Visiting the White House During Christmas

Kate at the White House at Christmas

I recently had the opportunity to do something that I hadn’t even thought about before — visiting the White House during Christmas.

I visited Washington, DC to take part in the White House’s first ever Travel Blogger Summit, focusing on making study abroad accessible to more students. While the summit itself was an exciting, inspiring event (and stay tuned for more on what I learned and who I met!), one of the biggest highlights for me personally was getting to see the White House decked out for Christmas.

White House at ChristmasWhite House at ChristmasWhite House at ChristmasWhite House at Christmas

So many Christmas trees! So many decorations!

Visiting the White House isn’t as easy as rocking up and waiting to get in. For American citizens, you need to submit a request through your congressional representative. For foreign nationals, you need to submit a request through your embassy in Washington, DC.

Requests must be made between 21 days and six months in advance. Tours are self-guided, and you get to walk through the East Wing at your own pace and peruse a pamphlet filled with information.

You can technically visit the White House year-round — but I recommend that you try to do it around Christmas to see the decorations.

White House at Christmas

Now — why should you come to the White House during Christmas as opposed to any other time of year?

Because it’s beautiful. The Christmas decorations at the White House are legendary — classic, elegant, and the rooms are enveloped in the most wonderful scent of pine. Definitely more Martha Stewart than an avant-garde presentation, but in this environment, classic is exactly what you want. (Plus, giant sculptures of White House dogs Bo and Sunny!)

White House at Christmas

Because of the history. The East Wing of the White House, as you can imagine, is full of history dating back centuries. It’s great seeing it first-hand in an environment that has been home to the people who shaped the country we live in today.

White House at Christmas

Because of the guides. The tours are self-guided, but Secret Service officers are present throughout the rooms, giving historical tidbits. These aren’t the stereotypical officers in dark glasses — they were fun and friendly and I ended up chatting with several of them.

White House at Christmas

Because you can take pictures. Usually, you can’t take pictures on a White House tour, but Christmas is the only time of year that you’re allowed to do so.

White House at Christmas

Because of the photo ops. Need a shot for your Christmas card this year? Pose underneath the presidential seal with an American flag on one side and the Blue Room’s enormous America the Beautiful-themed Christmas tree behind you.

White House at Christmas

Still, there are caveats. It’s so hard to get good pictures. Our group had been told that cameras were not permitted, though they technically are permitted during the Christmas season, so we were restricted to our phones. It’s very crowded inside, so it’s hard getting photos without anyone in them, and you can’t get too close to the decorations themselves, so it’s difficult to get any kind of unique photos. Everyone ends up with the same shots.

Even so, though — very well worth it.

Kate at the White House at Christmas

What to Wear to the White House

It depressed me when I Googled “what to wear to the White House” and found lots of threads saying how it was okay, you didn’t have to dress up, it would be okay if you wore jeans and sneakers. OF COURSE you should dress up! This is our country’s highest office! It’s a show of respect — and if you’re not going to dress up here, then when are you going to?

I went for a dress and blazer combo with black pantyhose and pumps. Stylish, yet relatively conservative, which is how people dress for business in DC. (My personal method was to choose a dress that I could see the First Lady wearing — and she would totally wear this!)

Hell, make a day of it! I went to Drybar for an early-morning blowout, and if your visit is scheduled for later, you could drop by Sephora and get a free 15-minute makeover. Why not? This is the time!

Yes, theoretically you could walk into the White House wearing old jeans and a hoodie, but really, don’t be that girl.

White House at Christmas

The Takeaway

I never knew how much I would enjoy seeing the White House all decked out for Christmas! It was really a magical moment to be in such a special place at such a beautiful time of year. I was thoroughly giddy the whole time.

I’m so glad I had this opportunity, and I can’t recommend it highly enough to all of you.

Essential Info: White House visits must be arranged in advance through your congressional representative if you’re a US citizen and through your DC embassy if you’re not a citizen. Visit house.gov to find your representative. Visits can be arranged six months to 21 days in advance. Click here for more information on White House visits, including what you can and can’t bring inside.

Christmas season generally begins in early December, though the specific dates can vary year by year. Call ahead to make sure.

Photos may only be taken during the Christmas season. Otherwise, mobile phones are permitted, but you may not actually use them in the White House.

For more information on the 2014 Christmas decorations, click here.

Hotels in Washington D.C. can be found here.

Where’s your favorite place to visit during the Christmas season?

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Jub
Guest

Such an honour for you, Kate! Nice to see your passion for America coming through in the post too 🙂

Anna | The Blonde Banana
Guest

So fun that you got to go inside! I also visited Washington DC this month but didn’t plan my trip 21 days in advance, so no luck. But everything was still so pretty with all the government buildings decorated.

Amanda
Guest

Oooo, so pretty! I had no idea that you could take photos inside at Christmas! That’s awesome!

