Christmas at the White House

This post covers all of the ways you can celebrate Christmas around the White House in Washington, DC and has been updated for 2018. For more ideas on what to do during the holiday season in our nation’s capital, be sure to check out our Christmas in DC–Holiday Lights and Markets post.

For more information on the most popular tourist attractions and activities in Washington, DC, be sure to read our master Things to do in DC post.


WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS TOURS

The White House is very active during the holiday season and is beautifully decorated to celebrate Christmas. White House Christmas Tours are available throughout the month of December (though any tour can be canceled at any time without notice) when visitors are given the opportunity to see how the public rooms have been festively decorated.

Tip: In addition to planning a White House Christmas Tour, check out our free, self-guided tour of the White House area and Lafayette Park!


PLAN YOUR VISIT

Free, public tours are available for US and foreign citizens for White House Christmas Tours. Self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted) and revolve around the White House schedule.

These tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis and can be obtained through contacting your US Member of Congress up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance of requested tour date. Foreign visitors are encouraged to contact their Embassy in order to secure a White House tour.

For all of the other information you need on visiting the White House for a Christmas tour including a virtual White House tour and information on the White House Visitor Center (where you can purchase the official White House 2018 Christmas ornament!) make sure to check out our master post on Visiting the White House. 

INSIDER TIP: If you cannot get a reservation in advance, you may try to get a Congressional Member’s Pass distributed monthly by the White House Visitors Office. 


WHAT DO YOU SEE ON THE WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS TOUR

 

White House Christmas Tree

White House Christmas Tree in the East Room

For a sneak peek, you can look at the 2017 Program for the White House Christmas Tours.

 

  • East Wing and Movie Theatre – here you’ll get a glimpse of the family recreation option in the Movie Theatre, only opened for the first time on this public tour for 2017. In the East Wing, you’ll also see the collection of official Christmas Cards sent by past First Families, a tradition started in 1953 under President Eisenhower.
  • Library – a personal favorite of ours, keep an eye out for President Teddy Roosevelt’s personal copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Story which he read here to his family during the holidays.
  • Vermeil Room and China Room – a festive display of gifts from around the world and centuries and the china dinnerwear that served those who brought them.
  • East Room – this is the largest of the rooms, and the one historically used for entertaining – which began during the Christmas season under President John Adams.
  • Green, Blue, and Red Rooms – From local artisans to the official White House Christmas Tree, and a collection of sweet treats, these are some of the most popular stops on the tour!
  • State Dining Room – Do you like gingerbread houses? This is where you’ll find the traditional White House gingerbread house but don’t try to taste it, even though it is made by the White House pastry chefs it is not for eating!
  • Grand Foyer – For your final stop, this sparking room marks your exit from the White House with a musical backdrop of patriotic and holiday music.

AND DON’T FORGET …. you can take photos on White House tours! Celebrate the holiday season with this festive and unique thing to do in Washington DC!


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HOW TO SEE THE NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE

Getting to the National Christmas Tree

Located on the Ellipse section of the President’s Park on the south side of the White House, the National Christmas is easily accessible by Metro Rail. The nearest stations to the tree are McPherson Square or Federal Triangle (both Blue/Orange/Silver lines).  You can use this Google map for directions to the tree.

Tip: The National Christmas Tree is on the way to our tour starting point! Our National Mall Tour starts a block away from the Ellipse, so this is a perfect thing to do before or after joining us on a tour.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Visiting the National Christmas Tree is always free and welcoming to people of all ages!

After the official 96th annual tree lighting ceremony on November 28th, 2018 (unfortunately, the lottery for tickets closed on October 22) the tree will be lit daily from 4:30 pm to midnight yet the tree is always open to visitors if you are unable to make it in the evening when it is lit up.

National Christmas Tree

Children’s Choir at the National Christmas Tree

Nightly entertainment performed by musical groups from Washington, DC and across the nation will be performed for three weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday. Nightly entertainment is also free for everyone to enjoy. Check back here as the entertainment schedule is updated for 2018.

ADDITIONAL ATTRACTIONS + HISTORY

Surrounding the National Tree are 56 additional smaller pine trees; one for each US state, territory, and the District of Columbia. This year, there are 56 schools from across the country who are participating in decorating one of a kind ornaments to adorn each tree. For more information on the ornaments and a list of participating schools, click here.

The National Christmas Tree and its lighting have been a holiday tradition since 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge was in office. Be sure to read more about the tree’s colorful history here.

Tip: While visiting the National Christmas Tree don’t miss the adjacent National Menorah! The menorah will be lit on Sunday, December 2nd. More information is available here.


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