I’ve always been fascinated by the inner workings of the FBI. So when I learned that they offer public tours of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington DC, their headquarters, I knew I had to find a way to visit.
Planning a trip to DC can be a bit of a juggling act. You gotta align your visit with when things will actually be open. So, when I was putting in my White House Ticket request three months in advance and saw that you could tour the FBI too, I jumped.
The tour was on the top of my son’s wish list. When we told him about it, I didn’t want to get his hopes up. The thing is, you can do everything right, pass a background check, but still not get in. The wait was agonizing, but it ended up being the highlight of the entire trip!
How to get tickets to tour the FBI in Washington DC?
Securing tickets for the FBI tour takes advance planning and patience. Unlike most tourist attractions, you can’t simply book online. Instead, you need to request tickets through your state representative’s office.
I contacted my congressman’s office 3 months before my visit. They handled submitting the request to the FBI and about 3 weeks later I received a call to verify my identity and background information.
After completing a basic background check, it became a waiting day. That’s because they don’t confirm your visit until 1 week beforehand.
My hunch is that they need to keep things flexible incase high profile events are going on. And in the fall of 2023, there are a few, if you catch my drift.
Arriving at the FBI
When the big day arrived, I made sure to arrive 30 minutes early at the Pennsylvania Ave address. We actually go there 45 minutes early and took a quick side trip to Ford Theatre just a few blocks away.
When it comes to the FBI, they are a very secure locked down building. We showed up to find a few others waiting outside the building and a few others walking out. They had just been turned away for walking in 31 minutes early.
We decided to give it a try right on time and had a little push back before they realized it was the right time. We showed them our Drivers Licenses and they gave us our lanyards and visitors passes. There are no official tickets, just a reservation.
One rule in the FBI is no cameras in the main part of the building. You also have to have your phones on Airplane mode.
I went through a security screening and proceeded down to the waiting area. The tour actually starts in the gift shop where I picked up a few souvenirs. Then we were escorted with my group to the interactive FBI Experience. This is where the real fun began!
The FBI Experience is on two floors. The tour starts on the second floor. You’ll be outside in their atrium and climb a flight of stairs. You’ll exit the tour in the back of the building.
Touring the FBI Headquarters in Washington DC
The FBI Experience has a series of exhibits and activities that provides an insider’s view of FBI operations. Now that we were in the experience, we were allowed to take photos and document our visit. Some of the highlights included:
- Shooting range – No photos here, and it was being remolded. But you can see agents in action!
- Bank robbery investigative experience – I had to study the evidence and catch the suspect.
- Computer forensics lab – I analyzed data just like computer forensic teams.
- Hidden camera room – I searched for tiny hidden cameras with my phone flashlight. Found both. There is a video monitor on the other side of the room to help guide you. If you want a hint, make sure to ask an agent.
- Spy equipment from different operations.
- Historical artifacts – I saw the Unabomber’s journal, items from 9/11, John Dillinger’s Tommy gun, and more.
- FBI’s Most Wanted Wall – The infamous top 10 list with photos/descriptions of fugitives.
Throughout the experience, there were FBI agents on hand that provided additional details and answered all of your questions. It was great getting an insider’s view.
The agents were super friendly. I think part of it was in my head, but the agents around the outside of the building were a little more intimidating.
The tour took about 1 hour and 30 minutes total. You don’t have to stay with your group and can take as much time as you need.
Each admission group had around 30 people. If you don’t get a tour, that’s probably why. Unless you were flagged in your background check.
At the end, we all took a fun quiz to find out what FBI job we would be best suited for. I got forensic scientist! The kids are both suited to be Special Agents.
We got to leave with a sevener, our security badges.
Frequently Asked Questions about FBI Headquarters Tours
How do I get tickets to tour the FBI?
You need to request them through your state representative or congressperson’s office. The FBI does not handle public ticket bookings.
How far in advance should I request tickets to Tour the FBI?
You can request tours up to 5 months in advance and no later than 4 weeks before. Tickets are limited and the background check process takes time. The earlier the better!
What are the hours and days that tours take place?
Tours run Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., excluding federal holidays.
What is the cost?
The tours are free.
What should I bring To the FBI Tour?
Bring yourself, your photo ID, wallet, and your phone. That’s it!
The list of prohibited items includes bags larger than 8 ½” x 11”, cameras (point and shoot, SLR, video records), strollers, food, drinks, tobacco, aerosols, and weapons.
Bring a printed ticket, photo ID, and leave any other personal items (including cell phones and cameras) secured off site.
Would I recommend the FBI Experience Tour in Washington DC?
I highly recommend taking the FBI tour if you ever get the chance. It provides a one-of-a-kind look at the storied history and fascinating operations within the bureau.
Just be prepared for the detailed planning required to secure tickets. The early effort pays off for this rare experience!
If you really love the spy parts of the tour, check out the Spy Museum!