My family and I had quite a memorable Memorial Day Weekend - we got to go inside The White House.

A couple months ago, Congressman LoBiondo posted a note on his Facebook page that you can request tours of landmarks in Washington, DC, including The White House, through his office. As someone who has been interested in the institution that is the Presidency, regardless of who is in the Oval Office, I filled out the form. About two months later, I got an response saying we were all approved for a tour of the Executive Mansion (I can only imagine the background checks that we had to go through to get approved).

This past Saturday, we made the three (four with traffic) hour drive down to Washington, DC. Scheduled for the 12:30 tour, we arrived at 1:30 and we didn't have any problems getting in.

Before you can even get inside the fence that surrounds The White House, the Secret Service checks your ID at several different spots, then as you enter the grounds, you have to go through a metal detector-like device that probably detects a lot more than just metal.

Once you clear all of the security, you walk up the side driveway and you enter the East Wing of The White House. Once you're two steps inside, you can't help but think that you're now in the same building that has been the home of countless Presidents and has hosted more world leaders than one can imagine. It's an interesting mix of official portraits of Presidents, First Ladies, and archived pictures of life at The White House.

At a walking pace, about 10 minutes inside The White House, you bump into a small gift shop (I assumed there would be one somewhere), then you continue your tour further inside and up a large stair case that leads you to the East Room, which hosts state dinners, concerts, and weddings. The bodies of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy were there following their assassinations. The East Room also is home of the official portrait of George Washington, which was saved from the fire in 1814.

Further inside you visit the Green, Blue, and Red Rooms and you can look out the windows of the South Portico, down the White House lawn with the Washington Monument in the distance. From there, you tour the State Dining Room, exit into the Cross Hall, and you exit at the north side of the building and leave onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

At the beginning, I said we arrived an hour late for our tour. Luckily, we got there when we did as that was the last tour of the day. Towards the end, we noticed the Secret Service was bringing up the rear of our group and not letting anyone go back to where they just were. That was because President Trump was coming back from his overseas tour on Saturday and they had to do a sweep of the building and then housekeeping had to make the spotless building even more spotless before the President got back (my 3-year-old was devastated that he wasn't home when she was there).

 

I posted a couple pictures on Facebook right after we left and some people asked me a few questions...

  • Yes, you can tour The White House assuming you clear all of the background and security checks. All you have to do is fill out the form through Congressman LoBiondo's office.
  • Yes, you can take still pictures inside The White House, but no videos, texting, Facebook Live'ing, or anything of that nature.
  • It is a self-guided walking tour that you take at your own pace (with the Secret Service behind you to make sure you're not inside all day) and you're inside for about 45 minutes.
  • No, you don't get to see the Oval Office or anything like that. And no, you probably won't meet the President.

 

Chris Coleman is the Program Director of WPG Talk Radio 104.1 and afternoon on-air personality at Cat Country 107.3.

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