Recently, Shandra in Michigan wrote us and asked:
"I read your entry about enjoying sites like the Washington Monument without tickets but I didn't see anything specific to the White House. Any advice on how to visit the President's pad without scoring a coveted ticket?"
I'm afraid my lack of advice about the White House wasn't due to an oversight on my part. Despite the protestations of Laura Bush, the White House is, sadly, closed to just about all comers. Theoretically, it's possible. According to the White House website:
"Public tours of the White House are available for groups of 10 or more people. Requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress and are accepted up to six months in advance. These self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays)."
That all sounds very nice, but it presupposes you have a Congressman that gives a damn. Many do, and I can personally vouch for the New York Seventh and the Texas Fifteenth. But even if you do, the chances are still pretty long. I can't really blame Congressmen for just giving you a "sorry, can't be done.". The White House is pretty disingenuous on it's website; they've very neatly made it look as if your Congressman can't get tickets. "Hey, we've got an open system! You just need to call your Congressman!" Ha! You might as well call them up and ask for a ride on the Space Shuttle.
And frankly, I'd say don't even bother even if you do get them. The "tour" is mostly just a self guided cattle call through a few rooms before it dumps you out on Pennsylvania Avenue. About once a year, I get a group that has actually scored an appointment here. I kid you not, by the time the last kid gets through the security facility and I walk around the building, the first group is coming out. The overwhelmingly most heard comment: "That was it?"
And to add insult to injury, no cameras are allowed, at all. So unless you're staying at a hotel across the street, you've got to leave your camera back at the hotel and head back later if you want a picture of the White House. Very convenient. Perversely enough, cell phones are allowed.