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Guidelines Going Through Security in Washington, D.C.

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Almost all attractions and museums will have some type of security to enter, though some have stricter requirements and regulations.

INSIDER TIP #1: Many places have shorter "no bag" lines. If you don't have a bag with you to inspect, you can walk through this line to get into the museum faster.

INSIDER TIP #2: Mace/pepper spray are considered weapons in Washington DC and you will not be allowed to bring them into museums. This applies to knives and scissors of any size, including Swiss Army knives as well.

Here are some of the most frequented places that people get confused on regarding security.

Capitol Building

No... liquids, gels, sprays, aerosols, sharp objects, food, weapons.

They will let you bring in essential medication like epi pens or inhalers but saline solution in a medical kit will need to be thrown out. Any type of edible products - candies, unopened bags of chips, fruit will be tossed. Packets of gum is okay! I've had them ask me to throw out my hand sanitizer before.

A good theory is if you don't want to throw it away, don't bring it!

Nail clippers and cuticle scissors count as sharp objects. Because I've been asked this before - bottled water counts as a liquid. However, you can bring in empty bottles.

If you bring something not allowed in, they make you go back outside to throw it away!

You will need to take off your jackets, hats, belts and take all electronics and metal objects out of your pockets! Bags will go through scanner as well.

Library of Congress / Archives

No... weapons. That's about it. Please dispose of opened food and drink.

Unopened food and drink can be brought through as long as it stays in your bag.

You will need to take out all electronics and metal objects and place all bags through the scanner.

Museums

Please present your bags for inspections. In most museums, it is a person who looks into the bags. You'll need to present your bag for inspection at almost all museums and art galleries. You can bring in most items (except weapons!) but food and drink must remain in your bag.

You will walk through a metal detector at:

  • Air and Space Museum and its Udvar-Hazy Center (DC & VA)
  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • American History Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • National Postal Museum
  • American Indian Museums (DC)

At the Air & Space National Mall location there is a bag scanner, similar to airport security.  If you do not have a bag, you can just walkthrough the metal detector! You do not need to wait in the bag line.

Holocaust Museum & National Archives

All electronics, keys, metal objects should be put through the scanners in addition to all bags.

All opened drinks must be consumed prior to entering the museum except water. However, you may be asked to take a sip from your water before continuing through security.

Arlington National Cemetery

All electronics, keys, metal objects should be put through the scanners in addition to all bags.

They may ask guests over 18+ for a government issued ID. For international guests, these means passport. This is not always actually done, but it is the official policy.

Gum chewing is not allowed anywhere in D.C. Ever. 🙂

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: April 4th, 2022
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