It’s Museum Monday! This week I’m letting you in on one of D.C.’s best kept tour secrets: Did you know you can visit the FBI Headquarters? You can! They can (and have) shut down the tour whenever they deem necessary, but they recently reinstated the tour late last year. Visit while you can because I’m about to tell you how! Before you get started, here is what to expect.
1. Know Before You Go
- You must inquire about your tour between five months to three weeks prior to your trip or desired tour date. Do not ask for a tour any sooner than three weeks prior. This is because every visitor has to go through a background check for security purposes.
- You must book your tour through your Congressperson’s office. If you are inquiring for a group of 20 or more, you must complete a group request form.
- FBI Headquarters is located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between 9th and 10th streets; however, the FBI Experience entrance is around the back on E Street between 9th and 10th streets.
- The closest Metro stations are Metro Center on the Red, Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines; or Penn Quarter/Navy Memorial on the Yellow and Green Lines. Not so sure about taking the Metro? Check out my guide here: DC’s Metro System: A Guide
- The tour is self-guided and should last 60-90 minutes.
- Tours are offered Monday-Friday at 9:00am, 10:30am, noon, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm, except federal holidays.
- Cell phones and other electronics must be put in airplane mode.
- Photos are permitted, but no video recording is permitted.
- Your only opportunity to visit a gift shop will be before your tour begins; you will not have another opportunity to visit a gift shop after the tour.
2. Visit the FBI Website
This will answer any questions you have and start your process of requesting your tour!
3. Contact Your Congressperson
At the FBI website you will find a link to find your Congresspeople so you can contact them. Make sure you do this at least four weeks in advance! You will need to provide your name, date of birth, social security number, whether you are a citizen or not, country of citizenship, gender, and city and state of citizenship (or city where you are staying if you are from another country).
4. Wait for Confirmation
Sorry, this is like the White House tour in that you won’t know if you’re cleared until two weeks before your tour date. Be on the lookout exactly two weeks prior to your requested date! If you don’t receive an e-mail, you did not get approved for the tour. You can contact your Congressperson’s office to confirm just in case, but if you didn’t get an e-mail confirmation, odds are you didn’t get in. It may not be because you did anything wrong, so don’t worry about it. Just try again on another trip to D.C.!
5. Prepare for Your Tour
There are a few things to note before your tour date:
- You must arrive no less than 25 minutes prior to your scheduled tour time.
- You must bring a hardcopy of your confirmation e-mail and your photo ID with you to be admitted for your tour.
- Public transportation is highly encouraged as parking near the FBI Building is very limited. The closest metro stations are Federal Triangle on the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; and Archives/Navy Memorial on the Yellow and Green lines. (Map provided in the confirmation e-mail.)
Be sure to pay attention to the prohibited items list:
- No backpacks, diaper bags, fanny packs, briefcases, luggage, computer and camera bags, or bags or purses larger than a clutch
- No point-and-shoot cameras, SLR cameras, or video recorders
- Cell phone photography is permitted, but all cell phones must be in airplane mode
- No strollers
- No food, beverages, tobacco products, personal grooming items (e.g. makeup, lotion, etc.)
- No pointed objects
- No aerosol containers (including mace)
- No guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or any knives
You can leave these items at home, in your car, at your hotel, or store them at Union Station or the Natural History Museum storage facilities. To be clear, the items in the last bullet above are never permitted anywhere in D.C.
6. The FBI Experience
The FBI Tour was one of the most popular in D.C. before 9/11. After 9/11, all tours ceased, all over D.C. Other tours started back up over the years, but the FBI Experience just re-opened in July 2017.
The FBI Experience Tour was excellent. Truly, I was impressed with the flow, the material, and how many interactives they have there! This tour is fantastic for kids and adults alike, and I can definitely recommend it! Here’s a quick run-down of what you can expect on your tour:
- The whole experience, from check-in to departure, took us 2.5 hours. Plan for around that much time for yourself and your group.
- After checking in and going through security, you will have a chance to visit the gift shop and the restrooms prior to your tour.
- At your tour time, FBI employees will meet you at the entrance to the museum for a security briefing. They will go over their rules and policies, tell you where you can and cannot take photos, and answer any questions you may have before you start.
- Once inside the 13,000 square foot museum (that is not a typo), you’ll find out what training is like at Quantico for all types of FBI employment, encounter interactive “crime scenes,” and my favorite part was the mock hotel room where you get to find hidden cameras! Neither my friend Kelly nor I could find them on our own–one of the FBI employees had to point them out to us!
- Also, check out this cool spy gear! This is such an inconspicuous item, but that means it can stay put for months or even years without anyone knowing!
- Continuing through the museum, you’ll find displays of FBI uniforms and protective gear, learn about the different branches (like the HRT, or Hostage Rescue Team), and get the whole story on some of the most notorious criminals!
- But the coolest part? The firing range! Sorry, no photos, but you can sit and watch the agents at target practice during your tour. Don’t worry! You’ll be sitting behind bullet-proof glass and sitting behind them, not in front, so don’t worry about stray bullets.
- There is also a very moving exhibit about 9/11 and how that event took the FBI from a reactive organization to a proactive organization.
- The last exhibit you’ll see before you leave is about the Boston Marathon Bombing. They have the boat where one of the bombers was found.
Are you ready for an FBI Experience? I hope this post helps get the ball rolling!
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