The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the White House in Washington, D.C. [Includes Virtual Tour]

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UPDATE: In light of the spread of COVID-19, tours of the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, and White House are canceled and tour requests are suspended for the foreseeable future. The White House Visitor Center has also temporarily closed.

As the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States, the White House is one of the most easily recognizable and iconic buildings in the world. Home to every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800, the White House is a historically and culturally important building that attracts millions of visitors all year round.

History of the White House

The site for the White House was selected by George Washington back in 1791, with the cornerstone laid by Irish-born architect James Hoban 1 year later. The extensive and ambitious build took 8 years to complete, and although it was Washington that commissioned it, he sadly died before it was completed.

Originally known as the President’s House, it was the second President of the United States, President John Adams, and his wife that were the first to take up residence there. However, much of the original building was destroyed by a fire set by rampaging Brits in 1814. The newly built house was completed some 4 years later, and it has been called home by a succession of presidents and their families ever since.

During the early 20th century, various additions were made to the building, including the iconic West Wing that houses the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, the Situation Room, and the Roosevelt Room, among others. During the Great Depression, the White House suffered neglect as a result of dwindling funding, and urgent renovations were needed during the 1940s.

Now one of the most well-cared for and loved buildings in America, the White House as we know it today is home to 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in residence, as well as 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators. Anyone visiting the capital city of Washington, D.C., should definitely try to pay a visit.

White House Illustration
Image Credit: Stocksnapper via Shutterstock

Getting to the White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is probably one of the most famous addresses in the world. Taking a trip to visit the sprawling presidential home and offices is easy using almost any route.

By Bus

There is a Metrobus stop located on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street, which is the closest stop to the White House Visitor Center. Pennsylvania Avenue Line numbers 30, 32, 34, 35, and 36 all stop there.

By Train

Union Station is around 1.5 miles away from the Visitor Center. Heading northeast along Massachusetts Avenue, you can take in the city as you walk there, or hop on the shuttle bus that leaves from outside the station every 10 minutes.

By Subway

The Blue, Silver, and Orange lines stop at Farragut West, McPherson Square, or Metro Center stations, all of which are within easy walking distance of the Visitor Center.

By Car

There are several parking lots that are located close to the White House Visitor Center, but spaces can be difficult to find and expensive. Downtown D.C. is also rated as one of the worst cities for traffic in the U.S., so it may be quicker to walk or use public transport than try to undertake the journey by car.

How to Schedule a Tour of the White House

The White House is one of the most popular landmark attractions in the world. Every year, demand for tours outstrips the available places, so before your head off, make sure you know the best ways to maximize your chances of getting a tour inside the world-famous White House.

Planning Your Visit

In order to visit the rooms that are available for public inspection at the White House, you will need to book a tour in advance. Tours are free of charge and self-guided, but you must request permission to visit at least 3 weeks in advance of your arrival in order to receive clearance from the U.S. Secret Service.

You can request tours up to 3 months in advance via your member of Congress, but there is no guarantee that your request will be accepted.

The self-guided tours run from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, but these timings can be subject to change depending on the White House schedules and events. Tours can also be canceled without prior notice, so be prepared.

Tours run in groups of 10, and you will be placed in a group with other visitors before arrival if there are not enough in your own party. You will need to submit information about every member of your party, including their address, phone number, date of birth, Social Security number, and country of citizenship.

You will need to show your ID upon arrival, and your ID must exactly match all of the information you submitted in your application. A valid U.S. government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or military ID, is acceptable for U.S. nationals, as are valid U.S. passports.

Overseas Nationals

If you are planning on visiting the White House from overseas, you will need to contact your home country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. to submit a tour request before your departure. Foreign nationals must present their passport — no other forms of foreign ID will be considered as acceptable.

update: The Trump administration has put tour requests for overseas nationals on hold until further notice.

