January 22, 2018

Weekly Column: Planning A Visit To Our Nation's Capital

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and that isn’t surprising as there is so much to see and do, most of it free to the public.  While I have the honor of meeting with Idahoans who travel to Washington, D.C., for business or to take in our national capital’s history, my office can also help with your tour planning.  There is a wealth of information on my website, at https://www.crapo.senate.gov/services/visiting-dc, that includes a list of sites and tour tips.  March through June are especially busy times for tours, and if you are planning to travel during those times, now is when you need to start planning.  It is not too early to start requesting tours now for trips this spring. 

Most tours can be scheduled and conducted on your own, but some require reservations through a congressional office.  You may fill out a tour request form on my website to request tours of the Capitol, the White House, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.  The White House always requires a reservation through a congressional office, and opens its calendar for reservations three months in advance.  The White House limits the number of daily visitors, so the more notice we have to request a tour, our chances improve significantly.  If possible, please give us more than three months’ notice.  One to three months minimum advance notice is encouraged for Capitol tours.  Similar advance notice is encouraged for Library of Congress and Bureau of Engraving and Printing for tours scheduled between April and September. 

Many buildings of the Smithsonian are in close proximity to popular attractions—including the Capitol building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials— and stretch along the National Mall.  The Smithsonian, founded 172 years ago, is a trove of historical and educational resources.  Nineteen museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities make up the Smithsonian.  The only Smithsonian museum that requires tickets for entry is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which you can reserve on the museum’s website, https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes.  The museum also releases advance timed entry passes for individuals on the first Wednesday of each month, and there are a limited number of same-day tickets that become available each day at 6:30 a.m.  The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum also has a second site next to Dulles Airport, which houses some extraordinary aircraft, including a space shuttle, a Concorde and the Enola Gay. 

Memorials honoring our nation’s service members surround the Mall.  Arlington Cemetery is a short drive or Metro ride across the Potomac River where visitors can watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Also, if you have time to visit sites away from the capital, many Civil War battlefields, including Bull Run/Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg, are less than one hour away.  Additionally, Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, is just 15 miles south of downtown Washington, and Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, is located near Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Washington is also home to many art galleries; a few are:

  • the National Gallery of Art, located on the National Mall; 
  • the National Museum of Women in the Artsl and
  • the Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Galleries of Art, adjacent to one another on the National Mall.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the historical attractions in our nation’s capital.  If you have any questions about visits and to schedule tours, please feel free to reach out to me.      

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