Visting the White House - How to get tickets

White House Tours 2024: All the Details You Need Before Going

The most coveted tour in Washington DC is always the White House. It has been the home to 44 different presidents and their families. The White House has been at the center of American History since the beginning.

It’s been burned down, rebuilt and remodel. But one thing is for sure, it will always be a symbol for our nation.

After my third visit to DC, looking upon the White House from outside its gates, I finally got to walk inside and visit the White House and do the full tour experience. I’m sharing with you all the secrets and everything you need to know before visiting.

And a little bit about what they don’t tell you in my White House Tour review.

I have been on the White House tour twice now. One during the Trump Administration and back again with the entire family during the Biden Administration.

Most of the pictures reflect the 2023 adventure, but I’ve included some 2019 visit too to compare.

DayTripper is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small commission. I never promote things I haven’t vetted myself.

The White House Tour in 2024

Tours are available in the morning (8:00 AM to 12:30 PM) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, excluding federal holidays.

Interestingly enough, this used to be Monday – Friday during the previous administration.

Tours are free of charge.

Part One: Odds of getting a White House Public Tour

How to Get White House Tour Tickets

The White House public tour is one of the most in-demand tours to get in our Nation’s Capitol. Public Tour request must go through your Member of Congress.

A tour request must be submitted up to three months in advance. They must be a minimum of 21 days in advance and no more than 90 days. Officially it’s on a first come, first serve basis.

Here is the kicker: even though you submit a request for a tour of the White House, you may not get in. Even if you do everything right.

And they only confirm your tour tickets a couple of weeks before you arrive. So you’ll have to be flexible in planning your trip.

How to increase your chances of getting a White House Tour?

To increase your chances, request tickets as early as possible. Yes, three months in advance. Most state representatives have a formal process on their website to get your tickets. An intern will be the one taking care of everything for you.

Once the White House gets your request, they will reach out to you to complete an extra screening process. You’ll provide basic background check information for you and everyone in your party. Guest 13 years and older do not need to provide an SSN.

If you are not a US citizen, you can still visit. You need to give your passport details as your ID.

I recommend submitting this as soon as possible. My notice told me I needed to finalize registration by 6 weeks before the tour.

After submitting your request, sit tight. Start planning like you will get in. You will hear back approximately 2-3 weeks prior to the requested tour dates.

One mistake I made was being too flexible in the request. I requested a tour of both the White House and the US Capitol, giving a window of two days. When I got approval for the White House Tour, it was at the same time as my US Capitol Tour.

I was able to reach out to the intern and get my tours rearranged. I can’t say requesting the tours on two separate days would have improved or hurt my chances, but remember this could be a possibility.

The White House Grounds

Part Two: You’re In, You’ve got your Tour Date, Now What?

What to Bring With You To Tour The White House?

The White House has some serious rules and regulations around what is allowed inside the White House.

To sum it up, plan on leaving everything at the hotel. Bags, purses, fanny packs, and just about everything you normally carry with you.

On their website, they have an official list. If you have medical-related things, it’s fine… but otherwise, don’t bring them. Wallets and phones are still fine, just not the purse.

You can bring in a compact camera, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the other people on the tour. There is no storage available at the White House to store stuff. That’s why they suggest leaving your belongings in your room.

If your hotel is out of the way, there are lockers at the Smithsonian’s and the Metro Stations. I also heard that nearby hotels like the JW Marriot will store items for you for a fee.

Camera Restrictions

No small action cameras like a GoPro. No DSLR Cameras with removable lenses.

You can bring in a traditional style pocket camera, like a Canon Power Shot. The lenses cannot extend past 3 inches. Security has a good idea of what’s allowed and what isn’t just by looking at it. They didn’t even question mine.

If you are concerned about what you have, swing by the White House a day or two early and ask some of the secret services offers hanging out around people. You can use your cellphone too.

Actually, they encourage it. I’ll get to that part later. But the camera can only be used for photos, not videos.

