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Guidelines on Going Through Security in Washington, D.C.

Updated: October 22, 2023

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

As tour guides in DC, we all spend literally every day bring groups in and out of museums and federal buildings, I'm pretty knowledgeable about security procedures in the city.

Our over 50K members of our Facebook Group, Washington DC Travel Tips, talk about what you can and cannot take into places in DC.


Is there security at the National Mall?

No, none of the memorials and monuments have security. They are open to the public 24/7.

INSIDER TIPS FOR DC SECURITY:

  • 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.
  • Mace/pepper spray are considered weapons in Washington DC and you will not be allowed to bring them into museums.
  • This also 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 and medical scissors 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, though that was before COVID!

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.

If you join us on our Capitol Hill & Library of Congress tour, our guide will be with you through the security process to assist.


White House

If you are lucky enough to get a visit to tour inside the White House, you will need to go through probably the most strict security.

While you can bring in your phone, wallet, and car keys they must be in your pocket as you cannot bring in bags/purses.

They will do two separate ID checks and you will need your confirmation letter as well.


Library of Congress

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.

If you join us on our Capitol Hill & Library of Congress tour, our guide will be with you through the security process to assist.


Museums

Please present your bags for inspections. In most museums, it is a person who looks into the bags if additional inspection is needed.

You can bring in most items (except weapons!) but food and drink must remain in your bag.

Rather than a personal bag check, you will walk through a detector at:


Holocaust Museum and 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 usually done, but it is the official policy.


Gum chewing is not allowed anywhere in D.C. Ever. 🙂 (ok that might be a bit of elaboration but most museums and federal buildings and monuments and memorials ... so better just to avoid it)

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | I'm a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. I have written for HuffPost Travel and have been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. I've also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. I am the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. I am an authority on D.C. history, and have led tours in the city since 2011. I currently resides in DC, but have also lived in London and South Korea, and have traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. I homeschool my 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC. Read More...
Updated: October 22nd, 2023
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