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Our nation's capital offers an impressive variety of things to see and do: explore the museums to view some of America's treasures, tour the monuments in remembrance of our nation's heroes, or visit federal agencies to witness your government in action.
Many attractions in D.C. do not require tickets, including the 13 museums of the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to touring museums, I encourage everyone from California’s 24th Congressional District to drop by my Congressional office during their visit to Washington, D.C. to pick up Gallery Passes to view the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate chambers.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) prints billions of Federal Reserve Notes for delivery to the Federal Reserve System each year. In addition to U.S. currency, the BEP produces several other security documents such as portions of U.S. passports and materials for Homeland Security. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is open Monday through Friday (except for Federal Holidays) from 9:00am to 2:00pm (extended hours during summer). Public same-day tour tickets are also available and are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Groups larger than 10 must submit tour requests directly to the BEP, the request form can be found here.
The new FBI Education Center gives visitors a rare inside look into the FBI’s vital role in protecting the United States and Americans overseas from those who would do us harm. In 2014, the FBI launched a partner-public pilot program that opened the FBI Education Center to the public to tell the story of the FBI through an historical perspective, and outline their many capabilities and future direction. All visiting requests for the FBI Education Center are made through Congressional offices and need to be made 4 weeks prior to the requested dates. To request a tour through our office, please email me by clicking here.
The Library of Congress is the nation’s first established cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with millions of items including books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library provides Congress, the federal government and the American people with an enduring source of knowledge to inform and inspire their intellectual endeavors. Guided tours of the Jefferson building are offered Monday through Saturday at 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm (no 3:30pm tours on Saturdays). In addition, the Library of Congress offers to reserve tour space for large groups of 10 – 60 people.
Headquarters of the Department of Defense, the Pentagon is one of the world's largest office buildings. Under the purview of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, each tour includes the mission of the Department of Defense and each of its branches of service, and visits numerous displays that highlight and depict significant moments in military history. All guided tours of the Pentagon are free and available by reservation only. Tours are conducted Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms are 18th Century-style rooms used by the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and Members of the Cabinet to entertain foreign and American dignitaries. These rooms hold a premier collection of 18th Century American Furniture, paintings and decorative arts. Interested parties may see the State Department Diplomatic Reception Rooms Tours website for more information on this fine arts tour.
· Security Information: All visitors to the State Department must undergo a background check for security reasons. The following information is required for each participant: Full legal name, Date of birth, and Passport number and country OR driver’s license number and state.
· Note: This tour is not recommended for children under the age of twelve. Wheelchairs are available but strollers are not permitted and there are no facilities for storage of personal belongings.
The Supreme Court Building was designed by Cass Gilbert and built from 1931 to 1935. The Court first sat in the building on Monday, October 7, 1935. The building, majestic in size and rich in ornamentation, serves as both home to the Court and the manifest symbol of its importance as a coequal, independent branch of government. Tours introduce visitors of all ages to the judicial functions of the Supreme Court, the history of the Building, and the architecture of the Courtroom.
The U.S. Capitol is among the most architecturally impressive and symbolic buildings in the world. The Senate and the House of Representatives have met here for more than two centuries. The Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), the new main entrance to the U.S. Capitol, is located below the East Plaza of the Capitol – between Constitution and Independence Avenues. This state-of-the-art facility offers a wonderful introduction to the U.S. Capitol and the Legislative Branch. Tours of the Capitol available Monday through Saturday from 8:45am to 3:30pm.
The Senate and House Galleries are open to visitors when either body is in session. Additionally, the House Gallery is open 9am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday, when the House is not in session. Passes are required to enter either gallery at any time. Drop by Congresswoman Capps’ office during regular business hours to obtain passes to the galleries. If you plan on taking a tour of the Capitol, please pick up gallery passes prior to your tour – this will save you a trip.
