This post will tell you all about how to tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. For more things to do on your visit to DC, check out our mater post here.
The Burea of Engraving and Printing is one of only two places in America (the other is in Texas) where paper money is printed, not to be confused with the U.S. Mint. The BEP is open for guided tours where you can see the process of how American currency is printed, secured from counterfeiting, and destroyed. Tickets are free, but you may need some determination to secure tickets during the peak tourism season.
For more free things to do in DC, we recommend checking out our post. We also encourage looking into purchasing a Tourism Discount Pass, which includes a lot of activities to do in DC for free.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing offers free 40-minute long tours. Once through security, there are some small exhibits to peruse before they begin the tour with a short film. There are benches to sit and watch the introductory film.
You will then have a docent-led tour through the facility. The walk-through tour is in galleries above the factory floor. As it’s a working federal building, you’ll see the money actually being made – printed, cut and counted as you work your way through.
The docent will explain what you are seeing and offer some fun facts about US currency and in some places guests say you can even smell the cold hard cash!
You’ll learn a lot about the process but don’t expect to get all the tips of the trade as photographs are not allowed on the tour.
When you finish the tour, the docent sends you to exit through the gift shop.
Hours: Open Monday-Friday, 9am-2pm
Closed: Federal Holidays and Dec. 23- Jan. 2.
The process to obtain tickets varies depending on what time of year you are visiting:
September through February (No Tickets Required)
With the exception of occasional busy weeks (like Thanksgiving or Presidents’ Day Weekend) tickets are not required and you can just show up at the Visitors Entrance for admission.
March through August (Tickets Required)
BEST TIME TO GO:
Reviews suggest avoiding lunchtime tickets – when the workers on the floor are on their lunch break and less will be going on for you to see.
WHEN TO LINE UP FOR TICKETS:
You can get same-day tickets at the ticket booth, located at Raoul Wallenberg Place (formerly 15th ST, SW) (map),
Booth opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes when all tickets have been distributed for the day. Queues during peak season begin to form before 8 am for the early tickets.
In peak season (March-June, and near holiday weekends) people begin lining up around 7:30 am for the 8 am ticket opening.
If you have a specific time that day that you want to get tickets for, you’ll need to be near the front of the line.
If you don’t mind what time you get a tour, don’t worry if you’re not the first person. Even on busy days, you may find tickets still available at 10:30 am but they tend to be the last tours of the day – around 5:30 pm.
TIP: The whole group does NOT need to be there to get tickets. You can send one person to get up to 4 tickets.
If you’ll be in the area already, just stop by the ticket booth and see if they have any tickets. You have to walk by the ticket booth anyway to get to the nearest Metro after our All in One tour that ends at the Jefferson Memorial.
You may arrange special advance reservation tickets through your Member of Congress. These tours take place Monday-Friday at 8:15 am and 8:45 am from April through August, and every 15 minutes from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing Tours and Visitor Center’s entrance is located at 14th Street near C Street, SW. We recommend that you use this Google map link for directions from anywhere in Washington, DC.
The nearest Metro Station is Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver lines). From the Independence Ave exit, you just need to head straight out of the exit along Independence Ave SW until 14th Street. Cross the street and turn left. The BEP entrance will be just past the Holocaust Memorial Museum on your right.
All DC hop-on-hop-off bus tours have stops very near the Bureau of Engraving tour entrance.
Just like most places in DC, you will have to enter through security. Be prepared to arrive 15 minutes prior to your ticketed time. Late arrivals will often not be admitted.
Want to purchase a (fake) $100,000 bill? Or a bill from the year you were born? Then you need to visit the gift shop at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is located at the end of the tour!
You can visit the gift shop without tickets or going on a tour!
The entrance is located at the back of the building on Raoul Wallenberg Place (15th Street NW). You’ll see an imposing set of stairs and the entrance between the columns. Simply let the security officer know that you just want to visit the gift shop.
It is an easy walk from the Smithsonian Metro Station. Exit from the Independence Ave side and walk straight until 15th Street and turn left.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is a popular attraction and located is close to the National Mall. We have a number of suggestions for things to do nearby.
Take a Walking Tour!
If you end up with an afternoon reservation for BEP, note that our All in One tour ends just around the Tidal Basin, about a 10-15 minute walk to get to the entrance!
Visit the US Holocaust Memorial Memorial
It’s right next door! Read our post on how to get Tickets to the Holocaust Museum
Grab a Bite to Eat:
Visitors have consistently given BEP tours a good rating. Many guests say it’s an interesting experience but only if you have extra time. It doesn’t seem to be at the top of anyone’s list.
It is a very popular experience for younger visitors. Families with kids usually give it 5 out of 5 stars – it’s a short tour so good for those with short attention spans and you get to walk through the factory to see the machines making the money which is always a highlight for children.
Most negative experiences stem from people who had to wait a long time for tickets and then didn’t think the tour was worth the wait. A common tip is to walk by the ticket booth if you’re in the area and if there are tickets available, go in then rather than planning your trip around the visit.
If you’re taking our All in One walking tour, you have to walk by the ticket booth to get back to the Metro station so you can check in!