Disabilities

If you or anyone in your group is hearing, visually, or mobility impaired, their needs can usually be catered for through your member of Congress, or via your embassy. There is also a TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf) at the Visitor Center, which can be contacted at 202-456-2121. Guide animals are permitted in the White House.

If you need the use of a wheelchair during your visit, you can request the loan of a wheelchair at the Visitor Entrance upon arrival. Unfortunately, reservations are not possible, but if you are able to secure one, there is a ramp to allow access to the entrance on the ground floor, and an elevator to take you from the ground floor to the State floor.

Hot Tip: While no tour company can get you access to the White House, you can take the popular hop-on, hop-off tour of Washington, D.C. on the red loop which takes in the White House, U.S. Capitol, and many more landmarks. 

On the Day of Your Tour

The White House
Image Credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler via Shutterstock

If you are successful in your application to book a tour of the White House, there are further instructions and guidelines to consider on the day.

Firstly, you should plan to get to President’s Park 15-30 minutes before your tour is due to start. This will allow plenty of time for presenting your ID to officers, taking toilet breaks, and ensuring that you don’t have prohibited items in your bag. Better still, if you arrive an hour or so before your allocated tour time, you can take in the exhibits and watch a video of the White House at the Visitor Center.

You will enter the White House by the south side of East Executive Avenue near the Southeast Gate, where National Park Service rangers will be on hand to assist you.

As you would expect, security is tight in and around the White House. Visitors must adhere to strict rules about what they can and can’t take with them during the tour.

Prohibited items include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Video cameras and cameras with detachable lenses
  • Tablets and iPads
  • Tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, and camera sticks
  • Any bags, including handbags, purses, book bags, backpacks, diaper bags, and camera bags
  • Any pointed object or sharp objects
  • Strollers
  • Food and liquids
  • Aerosols and personal grooming items such as makeup or lotion
  • Tobacco
  • Guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, and mace
  • Martial arts weapons or toy weapons

You should also note that there are no storage facilities at the White House, so if you accidentally bring prohibited items with you, there is nowhere to leave them, and you will be denied entry to the tour. Leave everything on the above list back at home or in your hotel room.

There are certain items that you can take with you on your tour, but they may be subject to usage limitations. These include:

  • Compact cameras (can be used for still photography only, no video recording or streaming, and all lenses must be less than 3 inches long)
  • Umbrellas without metal tips
  • Wallets
  • Cell phones (remember, though, that talking or texting is not allowed, and phones must be on silent)
  • All items needed for medical purposes will be permitted, including wheelchairs, electronic scooters, glucose tablets, EpiPens, medication, etc.)

Hot Tip: Before and during the tour, you are at the mercy of government officers. In some circumstances, the U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit any other personal items that you may be carrying.

The White House Experience Mobile App (Virtual Tour)

The White House Experience Mobile App
Image Credit: White House Historical Association

In these tech-friendly times, smartphone users will be delighted to know that there is a White House Experience Mobile App that you can download to enhance your experience during your visit.

Available on both iOS and Android, this is a useful tool for visitors who have not been successful in finding a place on an official tour, as well as those who have. Users can enjoy a virtual tour of the White House and the surrounding President’s Neighborhood, as well as taking a tour through the history of the White House and how its customs have evolved.

There are also a number of fun features to raise a smile. Snap a selfie with the Presidential Lookalike feature, or take the opportunity to virtually pilot the presidential helicopter around Washington, D.C., using the Fly Like Ike feature.

The Virtual White House tour offers visitors a glimpse of the interiors of the public areas including the East Wing, Family Theater, Library, Vermeil Room, China Room, Diplomatic Reception Room, Map Room, State Floor, as well as the famous rooms of the West Wing such as the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Press Room.

You can also sneak a peek into some of the upper floors, including the Treaty Room, the Lincoln Bedroom, the Queen’s Bedroom, and the President’s Dining Room.

While you are out and about, why not try the White House Neighborhood Walking Tour that provides turn-by-turn navigation of the President’s Neighborhood.

