August 20, 2017

Exploring with Kids: U.S. Capitol

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I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area nearly all my life, and even worked for a Member of Congress for two and a half years, but I can honestly say that I’d never gone on the public tour of the U.S. Capitol until yesterday. The tour was just over an hour, including a 13-minute video and a guided tour of three areas: the Rotunda, Statuary Hall and the Crypt.

It was amazing to watch the video to really get a feel for the impact Congress has had on this nation, from child labor laws to the creation of N.A.S.A. to the family and medical leave act, which allows women up to 12 weeks of maternity leave. But my favorite part of the tour was probably the headphones. Headphones? Yes, with these special headphones, I was able to wrangle my not-yet two-year-old and still listen to my guide as he shared the history of the U.S. Capitol.

Of course, I can’t recommend a Capitol tour more highly, but here are a few tips you may find useful if you make it to Washington, DC to see our laws being made.

  • Reserve Your Capitol Tour Before You Arrive. You don’t need to reserve a tour of the U.S. Capitol ahead of time, but a great way to skip the line is by contacting your Congressman or Senator. Each office has one or two staff members dedicated to helping constituents, which includes coordinating Capitol tours. Once you arrive at the Capitol Visitors Center, look for the line for those with reserved tickets and you’ll have your passes in no time. Find your Congressman here.
  • Get to Know Your State Statues. Every U.S. state has two statues of prominent Americans located in the U.S. Capitol. Most are located in Statuary Hall, but some are located in the Capitol Visitors Center, the Crypt and the Hall of Columns. Visit this page on the Architect of the Capitol website with your kids to find your state’s statues and learn about the great Americans representing your state before your visit.
  • Ask for Free Gallery Passes. If you can, pay a visit to your Congressman or Senator before you visit the Capitol. Every office has free passes to give to constituents who want to watch Congressional proceedings from the House or Senate Gallery. The passes are good for the duration of the Congressional session (up to two years). Take a look at the Congressional Schedule so you can try to time your visit with dates when the Members of Congress will be in town.
  • Check into Special Activities. At various times during the year, you and your family can go on special tours inside and outside the Capitol. For example, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m., you can enjoy a 30-minute program in Exhibition Hall on the history of Congress. Meanwhile, May through October, you can take an outdoor walking tour of the Capitol building and grounds.

Have you taken a trip to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC? I’d love to hear any great tips you may have.

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