More Frequently Asked Questions are also available here at the Architect of the Capitol's Web site.
Visiting the Capitol
You can cancel your reservation via your account in the Capitol Visitor Center’s online reservation system.
- Go to https://tours.visitthecapitol.gov (A new page will open.)
- Beneath the blue banner reading “Reserve a Tour of the Capitol,” click on the link to log in. (A sign in/signup dialog box will open.)
- In the sign in section, log in with your email address and password.
- Search for reservations by clicking “More” in the “My Reservations” tab.
- Once you have located your reservation, click the link to “Cancel.”
Due to the required security and screening process and the potential for longer wait times during peak visitation periods, we recommend that you plan to arrive at least 45 minutes prior to the start of your tour. If you have time to spare prior to your tour, you are encouraged to visit Exhibition Hall on the lower level. There you will find historic documents, artifacts, models, films, and interactive stations that tell the story of the U.S. Capitol and the Congress.
No, there is no fee to enter the Capitol Visitor Center or to take a tour of the Capitol.
The Capitol Visitor Center is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Inauguration Day. Visitors with official business appointments may enter the Visitor Center as early as 7:15 a.m.
We recommend that you plan to allow at least 90 minutes for your visit to the Capitol Visitor Center and to tour the historic Capitol. There is much to see, including an Exhibition Hall where you can learn about Congress and the Capitol, two gift shops, and a 530-seat restaurant.
You can book a tour of the Capitol online with our Advance Reservation System or through your Member of Congress. Please click here for complete details.
All tours of the U.S. Capitol are given by professional tour guides in English. Visitors may request listening devices for foreign-language versions of the orientation film and the items in Exhibition Hall at the Information Desks in the Capitol Visitor Center. There is no fee to use a listening device, but one non-passport photo ID for each device is required and will be held at the Information Desk until the listening device is returned. Foreign languages currently available include: Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Mandarin.
Visitors may also request brochures to use while participating in the guided tour, which provide translations of the historical information being shared by the guide. These brochures may be requested at the Information Desks and are available in the following languages: አማርኛ Amharic, اللغة العربية Arabic, 中文 Chinese, FRANÇAIS French, DEUTSCH German, हिन्द Hindi, ITALIANO Italian, 日本語 Japanese, 한글 Korean, PORTUGUÊS Portuguese, РУССКИЙ Russian, ESPAÑOL Spanish, TIẾNG VIỆT Vietnamese.
No, the Visitor Center is a public access building and you do not need a tour ticket to enter.
Yes, you may still come for your tour of the Capitol even though you do not have your email confirmation. It is helpful to us if you make a note of your confirmation number and bring it with you. But we also track those confirmations by the name on the confirmation, the email address used to make the reservation, or the name of the Member of Congress whose office made the reservation. Our goal is to check in tour participants as quickly as possible.
The Senate and House galleries are open to visitors whenever either legislative body is in session, however the galleries are not included as part of the U.S. Capitol tour. Passes are required to enter either gallery at any time. Visitors may obtain gallery passes from the offices of their Senators or Representative. International visitors with valid photo ID from their home country may inquire about gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center.
When the House of Representatives is not in session, visitors with passes may visit the House gallery from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. The House gallery is closed on holidays and is subject to unplanned, temporary closures when the House is out of session.
The Senate gallery is open during scheduled recesses of one week or more, and visitors are admitted to the gallery from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Senate gallery is closed on weekends and holidays (unless the Senate is in session), and during any recess or adjournment of less than one week.
Many Congressional offices offer their own staff-led tours to constituent groups of up to 15 people. Visitors will see the same historic highlights of the Capitol on Guide-led and Congressional staff-led tours. Some Congressional staff include information specific to their state or district as they conduct their tours. To book a Congressional Staff-led tour, contact the office of one of your Senators or your Representative to see if the office offers these tours. To make a reservation for a Guide-led tour, you may also contact the office of one or your Senators or Representative or book directly through the reservations system.
To learn about any employment opportunities at the Capitol Visitor Center, go the Website for the Architect of the Capitol, www.aoc.gov, and click on the "employment" button.
Visit the Architect of the Capitol's Capitol Flags Website for instructions.
The Capitol Visitor Center
The Capitol Visitor Center is 580,000 square feet on three levels. For purposes of comparison, the Capitol itself encompasses 775,000 square feet. The Visitor Center, therefore, is roughly three quarters the size of the historic Capitol. The Visitor Center footprint also encompasses 170,000 square feet of new building space for the House and Senate.
The mission of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center team is "Working together for Congress to inform, involve and inspire every visitor to the United States Capitol." This statement conveys our goal to provide a welcoming and educational environment for visitors to learn about the unique characteristics of the House, the Senate and the legislative process as well as the history and development of the architecture and art of the U.S. Capitol. The Visitor Center also provides amenities for visitor comfort, safety and security resulting in a seamless, positive visitor experience at the U.S. Capitol.
