We were in Washington, D.C. for a few weeks at the end of 2023, doing our second “Trusted Housesitting” gig. We’d had an excellent first experience in Hudson, Ohio, and were really looking forward to the stay in DC. This was our first extended visit to the American capital, so we wanted to see as much as we could without neglecting any of our housesitting duties.
Well before our arrival, we booked tours of the White House and Capitol building, and did research on all the various museums of the Smithsonian. There are 21! I had no idea. Even with three weeks in the city, we could only see a fraction of the highlights, but I’d say the White House was the most important. Our tour was set for the 23rd of December, meaning we’d get to see it all decked out in Christmas colors.
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The White House! Even as a non-American, this is such a significant building, and I couldn’t believe I’d have the chance to roam around inside. Considering how often it’s featured in the press — whether as the backdrop for a news report, or being destroyed in movies like Independence Day — it’s probably the most iconic residence in the world. The fact that tours are free was astounding to me.
Of course, you can’t just walk up to the White House doors and expect to get inside — you’ll need to book it way in advance, two months at least. The process for getting access is different for US citizens and foreigners. Since Mike is an American, he was able to just write to his Senator, Sherrod Brown, whose aides helped organize tours of both the White House and Capitol. They were super-friendly, and the process was really simple.
We weren’t able to choose our tour date, and weren’t initially overjoyed when we found out that it would be on the 23rd of December. We’re just not big Christmas guys, and although it’d be nice to see the White House fully decked out for the holidays, we kind of wanted to experience its normal decor. But by the end of our tour, the decorations — designed by First Lady Jill Biden — had won us over. It was special to see the house in a festive mood.
After several security checks, the tour began through the East Wing, passing underneath a massive Christmas tree, and into the East Colonnade, where we saw the Presidential Family Theater. We moved into the East Garden room, and peeked into the China and Vermeil rooms.
Stationed in each room were Secret Service agents, who were happy to answer all our questions… I had assumed they’d all be too tough to chit-chat, but it wasn’t the case; they were talkative, and even kind of jokey. My first question was whether the Biden family actually uses all these rooms, and the answer was affirmative. When the tours end, they remove all the barricades, and the family makes use of the full mansion, including the theater.
We now moved upstairs, where we saw the grand East Room, home to state dinners and receptions. The tour continued into the Green, Blue, and Red Rooms, each with a different Christmas display based around the theme of “Magic, Wonder, and Joy”.
There were a lot of twinkling lights, candy displays, and Christmas trees, but we took care to pay attention to the more permanent decorations, such as the portraits of former presidents and first ladies. The furniture was also gorgeous, and it was fun to imagine how different presidents might have enjoyed these rooms in particular ways.
We finished our tour with a photo under the Presidential Seal, mugging for the camera as “presidentially” as we could, and then headed out for an excellent lunch at the nearby Old Ebbitt Grill — the oldest restaurant in DC.
More Photos of the White House Christmas Tour:
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