The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a leading voice for contemporary art and culture and provides a national platform for the art and artists of our time. The Hirshorn provides conversation-based tours that are designed to facilitate visitor interaction with works of art and fit a wide range of audience needs and interests. Public tours are available daily at 12:30 pm and on Monday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3:30 pm. Private group and self-guided tours are also available by request through their website.
The National Museum of the American Indian houses one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of its kind. The museum’s sweeping curvilinear architecture, its indigenous landscaping, and its exhibitions, all designed in collaboration with tribes and communities from across the hemisphere, combine to give visitors from around the world the sense and spirit of Native America. The museum is open 10 AM–5:30 PM daily.
The National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) began as a private educational institution in 1964 to promote cross-cultural understanding in the social sciences and arts. Founded by Warren M. Robbins, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, it was known as the Museum of African Art and located on Capitol Hill in a townhouse that had been the home of Frederick Douglass, the African American abolitionist and statesman. Docent-led, walk-n tours are available throughout the week. Check NMAfA’s calendar for information on available dates and times.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's first collection of American art, is an unparalleled record of the American experience. The collection captures the aspirations, character, and imagination of the American people throughout three centuries. The museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal key aspects of America's rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. Docent-led, walk-in tours are offered daily at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery. See the schedule of tours at SAAM and the Renwick Gallery for details.
The National Museum of American History is devoted to capturing the scientific, cultural, social, technological, and political development of the United States. Containing some of the most iconic objects relevant to American history, the National Museum of American History provides a unique glimpse into the formation of the country we live in today. All tours of the museum are self-guided. You can find more information and materials for the self-guided tours on their website.
The Museum is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery, and learning about the natural world through its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions, and education outreach programs. Whether looking at the history and cultures of Africa, describing our earliest Mammalian ancestor or primate diversity around the world, examining ancient life forms including the ever popular dinosaurs, or exploring the beauty of rare gemstones such as uniquely colored diamonds, the Museum’s temporary and permanent exhibitions serve to educate, enlighten and entertain millions of visitors each year.
The National Portrait Gallery was authorized and founded by Congress in 1962 with the mission to acquire and display portraits of "men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the people of the United States." Today, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery continues to narrate the multi-faceted and ever-changing story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts, and new media, the Portrait Gallery presents poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives form our national identity. The National Portrait Gallery provides docent led tours daily and a guide for self-guided tours for families.
Objects displayed in the museum's various exhibits document the history of the U.S. postal service and showcase the beauty and lore of stamps. Thousands of objects are on display in the museum, each offering visitors a chance to see "the real thing." Our office highly suggests checking out their virtual tour for an introduction to some of the one-of-a-kind exhibits they have on display.
The National Zoo is a place where people can marvel at wonderful animals, learn about wildlife and its conservation, and enjoy a beautiful, peaceful experience among our gardens. Open to the public 364 days a year, the zoo is home to 2,000 individual animals of nearly 400 different species. The best known residents are their three giant pandas, Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Bao Bao. The zoo provides a two-hour walking Highlights tour every Saturday and Sunday at 9:45a.m.
Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine commemorating those who have honorably served our Nation during times of war. The cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Arlington National Cemetery welcomes visitors to explore the rich history found within the cemetery grounds.
This memorial is a tribute to both President Roosevelt and the time in which he lived. There is a sequence of four outdoor rooms –containing shade trees, waterfalls, statuary, and quiet alcoves– each representing one of FDR's four terms in office. The memorial is located between the Potomac River and the Cherry Tree Walk of the Tidal Basin.
This memorial is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, the third president, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Inside the replica of the Roman Pantheon is a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson. Memorial is located at the Tidal Basin in East Potomac Park, S.W. Park rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30am to 11:30pm daily. In addition, you may rent paddleboats at the Swan Boathouse and cruise the Basin.
From 1950 to 1953, the United States joined with United Nations forces in Korea to take a stand against what was deemed a threat to democratic nations worldwide. This memorial is dedicated to the men and women who served in this hard-fought war half a world away. The etched granite mural running alongside statues of soldiers serves as a place of remembrance for those who answered the call, those who worked and fought under the trying of circumstances, and those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. The memorial is located on the National Mall, southeast of the Lincoln Memorial.
