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What Washington, DC Attractions Require Reservations in 2024

Washington, DC is home to some of the United States’ most significant historical sites, museums, and attractions. While many of these can be visited without advance planning, several Washington, DC attractions require reservations to ensure a spot on a tour or entry at a specific time.

This list covers the Washington, DC attractions that you will not be able to see without advanced tickets because of security protocols or popularity. It’s a straightforward guide to help you prepare for your visit to the nation’s capital, focusing on those attractions where booking ahead is either required or highly recommended in 2024.

In 2020, some locations suspended tours or implemented ticketing. Since then, many popular museums and tourist sights in Washington, DC have reverted back to not needing advance tickets. Other private museums that need tickets, like the National Museum of Women in the Arts or the Phillips Collection, are not included in this list because you can generally buy tickets on the day of without worry.

1. White House

To tour the inside of the White House, you’ll need to make a request through your congressional office well in advance of your visit. White House tour requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance of your requested tour date. You’ll want to submit your request with your congressional office at least 90 days in advance, though, so that they can gather the required information from you to submit your request right when the tour request window opens. You will need to provide some identity information for a security check.

While securing a spot can be competitive, the White House Visitor Center is open to all and offers virtual tours and exhibits about the presidential residence, as well as information about the White House Garden.

Note that bowling at the White House is not open to the public, and you need to have a White House staff member reserve a spot and invite you.

2. White House Garden Tour

For one weekend each spring and fall, the National Park Service opens up the White House Garden for public tours so that visitors can explore the beautifully landscaped grounds of the White House. They offer a unique opportunity to see the Rose Garden, the South Lawn, and the First Lady’s Kitchen Garden up close.

This is a different process than the White House tour, and you do not go through your congressional office for this. Free, timed-entry tickets are distributed on a first come, first served basis on the morning of the tour from a tent in front of the White House Visitor Center. Availability is limited and lines are long, so arriving early to secure your spot is imperative.

3. US Capitol

The United States Capitol Building on a clear day, with its iconic dome and columns standing out against a bright blue sky, as seen from the Capitol's expansive lawn with visitors scattered around.

The US Capitol Building is an iconic symbol of American democracy, featuring a distinctive dome and an expansive array of historical and architectural elements. The Capitol also houses an important collection of American art and is an architectural gem in its own right.

Tours of the Capitol are highly sought after. You can book these through the Capitol Visitor Center or directly through your congressional office.

If you book through your congressional office, a staff member serving your district will guide you on a tour. This is a bit more personal, but not always better: the docents at the Capitol Visitor Center know it inside and out, whereas if you spend enough time eavesdropping on the congressional staff assistants leading the tours, you’re sure to hear some made up facts. The majority of tours will be great, but having heard some stories about things my friends have overheard from office-led tours, I would recommend sticking with the professionals.

Either way, planning ahead is key to securing a place on a tour of this iconic building.

4. Library of Congress

The beautiful Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress is something that you’ll want to see. With sculptures and murals embodying the American ideals of the Gilded Age, the Great Hall is full of symbolism. You can also visit the famous Main Reading Room Tuesdays through Fridays, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM if you time your tickets right.

You can reserve your free, timed-entry tickets for the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building ahead of time or on the day of. Reserving your tickets ahead of time is recommended, especially during the busy months of March through July, to ensure your spot.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, you can reserve tickets to Live! at the Library. With Live! at the Library, you can go to happy hour in the Library of Congress Great Hall on Thursdays from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. You’ll also be able to view the Main Reading Room from 5:00 to 7:00 PM on these nights. The programming varies, but generally features live music, discussions, and drinks and snacks available for purchase.

5. Jazz in the Garden

A silhouetted silver sculpture of a tree stands against a stunning pink and purple sunset sky at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, with the outlines of real tree leaves framing the top, as people gather in the park below for Jazz in the Garden.
A beautiful sunset during Jazz in the Garden

Jazz in the Garden is a popular summer event at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, offering live jazz performances amidst the varied sculptures and fountain. This series presents a unique opportunity to enjoy music and art in an outdoor setting. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket, but no alcohol. Instead, you can purchase a pitcher of their delicious sangria.

A popular Friday night activity with locals in the summer, tickets are required and typically run out. Jazz in the Garden happens every Friday from May through August, and tickets are available via a lottery system.

Each concert has its own lottery, which will open the week prior on Monday at 10:00 AM and close that Friday at noon. Results of each lottery will be emailed to all entrants the week of the concert on Monday at 10:00 AM. For example, if the concert is held Friday, May 17, you could sign up for the lottery from May 6-10, and you would find out on Monday, May 13 whether you got tickets.

6. Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is one of the most iconic sights in Washington, DC, and offers expansive views of Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia. To ride the elevator up to the top of the Washington Monument and enjoy panoramic views of the city, you’ll need a timed-entry ticket.

Tickets for the Washington Monument can be reserved online in advance, and a limited number of same-day tickets are available each morning on a first-come, first-served basis.

7. National Museum of African American History and Culture

Intricate black geometric patterns cover a large window at the National African American History and Culture Museum, creating a striking contrast against the bright exterior light, giving a sense of modern architectural design.

One of the newer additions to the Smithsonian museums, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has quickly become a must-visit. Tracing its roots back to 1915 and the National Memorial Association, it finally opened its doors in 2016.

The museum explores the richness and diversity of the African American experience. Through its extensive collections and interactive exhibits, the museum chronicles the complex history of African Americans in the United States, from slavery and segregation to civil rights and cultural achievements. The cafeteria explores and promotes the deep culinary heritage of African-Americans from the Agricultural South, Creole Coast, North States, and Western Range.

