Unfortunately we had a spell of bad weather during the night and morning before, so the opening ceremony was cancelled. It was really an incredible thing to take part of. They estimated 44,000 people made it despite the weather to lay 245,000 wreaths. They bring in semi-trucks full of wreaths which are stopped throughout the Cemetery. Volunteers go up to the trucks and get as many as they can carry and start laying them out. The Cemetery opens two additional entrances to help with foot traffic, so you can enter through the main entrance, close to the Pentagon or close to the Iwa Jima Memorial. We parked at the Pentagon Row shopping center and walked the 0.5 mile to the Pentagon entrance.
We were there about 45 minutes and were only able to lay two arms full of wreaths. It was a wonderful event to volunteer at and I think this would be something that we would look for no matter where we lived as events are Nationwide.
After months of trying to set up a White House tour through our Congressman that worked with our work and travel schedules, a date finally came available on the morning of December 14th. Here is the link about White House tours and also how our Congressman has tour requests set up on his website. Our tour time was 8am and we were to meet one of his interns. It was a cold morning and we didn’t want to deal with the metro, we decided to drive and find public parking. There are quite a few garages around the area and very limited street parking. Street parking would be much cheaper but we were fine with paying for a garage ($20) for the convenience of not worrying about the metro during rush hour.
We were outside the tour entrance area on Pennsylvania and Hamilton at 7:45. Since the tour was so early there was no time to drop Eilam off at school and get there on time, so he came along as well. Luckily the intern was already there along with one other person who the Congressman was able to get a ticket for. She was actually from upstate New York. When the members of Congress get tickets and have openings they will share between a few so hopefully all spots are taken. Since everyone in our party was there we were able to get in line, which meant we were one of the first groups through.
Prior to your tour day, you will get an emailed “boarding pass.” It has all the directions and the prohibited and permitted items. You are not allowed bags inside but cell phones are allowed. You must have an ID to enter. Since it was so cold we all had our big winter coats on, so husband had his wallet and I had my ID and phone in my coat pockets. Exactly at 8am they opened the line up to enter the premises and proceed through security. They checked IDs and names on their lists at two points. You walk through a metal detector and a radiation detector. Eilam was grumpy and cold while waiting beforehand but he sure did like the security screenings. He kept saying it was like a maze and like the airport.
Once through everything you enter the House and get a seasonal pamphlet with information about all the rooms that you will see and a message from the President and First Lady. Eilam was thrilled to get this “book.” Since we were there in December the entire place was decked out with Christmas trees and decorations. It was really gorgeous to walk through. It is a self-guided tour, so you can walk through at your own pace.
The whole tour took us maybe 30 minutes. We walk through these things fast and with a three year old there isn’t a lot of looking around and reading every detail. It was a great tour and if you are able to set one up while out here I would highly suggest it.