The Secret Service has the right to confiscate anything you may bring. So if you get caught misusing it… beware.

I was super paranoid about picture quality. My Canon Power Shot took great pictures and is pocket friendly.

Where to go for Public Tours of the White House?

Your confirmation email provides you with an official map of where to get in line. The tour line starts in the back of the Treasury Department. A group of National Park Service personnel will greet you. 

It’s recommended to line up about 15 minutes before your starting time. Talking with people in line, they did not hold you to that time. It took me about 30 minutes to get through security, so officially I was 15 minutes late for my timed entry.

One copy of the ticket will work for everyone in your group.

Everyone 18 and older will need to present a valid government-issued photo ID upon entering the White House complex. Kids will not need a government-issued photo ID, like adults need. They just need to know their Date of Birth.

We quizzed the kids before to make sure they knew their dates. They both did great!

Make sure to have your ID out until you cross through the second Secret Service personal. They ask for you to present a valid ID multiple times.

PRO TIP: Keep your ID in hand. They ask for it several times.

People lined up for their White house tour

You will spend a good part of your time in line outside, without shelter. There are some sections that have a tent cover, to give you a break.

They recommend that you’re hydrated before getting there because you cannot bring water in with you. While I agree, don’t overdo it because there are no restrooms available.

Wear sunscreen, coat and take any other precautions you normally would. And dress for the weather. DC heat is relentless in the summer.

View of the Washington Monument from inside the White House
Inside the White House and the view of the Washington Monument

Part Three: The Public White House Self-Guided Tour

Where is my tour guide?

The White House tour is all self-guided. This one took me by surprise too.

Before going, download the official app- The White House Historical Association. It walks you step by step through each room on the tour. It also has information about some of the artifacts and key pieces in their collection.

There are also Secret Service agents positioned around the rooms to help answer any additional questions you have.

This took a little bit of time to get used to. In my mind, these people are on duty to protect and serve. Outside the White House during the security process, it was intense.

If you were not where you should be, they are quick to let you know and to keep the line moving. Don’t leave gaps while you take pictures. You didn’t mess around.

But inside, the Secret Service is very friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure we were being watched at all times. But they welcomed questions and were even quizzing each other on the history of the rooms. It was very light-hearted.

Pro Tip: Review the White House App before going. Soak in as much information as possible, so you can use can be in the moment while you are there.

There are also plaques in each room in case you didn’t have your phone or want to follow along.

Guide from the National Park Rangers upon entering
Guide from the National Park Rangers upon entering

What will you see on a White House Tour?

Main Entrance

You’ll enter the house through the East Wing door. It’s not flashy, but it does the job.

East Wing Lobby

They call it a lobby, but it was a hallway into the White House. Make sure to check out the photos on the wall. They have historical shots of the presidents through the years.

Family Theater

The Family Theater was created by Franklin D. Roosevelt for viewing wartime newsreels. Since then, First Families have used it as a theater room.

It is also used as a coatroom during large events.

The Family Theater Room in the White House

East Garden Room

The Garden Room looks out onto the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. When Trump was in office, the soccer net was outside. They have since added a lot more flowers.

Ground Floor Corridor

More of just a hallway, the first floor corridor is where you can peek your head into other rooms. But more notably it holds the Baltimore Sheraton Breakfront Bookcase housing some China and other pieces from past presidents.

You’ll also find Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton’s Portraits there. Half of the hallways are blocked off as it is access to the West Wing of the White House.

You’ll also find a gift shop. These items are exclusive to the White House and proceeds go to help supporting the building’s preservation.


The Library was built in 1935 and houses more than 2,800 different books representing the best of American history and literature. According to the Secret Service member on site, this is President Bidens favorite room.

White House Library

Vermeil Room

The Vermeil Room was originally a lady’s sitting room. But after the White House acquired a collection of gold-plated silver or vermeil, it now is the home of those pieces.

