Nobody gets in to see the wizard. Nobody. No how.
That’s how it feels trying to get into a post 9-11 White House.
There is considerable ‘hoop jumping’ involved. However, if you can get past the procedural challenges, the reward is worth it. Especially at Christmas time.
Yesterday, after literally months of planning, we were able to do just that. Beyond clearing two security checkpoints, we were able to walk virtually unimpeded up to the East Wing entrance where we were greeted by a giant red bow-topped “package” leading up to the doors
Garlands of every colour and style graced the doorways throughout the House. Balls, baubles, leaves, fruit, ribbons, bows and raffia! Whatever you can imagine – in every color! Simply gorgeous!
Down the hallway to the East Landing giant furry replicas of the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny greet visitors. Volunteers are standing by to take guests’ photos in front of the dogs – normally I don’t like to be in the pictures, but who could resist these two cuties?
Draped from the ceiling along the colonnade, thousands of sparkling crystals danced among the ribbons. It is such a simple decoration – lengths of ribbon hanging in streamers – but it created a dazzling effect.
It was at this point, while looking up and admiring all the ribbons, that I heard a commotion behind me. I spun around just in time to see the two Portuguese Water Dogs, Bo and Sunny, come trotting by with a handler no doubt on the way to an event. I managed to snap a quick photo – not the best, but certainly a keeper! After having just stood next to the giant ones, the real Bo and Sunny were surprisingly small!
Christmas, and more!
Even though the point of our visit was to see the White House dressed up for Christmas, seeing the portraits of past Presidents and First Ladies was quite a thrill.
Entering the East Room is breathtaking! Decorated in traditional colors of red, gold, burgundy and silver, it also contained a nearly life-size crèche prominently placed between the fireplaces in the center of the room. Here, again, volunteers were conveniently waiting to take photos for all who ask.
The tour is self-guided and so during the course of our visit, our group had become intermingled with a group from Gettysburg, PA who were dressed in Civil War Period costumes. Their presence added a certain mystique to the White House, as if transporting it back in time. I admit that I tried to photograph them whenever I could!
Very limited photography
As you can imagine, security is very strict. While photos are allowed, they can only be with a camera phone or a small camera without a detachable lens. I took mine with my phone which was kind of disappointing. However, it is only recently that photography is allowed inside at all, so no complaints!
For more information
All tour requests must go through the office of a Congressman and may be made 3 months to 21 days in advance of your visit. The Secret Service is very strict about what is allowed inside so it is important to follow the instructions. Everyone goes through a security check before being allowed to tour. Complete instructions are available here.
Do you have a favourite place to visit during the Christmas Holidays? Tell us about it in the comments!