Updated July 7, 2020.
It’s Motivation Monday! In this week’s post, I want to motivate you to find something cool to do in your own hometown or nearby. My dad just happened to be visiting the weekend of the annual White House Fall Garden tour, and my friend who works on Capitol Hill offered us tickets!
White House Fall Garden Tour
This was my first Fall Garden Tour, even though I’ve lived in D.C. over nine years! I’m not a huge fan of fall (I’m a summer girl!), but I am always up for something that might make me appreciate it. And this opportunity fit the bill! Here’s what the tickets looked like:
How to Get Tickets
You have two options.
- You can get tickets through your Congressperson. If you know someone who works on Capitol Hill (“the Hill”), ask them about it in September for the Fall Garden Tour, which takes place in October; or in March for the Spring Garden tour, which takes place in April.
- You can get walk-up tickets the day of the tour! Just go to the entrance at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. I suggest grabbing a coffee and pastry for breakfast or a snack and arrive at 9:00am. Tours start at 10:00am and entry times are scheduled for every half hour. You can go later in the day, but your best chance will be for the earliest entry time.
You will be waiting in line to go through security, which is why I suggest bringing a snack! Just remember you will not be able to take it with you through security. There is a restroom facility at the Ellipse Pavilion.
The ticket you receive is your map, instructions, and list of unallowables. Any time you visit the White House, it’s a little stressful. The Secret Service can literally deny you entry or take you away for any reason, but rest assured knowing I have never heard of that happening to someone! But also make sure you and everyone in your party can and will follow directions. I have your complete guide to visiting the White House coming to the blog next Monday, so stay tuned for more information on getting in!
For this tour, attendees are only allowed to stay outside the White House itself; we only toured the grounds. But everyone has to admit, being on the other side of the fence is pretty cool! Here are the basics if you’re curious or if you find yourself with the opportunity to attend another event at the White House:
- No aerosols
- No animals except guide dogs
- No backpacks
- No balloons (Why? Who knows! Perhaps it was a problem in the past.)
- No beverages
- No insulated meal containers
- No water bottles (plan to buy water elsewhere that day)
- No duffle bags or suitcases (there are storage facilities at the Natural History Museum and at Union Station if necessary)
- No tablets or iPads
- No selfie sticks
- No stun guns
- No fireworks
- No food of any kind
- No guns or ammo (I hope that is common sense)
- No knives (including pocket knives)
- No mace
- No smoking, including e-cigarettes
- No pointed objects (scissors, swords, throwing stars, knitting needles, etc.)
- No toy weapons (it will not be considered a toy to a Secret Service officer)
- No lawn chairs (it’s a garden tour, not a garden party!)
That’s a lot! Purses are ok, as long as they are not too big.We did see people get turned away because they brought things they weren’t supposed to bring.
When you go through security, the Secret Service will be checking you. There were about 5 or 6 security lines going, and we picked the one with the most thorough Secret Service agent. There were four agents at each station, and this one guy was literally opening every single thing that could be opened: wallets, purses, pockets inside purses, “lady items” bags inside of purses, etc. It took forever, but once we got in, we were home free!
There was more to see on this tour than there was on the Spring Garden Tour I attended in 2008! You walk up to the South Lawn (the back yard of the White House), and you’re greeted by friendly volunteers handing out programs and live music from the Marine Corps Band! They were playing music from The Wizard of Oz when we arrived. You are required to stay on the paved path, and there are Secret Service people everywhere to help you remember to stay off the grass.
You will see several posters around the path that show historic events that happen on the lawn–Marine One lands here, ceremonies and memorials happen here, weddings have happened here, etc. It’s a nice reminder of what an important, historical place you’re privileged to visit.
You’ll also see some glimpses of normal life for the people who live here. There is a soccer goal in one section of the gardens next to the White House. Maybe Barron is a budding soccer star!
On down the line you’ll be shocked at just how close you can get to the White House. Take a look!
But while you’re gawking at the house itself, don’t forget to turn around and take in the view:
Try not to clog the pathway, though. The Secret Service will not hesitate to suggest you take your pictures and move along! There’s a lot more to see! As you continue along the path, you’ll come to the White House Rose Garden. It was pretty, but not rosy! I think there are more roses in the spring and summer than in the fall!
Continuing on, be sure to get this photo that you can’t get anywhere else!
You can get that photo on your way to see the beehive and kitchen garden, where the chef at the White House gets some of the produce they use to feed the First Family and their guests!
That’s your last stop! From there you can follow the path out. Don’t worry about getting lost. The Secret Service and surveillance equipment won’t allow that to happen!
Here are some of the best photos I got. You may have seen some of them on my Instagram the day of the tour, but if not, you can see them now!
What do you think? Are you already planning your own trip to the Spring or Fall Garden Tour in 2018?
Want to tour the inside of the White House? Check out How to Visit the White House! And get all the D.C. info you need and more on my Washington, D.C. Page!
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