Editor’s Note: The White House and The White House Visitor Center are currently closed to public due to COVID-19. At this time, The Ellipse and Lafayette Park remain open.
The White House, The President’s House, the Executive Mansion, The People’s House — no matter what you call it, the iconic building at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has plenty to see and do to engage both kids and adults. Whether you’ve got family in town longing to see the State Dining Room or you’ve always wanted the scoop on scoring Easter Roll tix, we’ve got insider tips on how to set foot on the White House grounds (without being tackled by Secret Service). Scroll on for how to nab tickets to tour the White House along with other events at The People’s House.
How to Tour the East Wing of the White House
Tickets to tour the White House require some planning; they are granted on a first come, first served basis and require a minimum of 21 days notice. To request a tour, contact your member of Congress. Tours run Tues. and Thurs., 7:30-11:30 a.m. and Fri.-Sat. 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tours are free and self-guided. Once inside the White House, you will have access to rooms in the East Wing, including the Blue Room, the Green Room, the Red Room and the State Dining Room.
When to Register for the Easter Egg Roll Lottery
President Hayes first invited children to roll their eggs on the White House lawn in 1878. Ever since, the Easter Egg Roll has been an annual tradition. Today, the event is organized and managed by the White House, the White House Historical Association and The National Park Service. Held on the Monday following Easter, the Roll features story time, live music, pictures with the Easter bunny and, naturally, an egg roll. To get tickets, you must enter a lottery. The lottery typically opens for a week in the month of Feb. or Mar. Lucky lottery winners leave the event with a keepsake, wooden egg.
Get Tickets to Smell the Roses Near the West Wing
You can tour the White House year round, but if you want to smell the roses you can only visit the gardens twice a year. For one week in April and one week in Oct., the public can visit two formal gardens, the Rose Garden and the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, as well as the White House Kitchen Garden. Free tickets are dispersed daily by Park Rangers during the bi-annual event starting at 8:30 a.m. on the corner of Constitution Ave. and 15th St. NW.
Go Trick or Treating at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
In recent years, Presidents have invited local children and military families to the White House to celebrate Halloween. Families who are selected and pre-screened receive tickets from the Department of Education and the White House Military Office. You may not be able to go knock on the WH door, but there are plenty of other great places to get candy in the District (check them out here).
Talk a Walk in President's Park
You can step foot on White House grounds without walking through a metal detector; Lafayette Square (to the north of the White House) and The Ellipse (the park south of the White House) were originally the front and backyard of the Executive Mansion and are now open to the public. Today, you can enjoy these parks 365 days a year. The Ellipse is probably most famous for the annual Christmas tree lighting, which is hosted by the current president. Looking for a sneak peak into the main building but don't have tickets in hand? Head over to the White House Visitor Center to see White House artifacts. While you're there, pick up the National Park Service's Junior Ranger booklet on the President's Park.
— Meghan Yudes Meyers