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