While in the Capitol building, you must not stray from your tour group or you might, get lost and you might have to walk a long, long way to get a pass from your senator!
The tour of the Capitol was free and there are other free tours/sites that help to make a visit to D.C. affordable.
An example is the Smithsonian Institution which is the largest museum and research complex in the world. There are nineteen galleries and museums as well as the National Zoological Park. No matter what you're interested in, there is probably something you will enjoy. Check out their List to see which would be good for you.
Other free options can be found at the National Park's Travel Itinerary
Make sure you obtain a pass before you try to enter the Senate or the House--unless, you are a foreign national, you only need to show a passport, or if you are in a tour group. The early tour group gets to both chambers and the other groups will only see one.
Well, this was how it worked when I was there.
Since 11 September 2001 most security requirements in Washington D.C. have changed dramatically. It would be best to locate the websites for the places you want to visit and check out the present security requirements.
Not only are the tour requirements effected, but some tours have actually been canceled.
A partnership project produced by seven agencies offers the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places Travel Itineary. Here there is information about each place as well as a link to their official website. This might help planning your visit to Washington D.C.
The Dome can be seen from several streets away, the building itself is one of the most recognizable throughout the USA. This was the first time I had seen it "in person."
A close-up look at the Capitol Building of the USA can be quite moving, especially for someone, like me, who feels the impact of decisions made in this building. Not only for the architectural beauty, but also for the historical and modern history it represents.
Fondest memory: One of the many "fondest memories" would be sitting in front of the East entrance of the Capitol, admiring the beauty of the building and watching the activity. People of all types, coming and going, tourists, govenment employees and even protestors!
My fondest memory of Washington DC was getting lost in the Capitol Building and ending up in FIVE RESTRICTED AREAS!
While taking a tour I realized that I didn't have a pass to enter the Senate Chambers and since on this day they were still trying to negotiate a budget, I wanted to sit in. (I had been watching the discussions on TV for several days.)
Oh, it's a long story. The short version is, I left my tour group in search of a pass and when I returned from my Senator’s office, I couldn't remember the way back.
I went down a flight of stairs and was stopped by an armed guard. I went into an elevator, once, the door opened to the floor of the Senate and they turned me back. The next time the elevator opened I faced another armed guard asking my business, then promptly sending me back.
I got off the elevator--I didn't know where. I began walking, heard some noises that sounded like pots and pans clanging, (It was the kitchen, of course.) I kept walking then turned a corner to find my self in a storage closet! This picture was taken from that storage closet--I took it to prove that I actually had been there.
So, there I was, in the bowels of the Capitol Building lost in a storage closet with no clue how to get back to my group! I found another elevator, got off at the correct floor just in time to hear the discussion on the budget. It was anticlimactic to say the least! I found out later that had I stayed with my group, I would have gotten into the Senate Chambers with out the pass I had spent so much time getting!
This would not be possibe these days as security is much tighter.
Tickets for the one-hour guided tours of the Capitol are available for free at the Capitol Visitor's Center. Show up in the summer or on a busy weekend, and you might wait hours for your tour; luckily you can check out the brand new Exhibition Hall while you wait. Even better, try coming on a weekday in the early fall, and you might not wait more than a minute or two.
Guided tours will gather the group right next to the ticket lines, then move you into one of the Orientation Theaters in the Capitol Visitor Center. There your tour will start with a 13 minute movie called “Out of Many, One.”
After the video, you will go up the stairs to the back of the theater and meet your guide. The tour begins in the Crypt, the location which was originally intended for Washington's Tomb. Today the crypt is used mainly as a museum, and it houses several statues from the National Statuary Collection.
The second stop in the tour is upstairs in the Rotunda itself. This is where deceased Presidents lie in state. This is also home to the famous painting called the Apotheosis of Washington, which depicts Washington becoming a God. The room has several famous paintings including one called the Declaration of Independence, which is on the two dollar bill. The room also contains several statures from the National Statuary Collection including Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and Dwight Eisenhower.
Finally the last stop on the short tour is the National Statuary Hall or the Old Hall of the House, which was the original chamber of the House of Representatives. Today it houses the majority of the National Statuary Collection, and it is marked by several plaques denoting where several Presidents sat when they were still in Congress.
