A United States Capitol tour is an experience students won’t ever forget. They will marvel at the art and architecture of the building and look in astonishment at the 9 million pound cast iron dome. It is a very powerful experience being in the place where the Senate and the House of Representatives discuss, debate, and craft the country’s laws. Here is how to schedule a Capitol tour and what to expect during your visit:
Visitor Center Hours: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Saturday except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and on Inauguration Day.
Tour Cost: Free, but passes are required.
Included in Capitol Tour: Tours start and end at the Capitol Visitor Center. Tours visit the Crypt of the Capitol, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall. Also included in the tour is a 13-minute video called “Out of Many, One”. This video introduces you to the Capitol building, explains how the country established a new form of government, and discusses the role of Congress in the daily lives of Americans. Groups are given audio headsets which allow them to hear the Capitol guide. These headsets are returned at the end of the tour. Capitol guides are easy to recognize in their red blazers.
While You Wait: Before your tour, students can visit Exhibition Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center. Exhibition Hall tells the story of the Capitol and Congress. There is an excellent online exhibit of Exhibition Hall entitled E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One that your class can explore ahead of time. Students can also view a selection of the 100 statues in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall collection in Emancipation Hall while they wait in line for the tour.
Group Tour Arrangements: Scholastica Travel will arrange tickets (if available) for groups that request a Capitol Tour and travel with us.
Meeting with one of your Senators or your Representative: To schedule an appointment, you must contact the office of one of your Senators or Representative and provide your dates of travel. This should be done at least six months in advance.
Watching a Session of the House or Senate: Senate and House gallery visits are not included as part of the Capitol tour. However, the galleries are open to visitors when the legislative body is in session. Contact the offices of your Senators or Representative to request passes. If you have a pass and the House of Representatives is not in session, you may visit the House gallery from 9 AM to 4:15 PM Monday through Friday. If you have a pass and the Senate is not in session, you may visit the Senate gallery during scheduled recesses of one week or more from 9 AM to 4:15 PM Monday through Friday.
Security at the Capitol: All visitors must pass through security and a metal detector to enter the Capitol and the Capitol Visitor’s Center. We recommend leaving backpacks and purses on the motor coach to expedite the security process. Additionally, many items are not permitted in the Capitol. We recommend that group leaders remind their students to leave these items on the bus or discard them prior to reaching security. These prohibited items include:
- Liquid, including water
- Food or beverages of any kind, including fruit and unopened packaged food
- Aerosol containers
- Non-aerosol spray (Prescriptions for medical needs are permitted.)
- Any pointed object, e.g. knitting needles and letter openers (Pens and pencils are permitted.)
- Any bag larger than 18″ wide x 14″ high x 8.5″ deep
- Electric stun guns, martial arts weapons or devices
- Guns, replica guns, ammunition, and fireworks
- Knives of any size
- Mace and pepper spray
- Razors and box cutters
We look forward to traveling with your student group to the US Capitol! Request more information here.