30 minutes or less, was well over an hour. While interesting and I learned more about the White House than I could have learned elsewhere (or perhaps ever cared to know), it was way too long for kids (my adult sisters thought it was long too!)
After lots of pictures, we headed out. We were now out of time to make it to our Capitol Tour. We had to nix the idea of taking the Metro and took 3 taxis (there were so many of us!) over to the Hart Senate Building and made it just on time for our tour! So when we thought we had plenty of time between tours, we barely made it! (But we did! Phew!)
So if you have a chance to take a VIP tour, it is great, just don’t do it with small children! (or adults with short attention spans 😉 ) Otherwise, the self-guided tour is perfect when you have small kids! (But now I know about EVERY portrait and piece of furniture there! Ha!).
You can get the President Park junior ranger badge if you go to the White House Visitor Center (or mail it in), but can only get the White House one if you take a tour.