The U.S. Capitol and Visitor Center

The U.S. Capitol Building

The U.S. Capitol Building

Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Capitol has a new visitor center, which opened in July 2008. Good friends who have lived in Washington, D.C. for many years suggested we check it out. Our time was relatively short, so we weren’t looking for a tour, only for an initial look-around, especially for Clive on his first visit here.

The Visitor Center

The center is underground and reminded us a little of the Louvre Pyramid entry, minus the escalators. The first line is outside, to get through Security. Once through, you enter on the ground level and can look down into the huge main hall. where tour groups meet and tickets may be available for the day’s tours.

Main Hall, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Main Hall, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

As with desirable tourist sites the world over, the key is clearly to go early, before the lines become unbearable. Even better, book your tour ahead of time via the Internet or, for U.S. citizens, through your Representative’s office.

Otherwise it might be impossible to score a ticket. Several security guards pointed us towards the mile-long lines and said, “Get on line there to see if tickets are available.” When Clive expressed incredulity and said, “Do you mean we could stand on line for ages and be told there are no tickets?” a guard shrugged and said, “That could happen.”

A Popular Destination - U.S. Capitol

A Popular Destination - U.S. Capitol

We appreciated the guard’s honesty and chose instead to look at the small but well-done public exhibit about the Capitol and its history. Then we walked through the underground tunnel to the Library of Congress, about which I’ll post separately. I think I’m in love with the Library of Congress.

How to Get Inside Faster (Especially if It’s Raining)

There was a long line outside the Capitol Visitor Center, and virtually no line outside the Library of Congress, when we came up the inside steps from the underground tunnel.

It was an on-and-off drizzly day, and we realised we could have saved a half hour or more and stayed dry if we had entered the complex via the Library of Congress and walked through to the Capitol from there.

The Capitol is an impressive building and is of course where U.S. laws are made. We’ll definitely book tickets ahead of time for a tour on our next visit to Washington.

We’re off to Paris this evening.  Cheers for now and I’ll post more from there.

2 Responses

  1. I’ve read about this new center. It looks really nice but, as you said, very crowded-like the Louvre.

  2. What a great tip you discovered re entering via the Library of Congress!

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