Visiting the U.S. Capitol
I encourage you to visit the U.S. Capitol during your trip to Washington, DC and invite you to stop by my office while you are here. My office is located in the Russell Senate Office Building, Room 290. The closest entrance is located on First Street and Constitution Avenue, Northeast. For more information about visiting the Capitol and the Capitol Visitor Center, please visit www.visitthecapitol.gov.
TOURS OF THE CAPITOL
The Capitol is home to the U.S. Congress and its two legislative bodies, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Through films, exhibits, and tours, you will learn about how Congress works, how the Capitol was built. Guided tours of the Capitol begin at the Orientation Theaters on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center. “Out of Many, One,” a 13-minute film, illustrates how this country established a new form of government, highlights the vital role that Congress plays in the daily lives of Americans, and introduces you to the building that houses the U.S. Congress.
Tours are free, but tour passes are required.
Tour hours: 8:45 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Monday – Saturday
Staff-led Tours: My staff can lead tours of the Capitol for South Carolinians Monday through Friday. For security reasons, staff-led tours are for groups of fifteen or less. Please make all staff-led tour requests at least three weeks in advance by contacting my office at (202) 224-5972.
Advance Passes: Tours may be booked in advance online at http://tours.visitthecapitol.gov, or through the Office of Visitor Services by calling (202) 226-8000.
Same-Day Passes: A limited number of passes are available each day at the tour kiosks on the East and West Fronts of the Capitol or at the Information Desks in Emancipation Hall on the lower level of the Visitor Center.
WATCHING CONGRESS IN SESSION
Hours: The Senate and House Galleries are open to visitors whenever either body is in session. In addition, the House Gallery is open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday, when the House is not in session.
Passes: Passes are required to enter either gallery at any time. South Carolinians may obtain gallery passes through my office by calling (202) 224-5972. Gallery passes are available for international visitors at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level.
LOCATION AND HOURS
The Capitol Visitor Center, the new main entrance to the U.S. Capitol, is located below the East Plaza of the Capitol between Constitution and Independence Avenues.
Visitors: The Visitor Center is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Inauguration Day.
Official Business: Visitors with official business appointments may enter the Visitor Center as early as 7:15 a.m.
DINING AND GIFT SHOPS
Restaurant (Lower Level): Freshly made soups, salads, specialty entrees, pizza, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages reflect the diverse bounty of America. Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Saturday.
Gift Shops (Upper Level): A unique selection of merchandise inspired by the Capitol’s art and architectural treasures, fun and educational gifts, books, jewelry, and exciting custom-designed products make excellent souvenirs. Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Saturday.
EXHIBITION HALL (LOWER LEVEL)
Here you can explore the only exhibition in the country dedicated to telling the story of Congress and the construction of the U.S. Capitol. Exhibit highlights include rarely seen historic documents from the National Archives and the Library of Congress, artifacts from around the country, and an 11-foot-tall touchable model of the Capitol dome. You may also watch the action on the floors of both chambers of Congress at the House and Senate theaters when Congress is in session. Numerous interactive stations allow you to discover more about Congress, its Members, and the Capitol. Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Saturday.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ACCESS
Visitors have direct access from the Capitol Visitor Center to the historic Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of the nation’s great treasures, via the Library of Congress Tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel is located on the upper level of the Visitor Center near the House Appointment Desk.
All areas of the Visitor Center are smoke free.
Strollers and Baby Changing: Strollers are permitted in the Visitor Center and baby-changing stations are available in each family restroom.
Public Telephones and ATMs: These are located outside each Gift Shop.
Foreign Languages: Visitors may request listening devices for foreign-language versions of the films and the exhibition at the Information Desks.
Visitors with Disabilities: Visitors may request wheelchairs from Capitol Visitor Center staff wearing red vests or at one of the Information Desks in Emancipation Hall. Sign-language interpreting for tours is available when booked in advance. Listening devices with audio description of the films and exhibition are available at the Information Desks. All films have open captioning.
Service Animals: Service animals are allowed in the Visitor Center and the Capitol.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Before entering the Capitol Visitor Center, all visitors are screened by a magnetometer and all items that are permitted inside the building are screened by an x-ray device.
The following items are strictly prohibited:
- Any bag larger than 18" wide x 14" high x 8.5" deep
- Aerosol containers
- Any pointed object (i.e., knitting needles, letter openers, etc. Note: pens and pencils are permitted.)
- Electric stun guns, martial arts weapons or devices
- Food or beverages of any kind
- Guns, replica guns, ammunition, and fireworks
- Knives of any size
- Mace and pepper spray
- Non-aerosol spray (prescriptions for medical needs are permitted)
- Razors and box cutters
The following are allowed in the Capitol Visitor Center and the Capitol, but not in the Senate and House Galleries:
- Battery-operated electronic devices (Medical devices are permitted.
- Open and empty clear or translucent bottles, cans, food and beverage containers
- Creams, lotions, or perfumes
- Video recorders or any type of recording device
RESPECTING CAPITOL ART
During your visit, help preserve the Capitol’s statues and other works of art. Enjoy looking at the, but do not touch them – each touch does some damage.
IN THE EVENT OF AN EVACUATION AT THE CAPITOL VISITOR CENTER:
- Proceed to the nearest exit
- All emergency exits at the Visitor Center are located on the Upper Level
- Follow direction of U.S. Capitol Police
- If assistance is needed, seek U.S. Capitol Police help