DC Tours · Washington DC

How to Tour the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

There are two things I like to tell people about the Kennedy Center: they give FREE tours every day, and they give FREE performance every night of the week!

Know Before You Go

Here’s a quick overview of the fast facts to know before you go!

  • Tours are offered daily, every 10-15 minutes during opening hours.
  • Individuals and small groups of 14 or fewer can simply show up without prior arrangements.
  • Tour hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm; Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-1:00pm.
  • Tours are FREE!
  • Tours are wheelchair accessible, and audio devices are available upon request.
  • If there are more than 15 people in your party, you will need to schedule your tour in advance.
  • Tours can also be offered in a variety of foreign languages.
  • For all the details about group tours, accessibility, languages, group tours, VIP tours, special tours for school groups, and more, check out their Special Tours Page.
  • There is a FREE shuttle from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro Station that leaves every 15 minutes (9:45am-Midnight Monday-Saturday except Federal Holidays; 11:45am-Midnight Sundays; 4:00pm-end of last performance on Federal Holidays).
Sculpture of JFK

How to Get There

There are three ways to get to the Kennedy Center: driving (not recommended), Uber, or a FREE shuttle from the Foggy Bottom Metro.

Metro

Simply take the Blue, Orange, or Silver line to the Foggy Bottom-GWU Station. As mentioned above, take the FREE shuttle directly to the Kennedy Center! You can’t miss it: it’s a red bus that says “Kennedy Center” on the side. It runs about every 15 minutes. You can also walk from the Metro to the Kennedy Center, about 1/2 mile.

Kennedy Center Shuttle
Uber

Simply type “Kennedy Center” into the “Where to” box from wherever you are in D.C.! The address is 2700 F Street NW.

Driving

I do not advise driving in D.C. due to confusing streets and high parking costs, but some people like to drive! The address of the Kennedy Center is 2700 F Street NW, and parking onsite is $23. For more details, check out their website.

How to Take the Tour

Just walk in! You will simply go to the Tour Desk downstairs (if you don’t see it, just ask anyone with a nametag or a red blazer), let them know you’re here for a tour, and you’ll be put on the next one. Tours go every 10-15 minutes and last about 45 minutes.

The Grand Foyer

Highlights of the Tour

So, the best part of this tour is that it’s one of the only tours in D.C. where you might be the only guest! How often do you get a FREE personal tour of anything, anywhere? It’s one of the best kept secrets in D.C., but here’s your sneak peek!

The Hall of Nations and Hall of States

I have this thing for flags. I think it stems from my thing for travel! The flags hanging in the Hall of Nations represent the countries with whom the United States has diplomatic relations, in alphabetical order from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The flags in the Hall of States represent each state of the Union in the order they joined.

Flags in the Hall of Nations
The Chandeliers

Many elements and works of art at the Kennedy Center were donated from other countries, but to me the most stunning pieces were the chandeliers. I didn’t realize I liked chandeliers so much until I saw the ones here! The chandeliers in the Foyer came from Sweden, the Concert Hall chandeliers came from Norway, and the most beautiful chandelier is in the Opera House and came from Austria!

Stunning Chandelier from Austria
Having the Performance Halls to Yourself

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE behind-the-scenes sneak peeks! All the performance venues inside are beautiful and impeccably decorated, but they are also acoustic masterpieces. I also really like to see sets, peek into the orchestra pit, and have my pick of seats… and you could experience it on the tour, too!

The Opera House, ready to be set up for a performance of Hello Dolly!
Visiting the VIP Lounges

So, to visit a VIP lounge during intermission of a show for cocktails, cheese, tiny sweets, etc., you need to donate—like, a LOT! But to peek in and get the history and symbolism of the VIP lounges, you only need to take the tour! I got to see inside the Israeli, Russian, and African lounges, but the Israeli lounge was by far my favorite.

The ceiling mural of the Israeli Lounge, depicting scenes from the Old Testament.
Seeing the Presidential Boxes

Okay, so the president was not in any of the Presidential Box Lounges and I didn’t get a presidential box of M&Ms, but I did get to peek inside from behind the red rope!

Presidential Box at the Opera House
Pro Tip:

If you’re taking a later tour, stick around for the FREE 6:00pm performance! Click here to find their calendar.

Are you ready for your own tour of the Kennedy Center? Comment below!

Want more about tours in D.C. and insider tips? Check out my Washington, D.C. Page!

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