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President’s Park (White House) - An Overview

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The White House

The White House

© dcJohn via Flickr

Overview:

Yes, the President of the United States and family live in a national park! The White House and President’s Park have been a part of the national park system since 1933. President’s Park is the land surrounding the White House, as well as its grounds. The park includes the Ellipse, Lafayette Park, Sherman Park, and the 1st Division Monument.

History:

The President's Park is administered by the National Park Service and has been park of the national park system since 1933. The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States. It was built between 1792 and 1800 and has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams.

When to Visit:

The climate in Washington, DC is seasonal. Summers can be very hot and humid with an average temperature of 82, while winters are variable, ranging from very mild to very cold. The average winter temperature is 35.

White House Visitor Center is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Call (202) 208-1631 for more information.

The Ellipse Visitor Pavilion is open 8 a.m to 3 p.m. as staffing permits. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Getting There:

The address of the White House Visitor Center is 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20230. It is located inside the north end of the Department of Commerce Building between 14th and 15th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue. Since parking is very limited, public transportation is strongly recommended. The closest Metrorail stations to the White House are Federal Triangle (blue and orange lines) and Metro Center (red, blue and orange lines).

Traveling from the NORTH (via I-95)
Follow I-95 South toward Washington to I-495 and exit East. Follow I-495 East to Route 50 and exit West. Route 50 becomes New York Avenue; bear right onto L Street. Follow L Street to 7th Street, NW and turn left. Follow 7th Street to Constitution Avenue and turn right. Follow Constitution Avenue to 15th Street and turn right. Follow 15th Street and turn right on Pennsylvania Avenue. On your right, you'll see three blue awnings above the doors, "The White House Visitor Center".

Traveling from the NORTH (via I-295/BW Parkway)
Follow I-95 South to I-295 South Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Follow I-295 South BW Parkway pass Greenbelt. I-295 South will split at Route 50, which becomes New York Avenue, right lane. Follow New York Avenue to 7th Street, NW. Turn left on 7th Street. Turn right on Pennsylvania Avenue South and follow Pennsylvania Avenue to 15th Street. On your left, you'll see three blue awnings above the doors, "The White House Visitor Center".

Traveling from the NORTH (via I-270)
Follow I-270 South toward Washington. At the I-270, split bear right and follow signs for I-495, Northern Virginia. Follow I-495 to the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GW Parkway). Follow the GW Parkway to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Cross the bridge, staying to the right, and exit onto Constitution Avenue. Follow Constitution Avenue to 15th Street and turn left. Follow 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and turn right. On your right, you'll see three blue awnings above the door, "The White House Visitor Center".

Traveling from the SOUTH (via I-95/I-395)
Follow I-95 North toward Washington. I-95 becomes I-395 when you cross I-495. Continue North on I-395 across the bridge and then exit at US-1 North/14th Street. Follow US-1/14th Street to Constitution Avenue. Turn left on Constitution Avenue to 15th Street. Turn right on 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Turn right on Pennsylvania Avenue. On your right, you'll see three blue awnings above the doors, "The White House Visitor Center".

Traveling from the EAST (via Route 50 and New York Avenue)
Follow Route 50, which becomes New York Avenue, to L Street and bear right onto L Street. Follow L Street to 7th Street NW and turn left. Follow 7th Street to Constitution Avenue and turn right. Follow Constitution Avenue to 15th Street. Turn right on 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Turn right on Pennsylvania Avenue. On your right, you'll see three blue awnings above the doors, "The White House Visitor Center".

Traveling from the WEST (via I-66)
Follow I-66 across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, staying to the right, and exit onto Constitution Avenue. Follow Constitution Avenue to 15th Street and turn left. Follow 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and turn right. On your right, you'll see three blue awnings above the doors, "The White House Visitor Center".

Fees/Permits:

There are no entrance fees at President's Park and the White House Visitor Center. If you're planning to visit nearby national parks such as Fort Washington Park, Great Falls Park, Greenbelt Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Prince William Forest Park, or any other of the many national parks in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland, you may want to purchase a National Parks Pass.

Things to Do:

The park offers many indoor and outdoor activities including, interpretive programs, opportunities for photography and guided tours. Visitors will find activities like walking, jogging, and bicycling easy within the park, especially around the Ellipse sidewalk.

