Visiting Washington D.C. | Capitol Tour

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Washington D.C. was the Capitol Tour. No building in Washington, except perhaps the White House, evokes as much emotion and national pride as our nation’s Capitol. It’s been years since I’ve been inside our Capitol building, and it is quite impressive.

You can’t just wander through the halls of the Capitol building without a guide, so if you want to go beyond the Capitol Visitor Center, you must book a tour. These tours fill up fast, especially in the springtime, so definitely book in advance.

Travel Tip: book Capitol tour in advance. Make sure to request gallery passes.

As I mentioned in my Advice for Family Travel in D.C., planning is crucial to any trip to our nation’s capitol. There is so much to see and do, and since it’s all free, tours do fill up fast. We didn’t plan our trip very well, but fortunately a good friend who knew more than we did hooked us up with this Capitol tour. Admission to the Capitol, and even the Capitol tours, are completely free, thanks to our tax dollars, so there is no reason not to take advantage of this opportunity!

Most people sign up for the larger Guide-led group tours. Each person is given a headset so they can hear their guide, as it is quite a crowded tourist destination.

What most people do not know is that you may contact your State Representative or Senator’s office and request a personal tour of the Capitol by a Congressional staff person. (Yes, this option is free too!!) It’s easy to do at Definitely call in advance, and be willing to work around their schedule. It’s well worth it! I couldn’t figure out why all these people were meandering around in large groups, wearing headsets, when you can just as easily get a staff-led tour.

We were treated to a tour of the Capitol by Senator Toomey’s intern, Jonathan. Check out his blog, Keystone Liberty. We had fun comparing notes when I disclosed that I am also a blogger while we were waiting in line to see the House chamber.

Because we went during Spring Break, it was incredibly crowded, so I was particularly glad we had opted for the Congressional staff-led tour. It made it much easier to stick together and to spend time in the areas we liked most.

Travel Tip: travel light, heightened security measures are in place.

It is very crowded, and there is a lot of security, so it’s best to travel light. Security officers will dig through your backpacks and handbags. Also, no food is allowed so make sure all members of your party are properly nourished and hydrated before starting your tour. (We hadn’t had lunch, and it made for a bit of a stressful visit.)

And the architecture inside the Capitol building was enthralling. I knew about the gorgeous rotunda, but everywhere we went, we were treated to artwork and architectural design that was breathtaking. Jonathan knew a lot about the designer, and I wish I could regurgitate some of it! I was fascinating.


We were particularly intrigued by the floors.


Every section had a different design.


If you want to see the House and/or Senate in session, that requires a gallery pass. Fortunately for us, Jonathan had thought ahead and grabbed some gallery passes for us. We by-passed an incredibly long line of people and got to hop right into the gallery line. (Another bonus of a staff-led tour!)

Another cool attraction is this newly renovated replica of an Old Senate chamber. They moved us right along, but my husband grabbed a quick snapshot.


There is much symbolism in the columns and decorative moldings. I could have stood there for hours, studying the architecture.

Ceiling in Old Senate Chamber

Of course no visit to the Capitol is complete without visiting the Rotunda.

By this time, the girls were getting tired, but my son enjoyed looking at the statues around the room.


Afterwards, we hung around outside on the grounds. The girls were a bit too young to fully appreciate the tour, and they were particularly happy to bask in the sunshine.


And we couldn’t resist a few more photo opps.


Family Travel Tips:

1. Arrange for a staff-led tour.

2. Make sure kids are fed and well-rested, especially little ones who might not find the tour so compelling.

3. The tour is best appreciated by kids ages 10 and up, but little ones can do it if they are kept busy.

4. Travel light, your bags will be searched several times along the way.

One last shout out to Jonathan — thanks for the informative and fascinating tour of our nation’s Capitol! (And thanks also for taking the only family photo we got on the whole trip!)

Family Photo