This monument, in honor of Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, overlooks the Reflecting Pool and faces the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. The Greek Parthenon replica that houses Lincoln’s statue is one of Washington’s most famous and recognizable landmarks. The memorial is located on 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
The Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of this grateful Nation's esteem for the honored dead of the U.S. Marine Corps. While the statue depicts one of the most famous incidents of World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the United States since 1775. The memorial is located on Marshall Drive, between Route 50 and Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, VA.
Situated on a four-acre site along the Tidal Basin, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and on a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The Memorial honors a man of conscience, the freedom movement, and his message of freedom, equality, justice, peace and love. It is the first memorial on the National Mall devoted, not to a president or war remembrance, but to a citizen activist.
A marble wall plaza engraved with the names of officers killed in the line of duty. The Memorial features two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls. Carved on these walls are the names of more than 20,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1791. Unlike many other memorials in Washington, DC, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is ever-changing: new names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week. For more information, please see the official memorial brochure.
For America's sea services, the United States Navy Memorial is the triumph of a centuries-old dream. In the early days of America's national independence, architect Pierre L'Enfant envisioned a memorial in the Nation’s Capital to "to celebrate the first rise of the Navy and consecrate its progress and achievements." The United States Navy Memorial is home to the Memorial Plaza, which features Stanley Bleifeld's famous statue, The Lone Sailor. The Lone Sailor, a tribute to all personnel of the sea services, overlooks the Granite Sea, an exact replication of the world's oceans.
Constructed of black granite to honor all Americans who served in the Vietnam War, this memorial includes the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who gave their lives in service in the Vietnam Conflict. The memorial also includes "The Three Servicemen" statue and the Vietnam Women's Memorial. The memorial is located north of the Lincoln Memorial near the intersection of 22nd St. and Constitution Ave. NW
The magnificent tribute to our nation’s first president is a four-sided monument, modeled after an Egyptian obelisk, and is over 555 feet tall. Around the base of the monument are fifty flags symbolizing the fifty states of the Union. The Washington Monument Lodge, located along 15th Street, opens at 8:30 a.m. for distribution of free, same day, timed tickets on a first-come first-served basis. One person may obtain up to six tickets as well as request their preferred ticket time. You are also able to order tickets in advance online here.
The World War II Memorial commemorates the sacrifice and celebrates the victory of "the greatest generation" – the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. The site lies along the central vista of the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial rests at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool along 17th Street, NW/SW.
A tour of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, situated on the banks of the Potomac River, is a highlight of any visit to Washington, D.C. As the nation's performing arts center and a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy Center welcomes three million visitors annually and is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Opera, and the American Film Institute. The tour highlights the historic events that led up to the establishment of a national cultural center, as well as an interactive exhibit on the life and presidency of John F. Kennedy.
The National Archives Museum is home of the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The National Archives Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. (see Museum Hours for operating schedule). The National Archives offers both general public entry into the archives, but highly recommends visitors reserve tickets in advance.
One of Theodore Roosevelt’s greatest legacies was his dedication to conservation. Today, this 91 acre wooded island in the Potomac stands as a fitting memorial to the outdoorsman, naturalist, and visionary who was our 26th President. For more information and maps of the island, please visit their website.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city with a visit to this serene living museum located in Northeast D.C. The National Arboretum is over 446 acres and contains unique garden displays and collections such as the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, Azalea and Dogwood collections, and the National Grove of State Trees. For more information on planning your visit please click here.
The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) provides a wide range of astronomical data and products, and serves as the official source of time for the U.S. Department of Defense and a standard of time for the entire United States. Tours include a presentation of the Mission and History of the Naval Observatory, a description of USNO's timekeeping responsibilities with a presentation on the history of precision timekeeping, and (weather permitting) viewing of celestial objects through the historic 1895-vintage 12-inch Alvan Clark refractor telescope with an astronomer.