Kids will find no shortage of things to do within the park. Inside the White House Visitor Center, there is an activity area for children to participate in reading, writing letter, coloring handouts and solving puzzles, all relating to the White House and National Park Service.

White House Tours are available on the following days: Tuesdays to Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.; Fridays, 7:30 a.m. - 12 noon; and Saturdays, 7:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Call (202) 456-7041 for information. Advanced Reservation is required.

Special events also occur within President’s Park, including the White House Easter Egg Roll (Monday after Easter), White House Garden Tours (April & October), and the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree (December).

For those looking to give back, the park offers opportunities to volunteer. Activities include greeting visitors and answering questions, helping with White House tour operations, working special events, or assisting with education programs. Call (202) 208-1631 for more information.

Major Attractions:

White House Visitor Center: Walk through six permanent exhibits relating to the White House including the First Families In the White House, Symbols and Images, White House Architecture, White House Interiors, Working White House,and Ceremonies and Celebration. Visitors can also watch a 30-minute video, visit the White House Historical Association Museum shop, and participate in interpretive programs, living history programs, military concerts or guest lectures.

Northern Trail: This trail takes you to Sherman Park, where the famous general once reviewed the troops returning from the Civil War, then north to Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park, ending at the First Division Monument.

Southern Trail: The southern trail leaves the Visitor Center and winds its way around the Ellipse, past monuments, memorials and fountains, and ending at the fence surrounding the White House South Lawn.

Lafayette Park: Learn about the history of five statues in the park. In the center stands an equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson, and in the four corners are statues of Revolutionary War heroes: France's General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette and Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau; Poland's General Thaddeus Kosciuszko; and Prussia's Major General Baron Frederich Wilhelm von Steuben.

Ellipse: Its construction began in the 1850s but was cut short by a lack of funds and by the Civil War. The site has been used a trash dump, horse pens, and a slaughterhouse. Soldiers were even housed here during the Civil War.

First Division Monument: This memorial honors the soldiers of the First Division of the American Expeditionary Forces who gave their lives during WWI. The monument was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on October 4, 1924. Additions to the memorial were made in 1957 to honor the dead from WWII and in 1977 to honor those who died in the Vietnam War. The most recent addition, dedicated in 1995, commemorates those who died during Desert Storm in 1991.

Second Division Memorial: The memorial honors the 17,660 dead who served in the Second Division of the United States Army. It was originally built to commemorate the division's casualties in WWI and was dedicated on July 18, 1936. Two wings were dedicated on June 20, 1962, with significant battles of WWII inscribed on the west, and the Korean War on the east.

President’s Park South: Learn about the Ellipse, First Division Monument, General William T. Sherman Monument, Butt-Millet Fountain, Haupt Fountains, District Patentees Memorial, Boy Scout Memorial, Zero Milestone, Second Division Memorial, Bullfinch Gatehouses, and National Christmas Tree.

Accommodations:

Unfortunately the President doesn’t rent out rooms so there are no accommodations within the park. However, Washington, DC offers plenty of hotels, motels, and affordable inns. Call the DC Visitor Information Center at (202) 332-5573 for more information (M-F 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) You may also call the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation at (202) 789-7000 for lodging recommendations.

Pets:

Pets must be restrained at all times on a leash no longer than six feet in length. Never leave your pet unattended and be extra cautious about leaving unattended pets in a vehicle. Summer in Washington, DC can get extremely hot—even with the windows cracked, a car can reach over 100 degrees within 10 minutes.

Areas of Interest Outside the Park:

There are plenty of parks to visiti in the Washington, DC area. Check out the sample below or see all the national parks in Washington, DC.!

National Mall: Extending from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, the National Mall was envisioned as a formal park in the L'Enfant Plan.

Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site: Includes section of Pennsylvania Ave and adjacent area between the Capitol and the White House, including Ford's Theatre NHS and the Old Post Office Tower.

National Capital Parks-East: National Capital Parks-East is 13 park sites, parkways and statuary covering more than 8,000 acres of historic, cultural, and recreational parklands from Capitol Hill to the nearby Maryland suburbs.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial: A monument for the 32nd US president features a landscape of four outdoor rooms with granite walls, statuary, inscriptions, waterfalls and thousands of plants, shrubs and trees along the famous cherry tree walk on the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.

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