The Capitol Visitors Center just opened in December 2008. This state of the art facility is now the main entrance for all visitors to the Capitol Building. It is located on the "back" side of the capitol, to the east facing the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. In fact, it is accessible from the Library of Congress via an underground walkway beneath 1st Street. The visitors center cost about $621 million to build, just a little more than the $20 million the Capitol Building itself originally cost! This $621 million price tag is also almost 9 times over the original budget. And the visitors center is massive... almost 3/4 of the size of the entire Capitol Building!
From 1st Street walk down the wide curving ramp to the heaviest doors in the history of the world. If they are tough for me to open, I can't imagine a little old lady trying to make them budge. After the security station, your first view is of the open and naturally lit Emancipation Hall downstairs. This central check in and receiving area is dominated by the massive original plaster cast of the Statue of Freedom that stands on the Capitol's dome. Also around the edges of this room, kind of haphazardly placed, you will find numerous statues of famous people from various states. I'm not really sure how they selected the 20 or so statues, they seem to be pretty random (OK, some research shows there are 24 statues, all part of the Capitol's National Statuary Collection.). Just beyond the Emancipation Hall is an exhibition hall with various historic and educational displays about the Capitol. Also here you will find two gift shops, a restaurant, and two theaters for tourist visitors to the Capitol.
The visitors center is open Mon-Sat 0830 to 1630. Tours are free, but I'm sure the lines will be ridiculous in the summer. You can still book staff-led tours through your congressional reps, but I can;t figure out where these meet, and the professional Capitol Visitors Center staff are no help at all to help you figure that out.
Don't know yet. Still exploring!
The capitol building is behind me where Senators meet to wrangle over bills and business of running my country. This is also the traditional site where the new presidents were/are sworn in every four years.
Fondest memory: My arrival in the DC area!
Tickets for Capitol tours, which is the only way to see the Rotunda, are available Monday through Saturday at the ticket booth near the Botanic Gardens. Tickets are distributed on a first come, first served basis and each person can obtain ONE ticket. In other words, bring your whole family to get their passes. Also you can not choose a time, you have to take what is offered. I suggest being flexible in your plans and scheduling, this is good advice for any vacation and alleviates some stress.
During the busiest seasons (spring, early summer) tickets can run out in an hour. It's best to be in line sometime before 9am. The best season to visit is fall and winter.
Certain items a NOT allowed in the Capitol. A brief list: No food or drinks of any kind, opened or sealed, in bags or not. No sprays, pump or aerosol, and no pocket knives or sharp objects of any size. Medicine is obviously ok, but Capitol Police can answer any questions. Do bring your camera though and take lots of pictures!
Tours last roughly an hour from the time stamped on your ticket and do be on time or you are out of luck! Being the Capitol building, there is an occasional security issue, but they are fairly rare.
All public tours are given in English, but brochures are available in several different languages. The tour is accessible,with special accommodations for hearing impaired.
To visit the chamber galleries or watch a session you need to get a gallery pass from your congressperson. International visitors need a valid passport or international drivers license to obtain their gallery passes.
Its a wonderful tour. If you visit I hope this information helps you and that you have a wonderful trip!
Fondest memory: I love Dome tours. The whole building changes when you are standing on top, either looking down on the Rotunda or looking out at the whole city!
Contact your Congressman as soon as you plan your trip to DC. Our Congressman set us up on a tour of the US Capitol building. He was also able to offer us a tour of the Supreme Court and White House. You must schedule your White House trip about 9 months out or you may be out of luck. An intern from our Representative's office took us through the Capitol and we saw the House in session. I assume you have to go through your Senator to see the Senate.
Hey, it's all free!
After passing through the security tent, I set out to look for Yubert, John, Tania, et. al. because I missed them at L'Enfant Plaza. I eventually gave up on the idea of running into them at least until the parade. A number of military and civilian bands played, as well as a couple of opera singers before we got down to the business of the day. Senators, House Members, former presidents, and Supreme Court Justices started rolling in like oranges. As the Senators filed in to the cheap seats (at least as it relates to the podium), many in the crowd booed the junior Senator for Massachusetts, who was the president's adversary at the last election. One guy shouted, "Go back to Boston...and stay there!"
The Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert for Illinois swore in the vice president. The trumpet fanfare ruffles and flourishes heralded the arrival of the president. Chief Justice William Rehnquist swore in the president spot on at noon. After that, the band played Hail to the Chief.
