The White House Garden Tours have been a tradition since 1972, when Pat Nixon first opened the gardens to the public, and take place twice annually (spring and fall) on the White House grounds in Washington, D.C.
The garden is home to ancient oaks and elms, magnolia trees, boxwoods, and flowers such as tulips, hyacinths, and chrysanthemums. During the tours, visitors are invited to view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children's Garden, and the South Lawn of the White House.
Additionally, the White House Kitchen Garden—the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden—is also accessible to guests. The garden tour includes a lesson about the history of the gardens, including a review of the war garden movement and the Victory gardens of World War I and II.
The White House Garden Tour is one of the most popular garden tours in the Washington, D.C. area, but you'll have to act fast if you want to get tickets to this exclusive bi-annual event as tickets are extremely limited.
The official White House website releases dates for the bi-annual Garden Tours two weeks prior to the event. However, the spring tour usually takes place in mid-to-late-April and the fall event takes place in late October.
The event is open to the public; however, a ticket is required for all attendees, including small children. The National Park Service will distribute free, timed tickets (limit one per person) at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion on tour days beginning at 9 a.m. on a first-come, first served basis.
Entry for the Garden Tours will begin at Sherman Park, located just south of the Department of the Treasury. Taking public transportation is recommended as parking will be extremely limited or expensive near the White House no matter what time of year you visit.
Carry-in items will be limited, but strollers, wheelchairs, and cameras are permitted. In case of inclement weather, the Garden Tours will be canceled, and you can call the 24-hour information line on the White House Garden Tours website to check on the status of the event.
For generations, the White House Gardens have been the scene of both historical events and informal gatherings. Today, the South Lawn is used for the annual Easter Egg Roll and other large events, and the Rose Garden is used for the annual pardoning of the turkey and other presidential ceremonies and speeches.
The first garden was planted on the property in 1800 by President John Adams and first lady Abigail Adams, and the Rose Garden was initially established near the Oval Office in the early 1900s. However, in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to redesign the gardens, and today, this plan still serves as the basis for the layout of the garden.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy redesigned the Rose Garden to use as an outdoor meeting place that accommodates a thousand spectators. The East Garden was also redesigned during the Kennedy administration to feature both seasonal flowers and hedges, and a few years later, in 1969, Lady Bird Johnson created the first Children's Garden at the White House.