This tour stops at a range of historic landmarks, including Decatur House, Lafayette Square, St. John’s Church, Treasury Building, North Lawn, Blair House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, South Lawn and Ellipse, and the White House Visitor Center. The app also provides information on points of interest at each of these locations.

White House Garden Tour

Melania Trump White House Kitchen Garden
Image Credit: NPS/Nathan King

During the spring and fall, the White House opens its stunning and extensive gardens to visitors. With the sun shining on Washington, D.C., garden lovers can stroll through the White House Kitchen Garden, the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, and South Lawn of the White House, while taking in the tranquil surroundings just outside the home of democracy.

The Spring Garden Tour usually takes place on a single weekend in April, while the Fall Garden Tour will is held over a weekend in September. Both White House Garden Tours are free and open to the public, but they are only open to ticket holders.

Tickets can only be obtained on the day, but there are often long queues of people waiting to get hold of them. Every member of your group must wait in-person to receive their ticket, and tours are timed throughout the day. Children are welcome to join you on your tour, but they will need their own ticket, and there are plenty of plaques and information points to take in during your self-guided tour of the gardens.

The White House Gardens are home to over 50 different kinds of vegetables, as well as berries, herbs, and even a beehive. In 2009, first lady Michelle Obama planted the Kitchen Garden in conjunction with her Let’s Move! Initiative that focused on health and well-being in America. To this day, the White House cooks still use fresh fruit, vegetable, and herbs that are grown there when cooking for the first family and their guests.

The Rose Garden is famous for the lush green lawn often seen in outdoor press conferences, and it can be found just outside the West Wing in view of the Oval Office. The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden is dedicated to the former first lady herself, and the wide-open lawns and gorgeous borders are often used for parties, teas, and awards ceremonies.

The South Lawn is where the president departs and lands on the official presidential helicopter, Marine One, and is also where the famous annual Easter Egg Roll is held. It is also home to a range of magnolia trees that were first planted by President Andrew Jackson back in the 1800s.

Hot Tip: Visitors are welcome to take photos during the tour and are encouraged to share them on Instagram using the #WHGARDEN hashtag to share the beauty of the White House Gardens with the world.

The White House Easter Egg Roll

white house easter egg roll
Image Credit: Joyce N. Boghosian

Often drawing as many as 35,000 parents and children on the South Lawn, the world-famous White House Easter Egg Roll is one of the most exciting events of the White House calendar.

This time-honored tradition was first established by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. What initially started as a few local families rolling eggs outside the White House on the first Monday after Easter, was extended when the growing crowds convinced President Hayes to invite young children to roll eggs inside the grounds of the White House Lawn instead.

If it hadn’t have been this kind gesture by the then president, the Egg Roll might never have happened, as members of Congress had already passed an Act banning egg rolling outside the White House as they deemed it be too disruptive.

The White House Easter Bunny holds celebrity status, and the giant 6-foot bunny suit has often worn by members of Congress, first wives, and a range of famous celebrities.

Anyone wanting to come and join in the fun must enter a lottery for a place. Children under 13 years are encouraged to attend, and the event is designed to promote healthy and active living. The lottery is usually held during February, and winners are notified via email the following month. There is no charge to enter the lottery, and attendance is literally by the luck of the draw.

Hot Tip: Commemorative White House Easter eggs can be purchased from the White House Historical Association online store and feature the president’s and the first lady’s signatures.

White House Visitor Center

White House Visitor Center
Image Credit: White House Historical Association

Located at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave., the White House Visitor Center is a great place to visit to find out about the history of the building itself, as well as discovering the customs and events that the White House is so famous for.

What to See at the Visitor Center

Offering just shy of 1,600 square feet of museum-quality exhibits and galleries, there is always something new to see at the Visitor Center. There are nearly 100 famous historical artifacts on display, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s desk and a host of other interesting pieces, many of which have never been on public display before.