Free timed entry passes for NMAAHC are required and they can be obtained online in advance of your visit. Same-day tickets are released at 8:15 AM each day.

8. Air & Space Museum

The Air & Space Museum is a favorite among kids, and was always the one I looked forward to the most when I was young. Today, you need free timed entry tickets to visit the Air & Space Museum on the National Mall.

If you are visiting the Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, no time entry tickets are required. While not close to DC, if you will be spending time near the Dulles airport, I highly recommend the Udvar-Hazy Center. Built in an airplane hanger, the number of planes and rockets is draw dropping.

Interesting fact: where the Air & Space Museum now stands was the Armory Hospital during the Civil War.

9. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is located just off the National Mall, and is a memorial to the millions of Jews and other victims murdered during the Holocaust. The museum offers a deeply moving experience with exhibitions that detail the events, consequences, and lessons of the Holocaust through artifacts, personal stories, and documentation.

While the museum’s permanent exhibition requires timed entry passes, they can be obtained online in advance, with a limited number of same-day tickets released. If you are only interested in Daniel’s Story and other special exhibits, tickets are not required.

10. Bureau of Engraving & Printing

See where United States currency is printed by joining a tour. While the US Mint prints coins, the Bureau of Engraving & Printing is responsible for printing paper money. One popular gift shop item are sheets of misprinted bills.

Free tickets are required during peak tourist season and can be picked up on the morning of your visit on a first-come, first-served basis.

11. Ford’s Theater National Historical Site

The classic architecture of the historic Ford's Theatre, a red brick building with white-trimmed arched windows and a gas-style streetlamp in the twilight

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. Today, it serves both as a museum, preserving the history of that fateful night, and as a working theater, hosting a variety of plays and educational programs. Visitors can explore the theater, the Peterson House (where Lincoln died), and exhibits about Lincoln’s presidency and legacy, providing a deep dive into one of the most pivotal moments in U.S. history.

Reserve tickets for the theatre, museum, and Peterson House across the street. Note that different time slots have access to different areas of the historic site.

12. Frederick Douglass Home Tour

Frederick Douglass' home, Cedar Grove: A historic two-story house with a prominent porch and decorative trim, featuring red roof accents and surrounded by lush greenery, under a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds.
Courtesy of NPS

The Frederick Douglass Home, also known as Cedar Hill, is where the famed abolitionist, author, and orator lived in the latter part of his life, in Washington, DC. This historic site offers a glimpse into Douglass’s personal life and his impact on American history through guided tours of the preserved estate, showcasing Douglass’s belongings and the setting from which he continued to fight for justice and equality for all Americans.

Tours of the Frederick Douglass home are available by reservation. Walk ins are technically allowed, but because the tours are frequently full booked well in advance, it is highly recommended that you reserve a ticket ahead of time.

13. The Pentagon

While the title of “one of the largest office buildings in the world” is not one that most people think about when they think of the Pentagon, it’s true. The Pentagon is a symbol of the U.S. military and serves as a center for coordinating and planning military activities globally. The headquarters of the United States Department of Defense offers guided tours to the public.

You can reserve a tour of the Pentagon no earlier than 90 days before your tour date and no later than 21 days before your tour date. Similar to the White House, you will need to go through a security check before your tour is approved, so you will need an advanced reservation.

14. Wreath Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

At Arlington National Cemetery, you may visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the changing of the guard without tickets, but you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to have a wreath-lying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Public wreath-laying ceremonies can be requested up to 180 days in advance.

15. Government Art Tours

The General Services Administration (GSA) is the government agency that manages federal buildings throughout the country. Many of the buildings have beautiful art and architecture. The GSA offers art and architecture tours to the public for some of their buildings. The “Contemporary Sculpture in the Federal Triangle” tour even ends with the views from the Old Post Office Building.

The tours feature art commissioned as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression as well as contemporary art. Tours last approximately an hour, and can be requested through the GSA.

16. Department of the Interior Art Tours

A painting from the Department of the Interior headquarters of a desert scene with a focus on two prominent yucca plants and various cacti against a backdrop of dune-like hills. One yucca has a tall, blooming stalk, and the scene is rendered with muted earth tones and subtle shading to emphasize the contours of the sandy landscape. Wispy clouds dot an overcast sky, enhancing the serene yet arid atmosphere.
Department of Interior Artwork. “Desert,” by Nicolai Cikovsky. Date:1938 Dimensions: 92″ x 68″ Materials: Oil

The Department of the Interior (DOI)’s headquarters contains the most New Deal artwork than any other Federal building. It has more than 40 murals, including several photomurals by renowned landscape photographer Ansel Adams. Much of the artworks are centered around the American landscape, as DOI contains bureaus such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. To see the art, visitors must schedule a guided tour to see the murals beyond the entrance.

Tours can be scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 PM, and must be reserved in advance.


When planning your trip to Washington, DC, it’s clear that a little foresight goes a long way. By securing reservations ahead of time for these attractions, you’ll ensure you don’t miss the sights you care about during your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the nation’s capital. There are so many things to do in Washington, DC, and you want to make sure you do the things that matter the most to you.

Valerie Moore

Having lived in Washington, DC for the past 16 years, Valerie has a lot of thoughts about the best things to do, eat, and know around the city. She loves doing deep dives into the interesting things she finds, and sharing with the world. You'll often find her dog, Lil Mikey, along for the ride.

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