United States Capitol and Capitol Visitor Center

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First Street and East Capitol Street, Washington, DC, USA

United States Capitol and Capitol Visitor Center Washington Reviews

WalterC WalterC
317 reviews
This is review for the US Capitol Visitor Center Jul 16, 2016
The United States Capitol building is one of the most recognized buildings in the entire United States, let alone in Washington DC. Also known as the US Capitol or simply the Capitol, this is the seat of Congress, the legislative branch of the US government.

Located at the edge of the National Mall, it just cannot be missed. Though if coming from the National Mall, it is quite a walk to get to the other side, where the entrance for tourists is. Better way is to go by Metro, and get off at the Capitol South Metro stop. About a block away, to the United States Capitol Visitor Center. Also, there is an underground tunnel that connects to the Library of Congress, which is very useful on very hot days.

The Capitol building itself, can only be seen on a guided tour, which you can reserve ahead of time online. And then to the US Capitol Visitor Center, to pick up the ticket for your reserved time. There is a separate review on the tour of the Capitol building. This one will be about the US Capitol Visitor Center.

Entering the building, you will have to go through security, like at an airport. While waiting for your reserved time, the US Capitol Visitor Center is a nice place to check out, and something to do. There are a bunch of statues throughout the Emancipation Hall, which is the main area, and where you pick up the ticket. You can pick up a little brochure, which tells you, who the statues are.

The main highlight is Exhibition Hall, which is a little separate museum. There are temporary exhibitions with historical documents in the front side, along with interactive exhibits around the place. Best bet is to go counter-clockwise from the entrance, or turn right, so you can see the permanent exhibition in chronological order, on the back side.

The permanent exhibition tells the history of Congress and the Capitol Hill area. There are separate display sections, arranged from the beginning of the US to the present day. Each display section is further divided into 3 parts. One side is the Senate side, with the opposite side being the House of Representatives. The middle being about events that were happening at the time. And a separate table, that has the model of the Capitol area during that time, as you do see more of it being built, as time went on. Very extensive and interesting to see the history from the point of view of Congress. This is definitely enough reason to stick around inside the US Capitol Visitor Center.

Keep in mind, photography is only allowed in the main area of the Emancipation Hall, but not allowed at all in the Exhibition Hall.

If you came to the visitor center in hopes to get a Capitol tour ticket, but was not able to get it for whatever reason, it is not a total waste. That is because the Exhibition Hall of the United States Visitor Center, which is a nice little museum that tells the story of Congress.

That said, it is definitely not worth going out of your way, just to see this alone. Only if you already came for the Capitol tour, or if you are in the area already, after checking out other attractions nearby.
trail leading to visitor center
visitor center building
statue of Mother Joseph
statue of Sarah Winnemucca
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Zagnut66 says:
There are scale models of Capitol Hill that show what it looked like over the decades from 1800 to the present. It's interesting to see how a modern city evolves from what was simple farmland.
Posted on: Sep 04, 2016
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Africancrab Africanc…
773 reviews
Readings, Exhibitions, Performing Arts and Rare Books Jul 26, 2012
This is my second review on the U.S. Capitol. I guess I did not see this link before because I started a review entitled "U.S. Capitol (Which I believe is the way it is supposed to be) according to Smithsonian and the many medias I have searched. It is of no consequence how it is written I guess. This review is of our return visit to the capitol Building, we actually managed to enter the building and tour the Emancipation Hall. It was incredibly busy and HOT.

The lines to get timed passes were so long that we did not bother to stand in line. We got the necessary printed material, read it and went through the different sections of the emancipation hall. The hall has sculptures and statutes of persons that influenced the course of history from different states; Arizona, Hawaii, North Dakota and Wyoming to mention but a few.

The Emancipation hall was built by slaves, and was named so in honor of those slaves who built it. From what I gathered from some of the visitors, getting a timed pass is worth the wait. I recommend you do, if you have the patience to do so.

Access is through the Visitors Center which was constructed in 2000, but not opened to the public until 2008. Security is highest at this location and any other public buildings in the DC area. No water, food or liquids of any nature is allowed. Security screening is like that at the airport; my daughter forgot her belt on, and triggered the scan alarms and had to go back through the screen. Photographs are not allowed until you go through security.

