A very DC Christmas!

Although Christmas has come and gone, I thought I’d give a recap of two very Christmasy tours Ken and I took! First and foremost, the White House Tour!

White House Christmas Tour

I had requested White House Christmas tour tickets from our Congressman’s office back in July. Two weeks before the tour, we were notified that we had received tickets (sent via email), and there was a long list of instructions for the tour. (No bags of any kind, including purses. No cameras with lenses longer than 3 inches, no cameras with detachable lenses, etc.)

The tour was for a Friday at 8:30AM (we didn’t get to pick the time!), so we decided to take the day off from work and do some other Christmas activities in the city for the day.

Even though our tour “start” time was at 8:30, that was really just the time that the entrance process started. There were multiple lines and security checkpoints after the 8:30 entrance.

Standing in Line for White House Tour Entrance

Standing in the first line for the White House Tour. These were all the 8:30AM entrance ticket holders.

Standing in Line for White House Tour Entrance

Standing in the second line for the White House Tour.

I glanced at my watch, and we didn’t actually enter the White House and start the tour until 9:17. Just something to keep in mind if you’re also doing a White House tour and trying to keep a schedule for your day.

Ken at the entrance to the White House!

Ken at the entrance to the White House

Upon entrance, we were given some brochures – one was a generic White House brochure for the White House, the other was a Christmas 2015-specific booklet.

Booklet about Christmas at the White House

Booklet about Christmas at the White House

 

White House Brochure from the National Park Service

White House Brochure from the National Park Service

Tours are self-guided, but there are secret service all around that are available to answer questions.

At entrance to tour

It was a little crowded at the beginning of the tour, but it definitely thinned out as people started viewing exhibits at their own pace.

Start of White House Tour

One of the first rooms contained a large Christmas Tree and some iPads and a podium for writing, so if you wanted to send messages to troops serving in the U.S. military.

White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour

Through the windows, you could see dozens of cute snowmen set up on the White House lawn.

Snowmen Display on White House Lawn Snowmen Display on White House Lawn

Snowmen Display on White House Lawn

Snowmen on White House Lawn. Note the Washington Monument in the distance!

 

There were a lot of Christmas-themed photos and other framed displays hanging on the walls, such as these photos of presidents and their wives in front of the Christmas trees, as well as the White House Christmas Cards from the past several administrations.

Christmas photos from White House White House Christmas Card displays

Walking down a long hallway, snowflakes hung from the ceiling.

Snowflakes from ceiling on White House Christmas Tour

On closer inspection, the snowflakes contained state names and state seals!

Maryland and Maine State Snowflakes Virginia state snowflake

And of course, there was a display dedicated to the White House Dogs! Complete with Christmas Trees made of tennis balls!

White House Christmas display for dogs

There were rooms to peek in (they were roped off to foot traffic), each with their own unique Christmas displays:

White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour

Then, you walked up a flight of steps to view the even grander rooms!

Steps on White House Tour White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour

All the rooms had their own names, and placards explained to the visitors what the room is used for or how it came about.

t t t t t

The Christmas trees in each room were just SO grand and amazing. It’s hard to believe that all this work goes into making the East Wing of the White House so Christmasy EVERY YEAR!

Christmas trees on White House Tour Christmas trees on White House Tour White House Christmas Tour White House Christmas Tour

There was even a choir performing Christmas carols while we were there! I’m not sure if this is a regular occurrence, but it added even more to the Christmas charm of the tour!

Choir during White House Christmas Tour Choir during White House Christmas Tour Ken and I at White House for Christmas Tour

 

We took a few obligatory photos of the White House from the outside after our tour was over, and we were done! We were probably inside for about 1.5 hours enjoying all the sites.

Outside the White House after Tour Outside the White House after Tour

U.S. Botanic Garden Christmas Train Display

Since we had already taken the entire day off from work, Ken suggested that we find other Christmasy things to do in DC for the day. We quickly decided on the Christmas Train Display at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Ken and I had been to the Botanic Garden before, which is stunning, but we had never seen the train display before!

Sign for the U.S. Botanic Garden

The theme of the train display was “Pollination Station,” which was very focused on bees!

Pollination Station Sign

The train displays were so cute!

Christmas Train Display at U.S. Botanic Gardens Christmas Train Display at U.S. Botanic Gardens Christmas Train Display at U.S. Botanic Gardens Christmas Train Display at U.S. Botanic Gardens Christmas Train Display at U.S. Botanic Gardens Christmas Train Display at U.S. Botanic Gardens

The conservatory part of the Botanic Garden was home to miniature DC buildings and monuments! I’m not sure if this was a special exhibit, but it definitely was not there the last time Ken and I went to the Botanic Gardens several years ago.