The Visitor Center is also home to a large-scale model of the White House and a number of interactive exhibits, including a touch screen tour of the interior.

One of the biggest highlights is a 14-minute film, “White House: Reflections From Within,” that is shown every 20 minutes. It features Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and a few first ladies and other family members reminiscing about their time in the White House. This is a popular attraction within the Visitor Center and a must-see whether you have managed to secure a place on a White House tour or not.

The White House Visitor Center is operated by the National Park Service. It is housed in historic Baldrige Hall in the Department of Commerce building. In 2014, the center was renovated to offer extra space in which to house a permanent museum gallery, a temporary exhibit area, an improved book sales area, and further visitor information facilities.

When to Visit

The White House Visitor Center is open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. It is free to enter and can be visited in conjunction with a White House tour if you are lucky enough to get on one, or as a stand-alone attraction.

President’s Park

White House Aerial View
Image Credit: Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

Located at the heart of downtown Washington, D.C., President’s Park offers 82 acres of stunning open space that includes the parkland and gardens surrounding the White House. The park is home to some of the most famous statues, memorials, and structures in Washington, D.C., and the park is open to visitors all year round.

Throughout the years, the President’s Park has played host to many important events in history. These include marches and rallies held by suffragettes, freedom fighters, and anti-war protestors, as well as welcoming thousands of visitors to enjoy the annual Easter Egg Roll and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.

The National Park Service promotes 2 very distinct sides of the park for visitors to explore.

The Northern Trail

Beginning at the White House Visitor Center, visitors can proceed up to 15th Street to Lafayette Park on the Northern Trail. First opened in the 1820s, and redesigned in the 1960s, the park has been used as a race track, a slave market, an encampment for soldiers, and many other things along the way.

The park is also home to St. John’s Church, often referred to as the “Church of the Presidents,” and the whole area became a designated National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Statues and Monuments

The park is home to a number of statues that commemorate the many heroes who helped America during times of war. These include:

General Sherman Statue

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman has his very own bronze statue that features a square platform with a bronze soldier at each corner. These represent the 4 branches of the U.S. Army: infantry, artillery, cavalry, and engineers.

General Lafayette Statue

Located at the southeast corner of Lafayette Square, this bronze statue was erected in 1891 and portrayed the Marquis de Lafayette petitioning the French National Assembly for assistance to the Americans in their fight for independence. On an adjoining pedestal, there is a bronze female figure, symbolizing America, turning toward him and imploringly lifting a sword.

General Kosciuszko Statue

Commemorating Polish patriot Thaddeus Kosciuszko and his life-long dedication to fighting for freedom in America and Poland, this bronze memorial is located in the northeast corner of Lafayette Park.

General Jackson Memorial

Located in the center of Lafayette Park, this statue portrays General Andrew Jackson reviewing his troops at the Battle of New Orleans. Depicting the general and his horse, the statue was dedicated on January 8, 1853, on the 38th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.

General von Steuben Statue

Portraying Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794) as he inspects American troops during the American Revolution, this statue recognizes not only his leadership but his commitment to raising the standards of sanitization for soldiers during the war.

General Rochambeau Statue

This French general commanded 5,500 Royal French Expeditionary Forces to help with the American forces during the war. The statue depicts Rochambeau directing his troops, as well as a female figure, Liberty, who raises 2 flags in her left hand, symbolizing the unity of the U.S. and France.

Other Landmarks and Buildings

Blair-Lee House

Serving as the official guesthouse for the president, Blair-Lee House was built in 1824. Various presidents and foreign dignitaries have stayed at Blair-Lee House throughout the years, and even today, many foreign heads of state are invited to stay there while visiting with the president.

Baruch Bench of Inspiration

Bernard Baruch was a wealthy financier from New York City who also served the country as an economic advisor during both World War I and World War II. Legend has it that he hated been driven to the White House and preferred instead to sit on a bench and wait for a signal that the president was ready to meet him.

