The Capitol Visitor Center was designed to enhance the visitor’s experience at the U.S. Capitol Building with an inspiring 13-minute orientation film and informative exhibits that tell the history of the Capitol Building along with the story of representative democracy in the United States. As the largest expansion of the U.S. Capitol, the 580,000 square foot Visitor Center provides numerous amenities including an exhibition gallery, two orientation theaters, a 550-seat cafeteria, two gift shops, and restrooms.
The project took 6 years to complete and cost $621 million.
See photos of the Capitol Visitor Center
The Capitol Visitor Center is located on the east side of the historic building and was constructed partially underground so as not to detract from the appearance of the iconic building or its landscaped grounds. The planting of nearly 100 new trees, the restoration of historic fountains, lanterns, and seat walls, and the addition of several water features across the East Front Plaza serves to revitalize the historic landscape designed in 1874 by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Tickets are not required for entrance to the Visitor Center. The complex was designed to provide an indoor space for visitors to experience the Capitol in an engaging and comfortable environment.
Highlights and Unique Features of the Capitol Visitor Center
- Four skylights give visitors a unique peak at the Capitol dome.
- A plaster model of the Statue of Freedom, which was used to cast the statue atop the Capitol Dome is the centerpiece of Emancipation Hall, the main exhibit hall of the Visitor Center.
- A touchable model of the Capitol dome gives visitors an upclose view of the interior and exterior of the historic building.
- Twenty four statues from the National Statuary Hall Collection represent the diversity of the United States.
- A Wall of Aspirations - 186-foot-long marble wall houses historic documents from the Library of Congress and the National Archives.
- Six history alcoves house artifacts, documents, images and videos to tell the story of Congress and the establishment of American democracy.
- The 13-minute film, "One of Many, One" sets the tone for visitors to begin a guided tour of the Capitol.
Advance Tour Reservations System
Visitors can book tours of the Capitol Building in advance at www.visitthecapitol.gov. Tour hours are 8:45 a.m - 3:30 p.m. Monday - Saturday. Tours can also be booked through a representative or Senator's office or by calling (202) 226-8000. A limited number of same-day passes are available at the tour kiosks on the East and West Fronts of the Capitol and at the Information Desks in Emancipation Hall.
Visitors can watch Congress in action at the Senate and House Galleries (when in session) Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Passes are required and may be obtained from the offices of Senators or Representatives. International visitors can receive Gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Visitor Center.
The opening of the Capitol Visitor Center relocates the entrance to the U.S. Capitol Building to the East Plaza between Constitution and Independence Avenues. (across from the Supreme Court) See a map
The closest Metro stations are Union Station and Capitol South.
The Capitol Visitor Center has direct access to the Library of Congress via a tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel is located on the upper level of the Visitor Center near the House Appointment Desk.
The Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Read more about the U.S. Capitol Building