Unless you’re a visiting head of state, getting a tour of the White House will take some prior planning. Touring the White House Visitor Center will not. On the spur of the moment you can learn about special events and the daily workings in the house of the President and the First Family. Here’s what’s available in this fascinating free facility, which is part of the National Park Service:
- An interactive touchscreen tour with 360-degree views of selected White House rooms, offices and grounds. Historical photos show the changes in room décor over time. Learn more about furniture and artwork in each space with clickable “hotspots.”
- Over 90 artifacts on display from the White House collection, including an armchair ordered by President James Monroe to furnish the Blue Room after the White House was burned during the War of 1812, the desk President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to deliver “fireside chats,” historic china and glassware, and paintings and sculpture.
- The White House Historical Association retail store, which carries books, jewelry, artwork and current and past editions of the White House Christmas ornament.
- The 14-minute film, The White House: Reflections From Within, featuring observations from past Presidents, First Ladies and other First Family members.
- Information on special ranger programs and events at President’s Park, including the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree and the White House Easter Egg Roll.
The White House Visitor Center, located at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, is open from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily (except January 1, Thanksgiving, and December 25). Admission is free.