In his honor, a commemorative bench with a bronze plaque set in granite block was dedicated on August 16, 1960, Baruch’s 90th birthday.

Navy Yard Urns

These huge ornamental bronze urns were cast using a melted cannon from the Civil War. They sit on giant pedestals at the center of Jackson Place and are a reminder of the hard-fought battles undertaken by Americans during the Civil War.

The Southern Trail

The Southern Trail begins at the White House Visitor Center and proceeds onto the Ellipse grounds, following a clockwise route around the parkland.

Monuments and Memorials

Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain

This tranquil fountain was erected to commemorate the deaths of Major Archibald Wallingham Butt and Francis Davis Millet. They both lost their lives on the RMS Titanic in April 1912. The fountain was also designed to double as a water fountain for the horses ridden by U.S. Park Police while on patrol.

Second Division Memorial

Erected to honor the 17,660 dead who served in the U.S. Army during World War I, this memorial was later extended to include a memorial to some of the most significant battles in World War II and the Korean War. It serves as a place of quiet contemplation and remembrance.

Original Patentees Memorial

This simple granite shaft was erected to remember the original 18 patentees whose land grants embraced the site of the federal city. Each side of the monument contains a relief panel carved with a symbol of the early pioneers’ agricultural pursuits, and the names of the original landowners are inscribed on the base.

Boy Scout Memorial

Dedicated to the Boy Scouts of America, this statue stood on the site of the first-ever Boy Scout Jamboree in 1937. The bronze statue consists of 3 figures that represent the aspirations of all past, present, and future Scouts throughout the world. There is also a female figure that symbolizes enlightenment with the love of God and fellow man, justice, freedom, and democracy.

The Zero Milestone

This 4-foot-high shaft of pink granite is the official starting point for the measurement of highway distances from Washington, D.C. It was built to mark the starting point of the first transcontinental military motor convoy that traveled from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco.

First Division Monument

This was built in remembrance of the heroism of the soldiers of the First Division of the American Expeditionary Forces who gave their lives during World War I. Further additions were made to also commemorate those who died in both World War II and the Vietnam War, as well as the Gulf War.

Other Landmarks and Buildings

Bulfinch Gatehouses

Both of these gatehouses were build to oversee the U.S. Capitol grounds, and since 1889 they have weathered several floods, water, and the effects of acid rain.

The Ellipse

As perhaps one of the most famous areas of President’s Park, the Ellipse is a large open area surrounded by an oval drive. Over the years, the site has been used as a trash dump, horse pens, and even a slaughterhouse, but it is now often the meeting place for demonstrations and celebrations.

The National Christmas Tree

Every Christmas, local public schools erect a Christmas tree on the Ellipse. This age-old tradition is a highly anticipated event, and each succeeding president has participated in since 1923.

Best Place to Take Pictures of the White House

A visit to Washington, D.C. would not be complete without taking a series of snaps of the White House. There are various ways to capture awesome images of one of the world’s most iconic buildings, even if you can’t get right up close to it.

The North Side From Pennsylvania Avenue

White House North Side
Image Credit: turtix via Shutterstock

This view of the White House is one of the most famous images in the world. There is a fair distance between the sidewalk and the White House (as you would expect), but it is not impossible to get great pictures.

If you want to pass off the impression that you are inside the grounds of the White House, find a gap in the fence that is big enough to slip your digital camera through. Taking a picture of the White House straight on can make it look like it leans backward slightly. This is because there are no parallel vertical lines in the historical building.

You can either go with it and enjoy its imperfections or if you want your images to look super fancy, use the lens correction tool in Photoshop to fix this.

If you don’t mind seeing the fencing in your photographs, there are also some awesome images to be captured from Lafayette Park, where you can add stunning seasonal flowers into the foreground, too.

