You’ve seen how bills are introduced and how they become law during your visit to the U.S. Capitol. Naturally, the next step is to see it executed and implemented by visiting the locations that houses the remaining branches of government during your stay in Washington, D.C. Here are some local tips for visiting the White House and the United States Supreme Court.
Local Tips for Visiting the White House and US Supreme Court
The White House – Executive Branch
Most people will only get within 50 feet of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. That’s because the White House, home and office of the sitting president of the United States, is the toughest of the three locations to get into. Tour requests will need to come from a member of Congress (for U.S. residents) or from an embassy (for foreigners) and require at least 21 days advance notice. The time slots are limited to mornings and a handful of afternoon sessions and are available only from Tuesday through Saturday. Once you get a slot, mentally prepare yourself for a long wait because security lines just to get through the door is akin to what you will experience at airports during peak travel times. The tour is also self-guided and will only last approximately 35-40 minutes at most, though well worth doing once.
Local Tips for Visiting the White House #1: Wait Until the Kids Are Grown
Those traveling with young children (ages eight years or under) ought to reconsider going when the kids are a little older. That’s because the Secret Service has a long list of prohibited items that include strollers, food, drinks, and bags of any kind larger than 3×3 inches. Not to mention that the waiting area has no place to sit and no facilities in case nature calls.
Local Tips for Visiting the White House #2: Ask Questions
Ask the stationed Secret Service agents questions. Not only are they welcome to answer any questions, they also happen to be some of the most knowledgeable folks about the White House. The answers and sometimes stories they will tell you about the most famous house in America are nuggets that aren’t available in books or pamphlets.
Local Tips for Visiting the White House #3: Take Your Time
Once you’ve made it through the double doors of the East Wing, you’re free to peruse every detail of the sections open for display so take your time and don’t mind the other tourists. The good thing about the tour being self-guided is that you have to confirm with other people’s timeline, unless of course you came with a big group yourself. Some of the areas worth examining in detail include the Green Room (which the Secret Service calls the $100 room) and the State Dining Room, which is still in use today to welcome visiting dignitaries.
The United States Supreme Court – Judiciary Branch
The United States Supreme Court building is often overlooked by many visitors even though it’s the most fascinating (in my opinion) and most accessible of all three locations. The Corinthian-styled building the Court now calls home is only 81 years old, which is a surprising fact for many travelers staying in Washington, D.C. When you enter the court, you’ll be directed to the ground floor level where there’s a small gallery featuring snippets about the history of the building and a dedicated exhibit in honor of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female judge appointed to the Supreme Court.
What makes the Supreme Court visit well worth the time is the chance to sit in during Oral Arguments, a one hour session where attorneys from both sides of a case get to present their arguments as to why the Court should decide in their favor. Considering that these are some of the most controversial cases in the country make for a very interesting and informative hour.
Local Tips for Visiting the Supreme Court #1: Sit-in on Oral Arguments
If you don’t have an hour to spare and simply want to get a glimpse of courtroom drama in the highest and most respected court in America, you can queue up for the three-minute line as opposed to the one-hour line for Oral Arguments. Check in your carry-on items in the cloakroom however, since the Court prohibits oversized bags and electronics when in session.
Local Tips for Visiting the Supreme Court #2: Listen During Opinion Days
If you missed the calendar for Oral Arguments, you can still witness the Court in action during Non-Argument days, when the Bench releases their orders and opinions regarding cases they’ve heard while in session. These usually take place every Monday in late spring.
Local Tips for Visiting the Supreme Court #3: Take a Courtroom Lecture
Should your visit coincide when the Court is away, you can still enter the hallowed chambers by attending one of the Courtroom Lectures, a thirty-minute presentation given by one of the docents that will provide you with a history of the Supreme Court, its exclusive membership, and the policies and procedures involving the cases the justices hear. By the time you exit the Court’s chamber, you’ll know what it takes to be a Supreme Court judge. You’ll also likely have a basic understanding of U.S. Constitutional Law.