Miniature Capitol Building at U.S. Botanic Garden Mini Supreme Court at U.S. Botanic Garden Mini Lincoln Memorial at U.S. Botanic Garden Miniature Library of Congress at U.S. Botanic Garden Miniature Washington Monument at U.S. Botanic Garden

It was great!

We also took a quick walk through their poinsettia exhibit.

Poinsettias at U.S. Botanc Gardens Poinsettias at U.S. Botanc Gardens Poinsettias at U.S. Botanc Gardens

Poinsettias were everywhere in the gardens, and a different room had a separate train display, and the trains went around a large Christmas tree that was surrounded by tons of Poinsettias!

Poinsettias at U.S. Botanc Gardens Poinsettias at U.S. Botanc Gardens

This day was a huge win for us. The White House tour and the exhibits at the U.S. Botanic Gardens were so fantastic! Definitely add them to your Holidays in DC bucket list if you haven’t experienced them yet!

Our DC Bucket List (some spring and summer plans)

A few summers ago, after reading the idea on a few other DC-area blogs, I developed a DC Bucket List.  We’ve lived in the DC area for so long now, and there is still so much we haven’t seen!  It’s amazing how much there is to see around here, and this list doesn’t even scratch the surface (ummm, like listing ALL of the Smithsonian museums?  That would add so much more to our list! At least we’ve been to most of the big ones like Natural History, American History, Air and Space, etc.).

And there are several places that we have been to multiple times, like the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum and going to concerts at Wolf Trap (my favorite concert venue ever by the way!).  And we’ve been to a few of DC’s hidden gems, like the National Arboretum, which we love so much we had our engagement photos taken there.

Now that spring has finally arrived and the weather is nice, I’ve been thinking about checking a few of these places off our list.  Although we’ve both been to Arlington Cemetery, we’ve never been there together, and so I’ve never seen Ken’s grandparents’ graves there.  I was thinking we could also trek to Brookside Gardens and also see the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon.  Those are all outdoor sites, which would be great to experience in lovely spring weather.

When summer arrives, we usually become hermits.  DC is hot and humid and generally awful weather-wise.  There’s always the option of going to air conditioned attractions (hello Library of Congress), but places are so much more crowded with tourists in the summer.

So perhaps this summer we can squeeze in one attraction that is more “off the beaten path” in the area to enjoy. I’m thinking the Woodlawn Plantation and Pope Leighey house. It’s only like 10 minutes from where we live, so we could hop over there any weekend when the weather is relatively decent.  Plus, I’ve never been to a DC Screen on the Green.  I say this EVERY SUMMER, but I’d like to go to one.  But I always change my mind because they’re never on a convenient day of the week (usually Tuesdays), and all I ever want to do after work is go home.  Wow, I’m a real thrill here, aren’t I!?

Location Ken’s Been To Melissa’s Been To Been To Together
White House Tour
Mount Vernon X
Air and Space Museum X
Nationals Game X
College Park Aviation Museum
Fireworks on the Mall X
Local 4th of July Parade
Glen Echo Park
U.S. Botanical Gardens X
Bureau of Printing and Engraving Tour
Washington National Cathedral Gargoyle Tour
Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery X
Roosevelt Island X
Albert Einstein Statue
Tidal Basin Paddleboat Tour
Duck Tour
Top of the Washington Munument
Hirshorn Museum Sculpture Garden
International Spy Museum X
Museum of Natural History X X
NASA Goddard Center X
Udvar-Hazy Center X
Kennedy Center X
Luray Caverns X
National Capitol Trolley Museum
Leesburg Animal Park
Brookside Gardens
Wolf Trap X
Kent Island
Little Seneca Lake
Manassas National Battlefield X X
Underground Railroad
Iwo Jima National Marine Corps Memorial
FDR Memorial X
Fort McHenry X
Audubon Naturalist Society
County Fair
Annapolis X
Fells Point, MD
National Building Museum
US Capitol Tour X
National Museum of the American Indian X X
Library of Congress
Newseum X
National Archives X
Eastern Market
Franciscan Monastery
National Gallery of Art X X
Rock Creek Park Planetarium
Supreme Court
National Postal Museum
Gravelly Point X
National Arboretum X
Ben’s Chili Bowl X
Montrose Park
Old Post Office Pavilion X
National Portrait Gallery
9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Screen on the Green
Jazz at the sculpture garden
Crime and Punishment Museum X
MLK Jr. Memorial
Prince William Forest Park
Brew at the Zoo
Skyline Drive (Shenandoah) X
Holocaust Museum X
Hillwood Museum and Gardens
Montgomery County Fair
See an inauguration X
Go on a segway tour of DC
Visit Monticello X
Brew at the Zoo
Around the World Embassy Tour
Woodlawn Plantation and Pope Leighey House

 

What do you think?  Do you have a bucket list for your hometown attractions?  What are your spring and summer plans?