One of the things which really should be on every American’s bucket list is to tour the Capitol Building and see American Congress in session. The U.S. Capitol building should most certainly be on the top of anyone’s “must see” list when they visit Washington D.C. The experience is free to everyone. It does take a little planning. It is always best to find out what there is to see, so that you get the most out of your visit.
There are a number of parts to the experience and here we show you how to experience each element. You should expect to spend at least two to three hours touring the Capitol Building.
How to Tour the U.S. Capitol Building
In order to get the most out of your experience you should plan ahead. There are tickets available on the day, but it is much better to get them in advance. All tickets to take a tour of the Capitol Building are available free of charge to all visitors.
The free ticket includes a guided tour of the Capitol Building. The scheduled tours start at 8.30 am. and the last tour leaves at 3.20 pm.
As you would expect, you do have to go through a security inspection before you enter the Capitol Building. You will not only be checked for weapons, but other prohibited items such as food and drinks. Make sure you leave your snacks outside the building! This process can take some time, particularly during the summer months when visitor levels are at their highest.
We suggest that before you start your tour you go to the Visitor’s Center. The $621 million Visitor’s Center opened in 2008. It is well worth a visit when you are touring the Capitol Building. There are lots of interesting exhibits in the Visitor’s Center. These include a model of the Dome, a copy of the famous John F. Kennedy speech which promised to put a man on the moon, and a model which was used to construct the Statue of Freedom. You can certainly spend quite a lot of time looking around the Visitor’s Center.
Predictably there is also a gift shop and a restaurant in the Visitor’s Center. There are some interesting items in the gift shop. The restaurant is not particularly great and the prices are rather inflated.
The Capitol tour starts with a video presentation. It’s not particularly memorable, but serves as a good introduction to the walking tour.
One of the stops on the free tour is in the Capitol Rotunda. Tourists will be shown the unique acoustic effect of this part of the building where speakers can be heard from far away.
Visitors will also be interested to see the many painting and statues inside the building. Amongst the most interesting of these are the paintings of “The Landing of Columbus” and “The Baptism of Pocahontas.”
The National Statuary Hall is another one of the highlights of the tour. This was originally built to house two statues from each state. Even though the room is pretty large there really isn’t enough room for one hundred statues, so many are displayed in other areas of the Capitol Building.
You will also be able to see The Crypt and the National Sanctuary Hall. The walking tour lasts around 45 minutes.
There are additional tours available which include an outdoor tour. These are scheduled to take place every day of the week expect Sunday. There are two tours which leave at 10 am and 11 am. These walking tours last around 50 minutes and take the visitor around the Capitol grounds. This is an excellent additional tour to take if you have the time.
Photo by Intrepid00