The South Side and E Street

White House South Side
Image Credit: Andrea Izzotti via Shutterstock

On the south side of the White House, there are lots of trees that line the South lawn, which can be prohibitive to your view. There are, however, 2 walkways on E Street that offer you some excellent photographic opportunities.

You can take images through the fence on the north side of the street, or cross over to include people and bustling street scenes to add a sense of perspective.

Taking a short walk further away from the building itself, the Ellipse offers the opportunity for some excellent shots, and if you are lucky, you may be able to get Marine One in there, too. The base of the Washington Monument on Constitution Avenue offers some interesting viewpoints as well, as it has a slightly elevated position.

When to Take Pictures

Different seasons and times of the day offer different opportunities to capture the perfect picture. During the holiday season, the National Christmas Tree is bright and festive, with the White House providing a beautiful backdrop to great Christmas images, while the gardens around the White House look fantastic in both spring and fall.

Summer is the busiest time of year for visitors, so capturing images without bystanders is nearly impossible, but they can add an extra layer of perspective to your finished shots. Early morning and early evening shots add atmosphere, as the building looks magical lit up at night.

Bottom Line: No matter where you find yourself in the surrounding streets and parklands, you should still be able to take photographs that will keep your memories alive.

20 Facts About the White House

George Washington Never Lived There

Although he was responsible for commissioning the construction of the White House, his term ended 3 years before the building work was completed, and a year after he died. He is the only U.S. president never to have lived in the White House during their term in office.

He Was Responsible for the Design of the Oval Office, Though

The Oval Office was first used in 1909, and the oval shape was inspired by Washington’s love of unusually shaped rooms. He was believed to have preferred rounded shaped rooms at his home in Philadelphia, as he felt it made them more suitable for hosting formal gatherings.

The White House Was Built by Slaves

Controversial, but true, White House records show that the house was built by African American slaves who were trained as quarrymen, bricklayers, and carpenters to help complete the building project. This fact was brought to the attention of the American public by former first lady, Michelle Obama.

The White House Had No Electricity for Almost 100 Years

The White House was lit by gaslight right up until 1891 when the electricity system was first installed. The idea of electric lighting was still pretty novel at the time, and President Benjamin Harrison was worried about the dangers of touching a light switch. To protect himself throughout his time in office, he always had someone else switch the lights on and off for him.

It Didn’t Have Indoor Bathrooms for Decades, Either

Indoor plumbing systems were not part of the original design of the White House back in 1800. In fact, it wasn’t until 1833 that any kind of indoor plumbing was installed, and even then, not all of the bathrooms had hot and cold running water until some 20 years later in 1853.

It Was, However, One of the First Accessible Government Buildings

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was responsible for ensuring that the White House was and still is, entirely wheelchair accessible. Having suffered from polio, FDR was paralyzed below the waist and spent his time in office bound to a wheelchair.

Because of this, he took it upon himself to add elevators and ramps throughout the White House, making it one of the first wheelchair-friendly buildings in Washington, D.C. and possibly the U.S.

At Least 10 People Have Died in the White House

With such a high turn over of residents, it should come as no surprise that several people have passed away within the confines of its walls, too. Famous demises include Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, as well as first ladies Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison, and Ellen Wilson, too.

It Is Said to Be Haunted

Many residents, staffers, and guests have all claimed to feel the power of the paranormal during their time at the White House. To this day, rumor has it that the ghost of Abraham Lincoln still walks the hallowed halls and corridors, and there have been many reported sightings of him throughout the house.

There Is a Secret Entrance

The White House has a secret entrance that is only used by the president and secret visitors. This is not unusual in high-profile buildings, but to enter via the secret entrance at the White House, visitors must go through 2 tunnels and an alleyway before reaching the basement.

This intricate entrance system was originally designed during World War II when there was an underground bomb shelter that sat beneath the White House.

There Is Also an Underground Swimming Pool

The White House has an outdoor pool that is enjoyed during warmer months, but it also has an interior pool hidden beneath its floors. First opened in 1933 for use by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the pool still exists today and can be found directly under the Press Briefing Room.

