I'm visiting Washington DC for the first time and have about 36 hours. I want to make sure I see the major attractions such as the White House and other political historical sites and museums.

Are there any attractions I should prioritize to make sure I get in? Are there any I can (if possible) book in advance?

In other words, I don't wan't to miss something because I didn't get there early enough or didn't reserve (where possible).


To be clear, my question is to make sure I don't miss any attractions due to the tickets selling out. My priorities of what I would like to see are as follows:

  1. The White House
  2. United States Capitol and Capitol Hill
  3. The Smithsonian
  • Since we don't know what kind of things you are interested in we can't answer this. – DJClayworth Mar 26 '17 at 15:54
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    Walk the Mall! You will pretty much see everything as all the historical monuments are all close together, this can easily be done in one day. Start early in the morning at the Capital building and walk West! West well take you buy everything and end at the Arlington National Cemetery. – pacman Mar 26 '17 at 16:13
  • @DJClayworth I've added edits to clarify my question. Hope that helps. – Eric Brotto Mar 26 '17 at 16:53
  • Does "seeing" the White House and Capitol mean that you want to view the building from the outside, or take a guided tour of the inside? – Nate Eldredge Mar 26 '17 at 17:18
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    White House tours absolutely require an advance reservation from a member of Congress (unless you have an invite from someone who works there), and you want to make it as far in advance as possible (they can fill up quickly). Also have a plan B if you don't get the tour (and even if you do: there's a real risk that the tour will be cancelled by the White House at the last minute).. – cpast Mar 26 '17 at 17:54

White House tours must be requested through your US congress representative or senator's office. You must request a ticket at least 21 days in advance.

If you wish to visit the White House and are a citizen of a foreign country, please contact your embassy in Washington, DC for assistance in submitting a tour request. source

Tours occur on Tuesday - Thursday and Saturday, mainly in the morning. More information is available on this website (I'm not sure this is an official government website) and from Whitehouse.gov.

For the US Capitol, if you are a US resident, you can also book a tour through your member of Congress (representative or senator). If you are not a US resident, you can book directly with the Capitol visitor center. There are some same-day passes, but getting a tour, particularly in spring/summer (busy season), is not guaranteed.

The Smithsonian is actually 11 museums and galleries located on the National Mall and 6 other museums located throughout the D.C. area. The main website is here.

I believe you'll have to check individual museum or gallery sites to find out more information on tours. Most, if not all, should have self-guided audio tours.

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    Better links for the White House tour would be the NPS or the DC tourism bureau. I wouldn't trust the first site you've linked, even if the information is accurate, because rarely is someone who deceptively mimicks an official URL fully on the up-and-up. – choster Mar 26 '17 at 22:21
  • Well, the dc tourism site links to my 2nd link, whitehouse.gov, so it's redundant. – mkennedy Mar 26 '17 at 23:47

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