Emily
Guest

Wow, I had no idea you had to book so far in advance! Thanks for letting me know, as a tour at the White House is definitely something I’d like to do when I finally get to DC!

Antonina
Guest

Those were some very original and interesting decorations on the Christmas tree in the last picture, like drops of ice or icicles. For the rest, the pictures are beautiful, though I must say that for all its grandeur, the White House still manages to look intriguingly middle class – a true embodiment of the American way.

Gloria Atanmo
Guest

Amazing pictures, Kate!

I am SO jealous of your invite to the Travel Bloggers Summit and I hope to be on that list in the near future. Thank you for continuing to pave a way for solo, female travelers as well! This is my 1-year mark of booking a one-way to Europe and I’ve learned so much about myself and it’s helped a ton having bloggers like you keep me inspired. Absolutely amazing. Looks like the White House will be a bucket list item for 2015 😉

Xx
IG: @glographics

alicia
Guest
alicia

I love your blog, and I always look forward to your posts.
A couple of years ago my hubby and I went backpacking through India and also did a 16 day trek through the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. I would love to see you travel to this region. You would have SO much to write about.

Jessica
Guest

So cool to see the halls of the WH all decked out! Looks super cozy and inviting. The event you attended sounds amazing and I cannot wait to hear more about it!
Jessica
http://www.thebellevoyage.com

Colleen Brynn
Guest

Definitely the perfect time of year to go and visit. And who cares if everyone’s pics are the same – you still have your own just for you. Cute outfit – I totally agree, I’m Canadian, and if I were to visit the White House, it’s time to get real and put something nice on. If not for that, then what?

Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe
Guest

Gorgeous! I’ve visited the White House many years ago, but this post makes me want to go back to see all those decorations!

Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster
Guest

So pretty! Love your dress too! Definitely First Lady approved. 🙂 I can’t wait to read more about your trip to DC. Such as fun city.

Leah of The Mochilera Diaries
Guest

Wooow the decorations for Christmas are spectacular! It’s great you were allowed to take pictures! Does make a good argument for why you should take a tour during the holidays. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Renuka
Guest

Your pictures are still quite good (they do bring out the essence of the White House Christmas), even though they are clicked with a phone. I’m glad to know even the non-Americans can visit the White House.

Victoria@ The British Berliner
Guest

Again, let me just say so many congratulations. You did your country proud. You were respectful and looked the part of someone who felt the same. A tip of the hat to you! The White House looks grand.
I hardly doubt that a visit to Washhington DC is going to happen anytime soon as I’d like to go elsewhere in the States so these pictures are great!
Where’s my favorite place to visit during the Christmas season? Right here where I am. Germany!

s h e r r y
Guest

:O I love your dress!!

Rikka
Guest

Ahhh this is pretty awesome. Sucks about only being able to take photos with your phone – but at least you got to take any at all! Also NICE outfit. I agree, the First Lady would totally wear that.

Emma
Guest

Kate I really love you home, your dress, so beautiful.

Kate
Guest

What a nice post! I like your pics (and your dress!)

Sky
Guest

I love this – I wasn’t even aware that you can actually get inside the White House and had no idea it was possible to get pictures during Christmas. The photos you took are stunning, regardless of whether or not others have the exact ones too.

Cannot wait to hear more about the summit!

Victoria
Guest

I really liked this piece – as a non american i was totally oblivious to the fact that you could visit the White house at all, but definitely will keep it in mind now for future visits in the area around christmas time!

Nancy
Guest

How fab, Kate! Looks like it was quite an experience! I’d love to go to the Nuremberg markets during Christmas. I hear its the best one in Europe. Had a quick glimpse of them setting up as I was there a couple of weeks before it started. Its definitely up there on the list.

Arianwen
Guest

I’d be really interested to know exactly how many Christmas trees they have in there! It really is classy and beautiful. I love your outfit too! And I think the Sephora tip is a great one! I only discovered the brand in mainland Europe last week and I love it so much I spent over 50 euros in one go! Suddenly I’m hearing about it everywhere and I can’t get enough!

Gilda Baxter
Guest

Great photos and you look beautiful, dressing up for the White House is definitely a must. Happy New year to you, looking forward to all your adventures in 2015.

Marissa
Guest

Such an amazing opportunity! And legendary sure is right… those decorations are stunning! Going to have to put the White House on my Christmas to do list next year!

Bryan
Guest

I lived in DC for two years and my cousin is even in congress, but I have never been on a white house visit. Lucky you!

Sunu Philip
Guest

Great post and nice photos with lots of information. Wish I could be there some day during Christmas time. All the very best to you Kate. Look forward to your updates.

Stéphane Thirion
Guest

Very nice photo

Joe Naughton
Guest

Thank you for sharing this; you have given me the foundation for planing my trip. Lovely photos. May I ask what type of camera did you use? Not that I’m very technical and would know what you are talking about but the photos are lovely. Thank you again.