I finally made it to the White House thanks to a good childhood friend. More than six weeks ago Marva Williams asked me if I wanted to go to the White House. I said sure. She told me what information she needed and I gave it up. Truth be told, when our visit was approved I had forgotten about it, but when I found out it was really going to happen I was ecstatic.
We went on the most perfect weekend. The weather was perfect for walking, shopping and running around in a convertible. As most of you know the drive to Washington, D.C., is very easy, under four hours. Our friends in D.C. were waiting for us and their house was very close to a Metro stop. Everything was so convenient, the Metro was so clean. We rode the it to the District and our walk to the White House was a breeze.
The tours are self-guided and are available from 7:30-11 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Fridays; and 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays (excluding federal holidays). Tour hours will be extended when possible based on the official White House schedule. Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 30 days in advance. You are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible since a limited number of tours are available. All White House tours are free of charge.
If you go on a tour there are some rules that must be followed. Things have changed since 9/11. There is a list of prohibited items and they include, but are not limited to, handbags, book bags, backpacks, purses, food and beverages of any kind, strollers, cameras, video recorders or any type of recording device, tobacco products, personal grooming items (make-up, hair brush or comb, lip or hand lotions, etc.), any pointed objects (pens, knitting needles, etc.), aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices or knives of any size. The U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit any other personal items. Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones and car keys are permitted.
When you enter the building you have to pass through a checkpoint very similar to the airport check points It was so hard to go anywhere without a purse, lipstick or lotion. But we worked it out. I found these great Steelers scarves that had a zipper compartment. The scarves were a hit and sparked conversation with just about everyone.
I say dress casual and make sure you wear comfortable shoes. The tour itself is self-guided but there are guards all around if you want to ask a question. One guard told us that from time to time the president does come down and use some of the rooms that we toured. The tour was over much too soon but we actually were in some of the same spaces that the first family has passed through.
One of the highlights of the trip was the National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. It was fabulous. There is so much to do and see in the nation’s capital, plan your trip now.
(E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.)