Vermeil Room at the White House

China Room

The China Room hosts different China from each president and their wives. Like with all of the rooms on this floor, you cannot enter it.

The only way to see some of the pieces is to visit the Smithsonian American History Museum.


After seeing these rooms, you’ll head upstairs.

Stairs to the main level of the White House

East Room

By far the most intimidating of all the rooms for a few reasons. First, it’s the largest and used for ceremonial events, portrait unavailing, and metal of honor awards. It’s used for presidential funerals and bill signings.

It also includes the portrait of George Washington that Frist Lady Dolley Madison had servants save as they fled the White House when the British invaded in 1814.

While in this room, turn around and take a look at the long hallway. A lot of press conferences are held here. Include the one where President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Ladin.

Hallway in the White House used for press conferences.

Green Room

Before entering the Green Room, you’ll have the option to go down either side of the rooms. The center is less congested, but you won’t get to see the view outside the windows.

It’s one of my favorite’s views in historic properties, so I recommend doing the second entrance.

The Green Room is used as a sitting room for teas, interviews, and small parties.

Blue Room

The Blue Room is directly across from the front entrance of the White House. It has an Oval Shape, and is used as the official White House Christmas tree in it every year.

When the British burned the White House down in 1817, the furnishing all needed to be replaced. When James Monroe moved in, he brought in the 53-piece suite of furniture made in Paris by Pierre-Antoine Bellange for the Oval Room.

Most of the pieces were sold over the years. Before Jacqueline Kennedy’s restoration project, presidents were responsible for furnishing the house themselves. Thankfully some of these pieces were donated back to the White House.

Red Room

The Red Room is where smaller gatherings and dinner parties are held. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt held women-only press conferences in this room as well.

State Dining Room

The State Dining Room was Thomas Jeffersons’ office. During Theodore Roosevelt’s time, in 1902 the room was enlarged.

It is the primary place for formal dinners to honor heads of state and other dignitaries. Kings and Queens have dinner here.

Cross Hall

The hallways connect the State Dining Room and the East Room. In the hallway, you’ll notice a lot of portraits including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Regan.

Entrance Hall

This is a favorite place to get your photo in the White House. Take it under the presidential seal located above the entrance of the Blue Room.

The Entrance Hall is a place where the President and First Lady have always used to greet guests. A couple of fun things to watch out for are the Steinway Piano and the pictures of George W. Bush and Obama.

There is also a plaque embedded on the floor that most people miss, marking the dates of the construction, and major renovation years the White House underwent. The stars represent the number of states present when the stone was first installed.

North Portico

The North Portico, or the main entrance to the White House, is the most ionic. This is probably the only place you’ll be able to get a shot of the White House without the fence.

Interesting change from my 2019 visit in 2023 the second barricade was removed, and you can now walk right up to the White House fence again. This was a great surprise allowing people to get an undisturbed picture of the Whiteh House between the fence poles.

Why does the White House feel like a museum?

A good chunk of the rooms are blocked off, with the exception of a few that you can walk through a designated path. They don’t want you getting too close to touch anything for obvious reasons. Think of it as a walk through a museum.

Around 1pm, the tours stop and the executive family takes full control of the White House again.

If the family wants to use the room during tour hours, the staff has the ability to close particular rooms or even shut down the tours altogether.

This is part of the reason why they don’t let you know if you’ve been approved until a couple of weeks before your visit.