Some may have heard unusually loud protest chanting when you watched it on TV. I remember thinking: "How could these people end up with such choice seats?" I found out later from FOX News that some Members of Congress for California and New York gave these choice tickets out to this militant feminist group called Code Pink
I really enjoyed the experience of being there in person for the inauguration. Since they take place in January, it is often cold. This was no exception. The cold together with the crowd (especially on almost getting trampled on the way out) brings me to the conclusion that, at least until it comes time for my own inauguration, these things are best observed from the comfort of my living room.
The US Capitol building has housed the meeting chambers of the Senate since 1810 and the House of Representatives since 1807 and is for many a symbol of the democracy and freedom. For all it's a must see. It's also a fine example of the 19th-century neoclassical architecture.
MY LITTLE SURPRISE
The Capitol looks smaller on TV than actually it is because usually only its small part with the dome is shown off. In fact, it is a huge two-wing complex which together with the grounds covers 1 sq. kilometer (274 acres). It takes some 20-30 minutes to walk along the Capitol fence.
2. Where is that hill?
In fact the gentle Capitol Hill is not easily seen at place even if you start a short walk uphill unless you unluckily weigh a few or more kilograms more than you should.
3. Capitol Tour
I had to stay a day longer in DC to join the guided Capitol tour and I did right! It is a great experience to see such famous place, full of history and works of art. I understood most of what my English guide was talking. As my group consisted mostly of kids and teenagers, the guide probably avoided to use more sophisticated vocabulary. Lucky me :-). I enjoyed the huge eye of the Rotunda covered by "The Apotheosis of Washington" painted by Italian Constantino Brumidi in 1865 and a painted panorama depicting significant events in American history below.
MY LITTLE DISAPPOINTMENT
I was sure to watch (certainly, for security reasons from the glassed gallery) the proceedings of the House and the Senate or at least their empty meeting chambers in case they were out of session. I don't know until now why the tour excluded this gallery. Well, I expected ban on using flash and taking a tripod so I wasn't dissapointed, especially that the interiors were mostly bright enough for my camera.
More details and pictures in my Things To Do tips # 17 - 53. Start here, please.
One of the most decorated room in the Capitol building is National Statuary Hall. This was the old Hall of the House until the number of states outgrew the chamber in the 1850's.
Now the Hall is used to display the statues dedicated by the 50 states. The Congress invited each of the 50 states to contribute 2 statues of its most notable citizens. One is displayed in the Statuary Hall, the other in corridors throughout the building.
US capitol and Supreme Court of the United States
The most famous white dome, where senators and representatives meet to shape U.S. legislative policy.
There are free 45-minute guided tours
El Edificio del Capitolio de los Estados Unidos y su famosa cupula blanca están al este del Mall. Aquí se reunen senadores y la camara de rerpresentantes para dictar las leyes
This impressive building took more than 40 years to complete, and survived fires and the War of 1812. It took me about 4 minutes to disrupt its calm.
The year 1981. The place Washington. I joined 6 fellow college students from Philadelphia to attend a protest against Reagan's financial aid cutbacks. We had set up meetings with our state senators, and went to speeches, etc. And one afternoon we were to attend a session in the House of Representatives.
We walked into the building, down a hallway and to the security clearance. I was last to go through, and as I did, the alarms went off, the lights were flashing and VERY quickly I was surrounded by men with guns. The rest of my party had already gone on and had no idea what happened. After being taken to a private room, I was searched (not strip-searched!) and my pockets and purse emptied. What they found was my keychain. A large silver ring, like jailors' keys. We were all relieved by this point and they laughed and asked me who I had locked up! I left the keychain with those 3 men.
I missed the session of the House.
I gave tours of this building so I know the frustrations associated with it. However, if you are from the US, contact your Congressman and you can get a free personal tour. All you have to do is call their office, tell them when you are coming and they should be able to schedule you for a tour. Usually these tours are given by interns, but we know a lot! They give us pages and pages of information to remember about the Captiol. You'll get to go House Gallery, Statuary Hall, Old Senate, Old Supreme Court, Rotunda and crypt. If you are not from the US, there are tours available, but usually you have to wait in a long line for them. I don't even know how things are working there with the tours since Sept. 11 meaning new policies and things.
It's such an interesting tour, the architecture, the stories, the little known facts...for example, after you pass through the main rotunda, you head to the smaller one, the Senate Rotunda, I believe it's called. Ask your tour guide where the chandelier came from...you can't miss it:)