Through national and international partnerships, outreach to schools across the country, and a vibrant Web presence, the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center experience begins for visitors long before they set foot in the Capitol. Educational materials stimulate discussions of the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship in a representative democracy and celebrate the roles that the House and the Senate play in our daily lives.
On June 20, 2000, members of the Capitol Preservation Commission, the guiding board of Congressional leaders who spearheaded the Capitol Visitor Center initiative on behalf of the entire U.S. Congress, ceremonially broke ground to signal the beginning of the project.
Actual construction work began in 2002 after a major reassessment of the project following the events of September 11. Excavation of the East Front Plaza began in August 2002. In the fall of 2003, excavation was essentially complete and build-up of the Visitor Center structure began. In July 2008, the Architect of the Capitol's Fire Marshal issued a Certificate of Occupancy allowing for personnel to begin occupying the facility.
The overall project cost was $600 million. The duration of construction was approximately six years, from August 2002 through November 2008.
Nothing of a significant historical nature was discovered during excavation. The project architect, RTKL, hired an archaeological consultant to research the history of the grounds and to conduct surveys of Capitol Hill, formerly Jenkin's Hill, prior to the start of construction. The research showed that the Capitol Grounds were occupied to some extent by sub-tribes of the Algonquin Indians during colonial days, but research indicated that most of the tribal activities occurred closer to the Potomac River. Previous excavation work may have removed materials from earlier eras. In 1874, Landscape Architect, Frederick Law Olmsted called for the removal of 240,000 cubic yards of material from the East Capitol Grounds in order to lay a more fertile bed of soil. Later, in 1958-59, much of the area near the Capitol was excavated during the East Front Extension project, which extended the East Front of the Capitol 32.5 feet.
Improving the security of the Congress, the Capitol, and visitors was one of the fundamental goals driving the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center.
The fatal shootings of two U.S. Capitol Police officers in July 1998 and the events of September 11 underscored the degree to which the Capitol and its occupants are at risk. Therefore, Congress directed the Architect of the Capitol to design and construct a visitor center to "provide greater security for all persons working in or visiting the United States Capitol and to provide a more convenient place in which to learn of the work of Congress."
The Visitor Center provides a secure public environment to welcome and manage millions of visitors and to protect the Capitol Building, its occupants, and guests.
The issue of enslaved labor in the construction of the U.S. Capitol is presented in a number of ways in the Capitol Visitor Center.
A commemorative marker acknowledging the role that enslaved laborers played in the construction of the United States Capitol is located in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The marker is comprised of a block of sandstone that was quarried from Aquia Creek in Virginia. It was once a part of the East Front portico, which was completed in 1826. The stone is presented in reverse position to feature its original chisel marks.
In the Exhibition Hall, reading rails include text accompanied by images that discuss the contributions of enslaved laborers who cleared grounds, quarried stone, sawed timber, and labored on the Capitol's structure. Reading rails around the plaster model for the Statue of Freedom highlight the contributions of Philip Reid, an enslaved laborer whose talents were instrumental in the casting of the Statue of Freedom.
In addition, the importance of enslaved laborers is discussed in the 13-minute orientation film that is shown to all visitors at the beginning of their tour of the Capitol. Educational information on the role of enslaved labor is also incorporated into the script for guide-led tours and staff-led tours of the Capitol. The topic is also covered in the Emancipation Hall brochure available in the Visitor Center and online.
The Joint Committee on the Library approved moving 24 statues from various locations in the Capitol to the Visitor Center, which was designed as an extension of the Capitol, not a separate facility. The plan's goal was to make these sculptures more accessible to the visiting public and help alleviate overcrowding.
Overcrowding has been an issue in Statuary Hall since the 1930s, and Congress determined in 1933 that only one statue from each state should be placed in Statuary Hall, and that the others would be given prominent locations in designated areas and corridors of the Capitol. With the addition of the Capitol Visitor Center, it was decided that the statues would be rearranged again in order to further highlight and feature this unique collection, which represents the 50 United States and its citizens.
The statues selected to be moved were those that were most recently donated to the collection, and represent the diversity of our country. There is no plan to rotate the statues in Emancipation Hall or move other statues from the Capitol into the Visitor Center.
Tour buses drop off visitors on the West Front of the Capitol. For people with mobility issues, there are shuttles driven by Visitor Assistants available to take them to the Visitor Center entrance at the East Front. Some city buses, including Metrobus and the Circulator, drop off passengers at the East Front near the Visitor Center entrance.
There are no storage facilities at the Visitor Center for prohibited items. Items that are allowed in the Visitor Center and the Capitol, but not in the Senate and House Galleries may be stored securely in the Senate and House Gallery Staging Areas.
Yes, our national motto does appear in the Capitol Visitor Center in the House Theater exhibit and in Emancipation Hall. References to religion and faith are included in the context of several historic exhibits, and several religious items appear in the displays.