Walking into the White House

Additional Tips Before your White House Tour

  1. If you are unsure at any time in DC or have questions about things, smile at a secret service member, police or anyone nearby. If they smile back, you are good to ask a question. Even silly questions like “What Happened to the Top of the Tree?”
  2. If you have time, go through the White House Tour app before going on your tour. This way you will have an idea of what to expect and some of the fun facts about the White House before your visit. As someone who spends most of their time using their phone for pictures, I did not want my nose in the phone reading as I entered each room. I also feel that knowing your history before visiting always makes the visit more memorable. Like knowing where the State Dinners are held, and in that room, they hosted Queen Elizabeth and other Dignitaries. It elevates a room from just an old room to a History.
  3. Do not feel rushed. Yes, you have to be moving in with the flow of traffic. But if you want to get a picture of something, linger a little longer. This is probably going to be the only time you set foot in here again, so make it memorable.
  4. As always be respectful. It doesn’t matter who holds the office and where you land politically, this is the White House. It’s a symbol of our history. And one thing I appreciated on my tour was that everyone left politics aside. There were no MAGA hats. There was no one talking in favor or against the current president’s politics. They were just excited about getting to walk through the gates.
  5. When you walk outside the front doors of the White House, don’t be afraid to look back. It’s going to be one of the best views you’ll get from the White House.
White House Gates

Part Four: What if I don’t get in?

If you get the rejection letter, don’t worry. Chances are they had too many requests. Try again on your next visit.

The White House Visitor Center

Stop by the White House Visitor Center and see a lot of the historical pieces and learn more about the White House.

Do a Virtual Tour

Download the WH Experience virtual tour and walk through each of the rooms on your smart phone.

Take a walk around the White House. It’s an experience all on its’ own. Around 7 am during the week, you will have an unobstructed view of the White House.

You will have to stay a block away from the White House on each side and in the back. You can walk on Pennsylvania Ave in front.

As it gets later in the day, you’ll be dealing with tour groups, protesters, and preachers broadcasting in front. It can get intense.

Consider taking a walking tour of the great architecture around Washington DC. There is a great Federal Triangle Architecture Tour, led by a local guide. You’ll start in front of the White House neighborhood and then move down Pennsylvania Avenue, learning about the history of the town.

Check out some other free things to do in DC

Protesting outside the White House in Washington DC

Recommended Reading

Before you go, I recommend brushing up on your White House Facts. There is no shortage of great books on the topic from all different points of view. Politics aside, here are my favorite recommendations.

  1. Inside the White House: Stories From the World’s Most Famous Residence. This book has interesting stories for the First Families through the ages. Including great images from their time. It’s a great way to give you a sense of what to expect and the events that happened here.
  2. The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence. Dealing with one of the biggest crises to happen to the White House in recent day, find out what went into the biggest renovation in the Houses history.
  3. The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. Told from the perspective of a White House usher, this book brings new insight into what it’s like to live inside these walls. It’s my favorite book in the collection because it tells one person’s story.
  4. Politics aside, Becoming by Michelle Obama. The book gives a lot of insight into what it’s like navigating raising children inside the Whitehouse.

other Questions about the White House Tour

How far in advance should I book a tour of the White House?

White House Tours should be reserved three months in advance and as late as three weeks beforehand. The earlier you book, the better chance you’ll get in.

How hard is it to get White House tour tickets?

White House Tour Tickets are easy to get, as long as you do some advanced planning. You can request tickets from a member of congress, at least three weeks in advance. Both U.S. Nationals and Foreign visitors can visit the White House.

What kind of tours can you do when visiting the White House?

The White House has one type of tour available to the public. It’s a self-guided tour of the first and second floors of the building. It includes all the formal reception rooms. Private facilities and the executive wings are not included. 

Is White House tour worth it?

The White House tour is worth it, if you enjoy American history. You’ll enter rooms and stand where kings and queens have stood. You’ll be walking through history. From the architecture and artwork, you’ll be amazed. The White House is a historic and iconic symbol of the United States and is a must-see tour.

Would I do a tour of the White House Again?

Entering the White House was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. I’d definitely do it again. I got the opportunity to visit during two different presidencies. One thing that’s nice to see, is much of the house stays the same. But it’s nice to see how the current president makes minor changes to give it their own feel.

White House tours are free. The public with a house tour has a limited number of spaces are available. Tours fill up quickly so you’ll need to request your tickets as soon as possible.

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How to secure your tour at the White House. I'm giving all my tips to make sure you get the most out of your tour. DC | Washington | White House | Free | Tour

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