And a Dentist’s Office

If the president suffers from a sudden toothache, a lost crown, or a broken filling, there is a dentist on-site to deal with that. The basement of the White House is home to a dedicated dentist’s office, as well as plenty of other useful services, including a chocolate shop and a florist.

Tom Hanks Gifted Coffee Machines for the Press Briefings at the White House

During a tour of the White House back in 2004, the actor was surprised to see that there were no refreshment services for reporters who attended press briefings at the White House. Hanks immediately sent a coffee machine to be used in the Press Briefing Room and has upgraded the original machine twice since then.

In 2017 he sent a $1,700 espresso machine along with a note that read, “Keep up the good fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Especially for the truth part.”

The White House Nearly Fell Apart

During the Great Depression, there was very little money in the kitty for much-needed maintenance and repairs. Creaking floorboards, a leaking roof, weakened wooden beams, and swaying balconies all put the White House at risk of collapse, but the ongoing damage to the structure was not fully discovered until much later in 1948 when it was fully renovated.

The Current White House Is Not the Original One

During the invasion in 1814, the British burned the White House down, just 14 years after it had been completed. While the modern-day building has stood for hundreds of years, much of the original building was lost to the fire, and the rebuild was not completed until 4 years later.

The West Wing Wasn’t Always There

Home to some of the most famous rooms within the White House, the West Wing wasn’t actually even built until the early 20th century.

In 1902, Teddy Roosevelt called to have an executive office building built alongside the residence. President Taft doubled the wing’s size in 1909, which included the Oval Office, making President Taft was the first-ever president to use it.

It Has Been Home to a Wide Variety of Animals

Each new presidential resident and their families are welcome to bring their pets with them when they move into the White House.

This means that over the years, it has been home to lots of cats and dogs, as well as a variety of more unusual animals. These include a raccoon, opossums, and even a pair of tiger cubs that were gifted to President Van Buren.

It Is Also Home to a 7-Seat Hot Tub

Former President Bill Clinton was gifted a 7-seat hot tub that is installed near the South Lawn next to the swimming pool.

Due to rules and regulations on “gifting” items to members of Congress, the hot tub had to be donated as a legitimate therapy appliance. A spokesperson for President Clinton said at the time that the hot tub did indeed help with his injured knee.

It Wasn’t Always Called the White House

Over the years, the building we know as the White House has had a number of different names. Originally known as the President’s Palace, its name was later changed to Executive Mansion sometime around 1810.

It wasn’t actually until 1901 that President Theodore Roosevelt officially adopted the name White House and it has been known by that name ever since.

Nothing Comes for Free

It may surprise you to know that even the presidential family doesn’t get fed for free in the White House. While they don’t have to pay rent or bills while they live there, they are responsible for the costs of their personal food, dry cleaning, toiletries, and even the wages for waiters and other members of staff they employ for private events.

These costs are usually just deducted from their salary.

The Famous Resolute Desk Was Found on an Abandoned Ship

The Resolute Desk in the Oval Office was originally part of an abandoned British Navy vessel found off Baffin Island in the Arctic.

When the ship was decommissioned by the U.K., its oak timbers were used to create a desk weighing more than 1,000 pounds that Queen Victoria later gifted to President Rutherford Hayes.

To this day, we still see the presidents sign orders from behind this fabulous piece of furniture.

Hotels Near the White House

Many visitors choose to stay close to the White House during their visit. Here are some of the best to choose from.

Willard InterContinental Washington

Willard InterContinental Washington
Image Credit: Booking.com

This historic hotel is located on the world-famous Pennsylvania Avenue and has been a D.C. landmark for over 200 years. Offering executive suites and luxurious guest rooms, this 5-star hotel has stately interiors and is just a short walk the White House itself.