Since I did not go through other exhibitions, I’m not sure if photographs are allowed past the Emancipation hall. We entered through the tunnel from the Library of Congress.

PS: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
My children at the exit sign
U.S. Capitol Emancipation hall
U.S. Capitol Emancipation hall
U.S. Capitol Building
Andy99 says:
"United States Capitol" according to the Library of Congress. :)
http://lccn.loc.gov/sh85141041 The underground Visitor Center was under construction for years.
Posted on: Jul 28, 2012
shailesh83 shailesh…
1 reviews
The US Capitol Experience! Sep 07, 2009
My visit to US Capitol turned out to be a great experience! The capitol building looks magnificent from the outside but is equally magnificent inside!

There are free tours available to see it from inside but you need to reserve your passes in two ways -

1. Online - Where you need to give your details, date of visit etc and print the reservation confirmation letter

2. Same day passes are availabel at the visitor center ..but since they are in limited number, they get over pretty quickly

Only take care that you aren't carrying any prohibitive items while you visit the Capitol building which also includes any type of food and water(including empty bottles!)

Have a great time!

Andy99 Andy99
579 reviews
Visitng the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Dec 15, 2008
Construction began on the new Visitor Center for the United States Capitol in 2000. The Visitor Center was opened to the public in December 2008 and provides a climate-controlled space for visitors waiting to tour the U.S. Capitol building. Previously, visitors queued in the open air (and summer heat or winter cold) on the East Front plaza, or, after 9/11, in a temporary wooden structure and under a canopy.

The new Visitor Center provides a vast hall and accompanying exhibit space and visitor amenities. In it, visitors can learn about the history of the Capitol and of Congress while waiting for their tour. (If time is limited, visitors can view the exhibits without taking the tour.)

Visitors first enter the vast Emancipation Hall. (Emancipation Hall is named to honor the slaves who built the Capitol.) The plaster cast of the bronze Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol (designed by Thomas Crawford in 1855-1857) dominates the hall. (The hall gives me the feel of a train station or airport terminal. But, it will certainly hold a lot of visitors in spring and summer!)

Also in the hall are a few statues from National Statuary Hall Collection. (Two statues of notable citizens from each state are invited to be placed in the Capitol building.) The Capitol Visitor Center will hold overflow statues from the Capitol’s Statuary Hall collection itself. (I’m not sure what that says about the personages who have been removed to the Visitor Center, but it is supposed to be the more recently added statues that have been relocated.) When in the hall, be sure to look up through the two skylights for a view of the Capitol’s dome.

The exhibit space includes several contemporary touch-screen interactive exhibits. Six models of Capitol Hill, the Capitol building, and the surrounding structures show the development of the Capitol complex over time. Surrounding them are displays on the issues that have faced Congress in each period. (There is even a small display about the history of touring the U.S. Capitol building!)

Artifacts on display include the masonry trowel used by George Washington to lay the Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793 and the Lincoln catafalque (coffin platform) constructed in 1865. The catafalque is used when deceased former Presidents and other prominent Americans are given the honor of lying in state under the Capitol dome. (Most recently it was used for the lying in state of Rosa Parks in 2005 and President Gerald Ford in January 2007.)

Two theaters show a 13-minute orientation film about the Capitol and Congress. Tours of the Capitol building are free. Capitol tours can be booked online at the Visitor Center web site or same-day tickets may be obtained at the Information Desk.

The Visitor Center also has a restaurant (cafeteria style), two gift shops, and eight public restrooms! The restaurant has quite a variety of hot foods and sandwiches and a salad bar. It's pretty good and is a convenient place to eat once inside all the security. (Don't be surprised at the prices, though.)

A tunnel under First Street, Southeast, connects the Visitor Center with the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building.
Emancipation Hall, US Capitol Visi…
Statue of Freedom plaster cast (18…
Orientation theater, US Capitol Vi…
Capitol Dome viewed through the Vi…
6 / 6 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
spocklogic says:
Nice review here, Andy, and good selection of photos. I've been around DC a number of times, but not much touring inside the places except for some Smithsonian Museums. One day I'll do an inside touring only trip. Hope you like my political humor on your food! ; )
Posted on: Feb 10, 2013
Vikram says:
Another well detailed review, but why doesn't that surprise me?
Posted on: Dec 23, 2008

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