Stay in style surrounded by city or courtyard views, Keurig coffeemakers, and suites with separate living areas, whirlpool tubs, and even their own foyers. All guests are invited to enjoy the use of the beauty and wellness treatments available at the Mynd Spa and Salon.

You can dine at the authentic French brasserie, Cafe Du Parc, or take advantage of the full concierge service who can help you to make the most of your trip to one of America’s oldest cities.

The Hay – Adams

The Hay Adams
Image Credit: Booking.com

This luxury hotel offers unparalleled White House views from its position on the National Mall, and it is as popular with visitors as it is with Washington, D.C. insiders. Elegant interiors paired with first-class service and facilities make this 5-star hotel one of the most sought after in the city.

Bedrooms are upscale and very well appointed, with many offering fabulous views out across the National Mall. The wood-paneled walls, ornate fireplaces, and chandeliers found in the communal areas give the hotel an incredibly grand feel, and visitors may even recognize The Hay-Adams from television shows, including House of Cards and Homeland.

With a busy bar, a fitness center, and one of the city’s best restaurants all on-site, this hotel offers an authentic taste of upscale D.C.

JW Marriott Washington

JW Marriott Washington DC
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Brilliantly located for visiting the White House and numerous other political and cultural landmarks in D.C., this renovated hotel offers luxurious lodgings on Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a modern hotel that has a bright and airy feel, with contemporary bedrooms and plenty of minimalist touches.

Guests love the large windows with fabulous views out across the city, as well as spacious bedrooms and bright and practical communal spaces. The hotel is also home to The Avenue Grill that serves up casual American fare, as well as a lively bar with a daily happy hour and a Starbucks coffee shop. This hotel offers affordable 4-star accommodation in the heart of D.C.

Sofitel Lafayette Square

Sofitel Lafayette Square Washington DC
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This glamorous Art Deco style hotel sits just 1 block away from the White House and adds a touch of European flair to this most American of cities. With opulent interiors and seductive French flair, this 5-star hotel is located at the heart of the finest shops, restaurants, and landmarks the city has to offer.

Bedrooms are plush and well-appointed with tall windows and luxury linens, while the communal areas feel decadent. Guests are welcome to enjoy the great-tasting fare at the ICI Urban Bistro or join fellow guests for a cocktail or 2 at the bar. There is also a large basement fitness center, and spa treatments can be ordered to your room.

Club Quarters Hotel

Club Quarters Hotel in Washington DC
Image Credit: Booking.com

This mid-range hotel offers comfortable and affordable accommodation just 2 blocks from the White House and right next to Farragut West Metro station, therefore affording easy access to the entire city. Designed very much with business travelers in mind, this hotel offers collaborative workspaces with super-fast Wi-Fi, wireless printing, and Mac and PC workstations.

Bedrooms are bright and airy and offer sleek interiors complete with yoga mats and resistance bands, while suites add kitchenettes and separate living areas. The hotel is also home to the Cafe Soleil that serves up fun, French-inspired food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Hot Tip: Looking for even more hotels? Explore our best hotels in Washington, D.C. to book with points. 

Final Thoughts

No visit to Washington, D.C. would be complete without a trip to see one of the most famous buildings in the world. Home to presidents for hundreds of years, the city is steeped in history.

If you are lucky enough to secure a place on an official White House tour, you will not be disappointed. But even if you are unable to get inside the building itself, there is still a wealth of attractions, landmarks, exhibitions, and open spaces for you to enjoy in the world-class parks and open spaces around the White House.


Frequently asked questions

How can I get tickets to visit the White House?

You can get tickets to visit the White House through your member of Congress only. These tickets have to be requested a minimum of 3 weeks in advance and can be requested as early as 3 months prior to your tour date.

Is it free to visit the White House?

Yes, White House tours are free of charge and self-guided. The tours run from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. You must request tickets through your member of Congress.

Can you tour the Oval Office?

White House tours do not include the Oval Office and tours of the West Wing are usually reserved for VIPs or guests of the president.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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