5 Tips for Library of Congress Tours

Posted By Katie on Nov 2, 2013

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A Library of Congress tour may not be on the top of the list for first-time visitors to Washington D.C., but it should be.  The Thomas Jefferson building, one of three Library of Congress buildings on Capitol Hill, is open for public tours and is well worth your time.  Completed in 1897, this beautiful building is decorated to honor learning, literature, knowledge, creativity, and intellectual achievement.

5 tips for visiting the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. with kids. This HAS to be the most beautiful building in Washington D.C.! It's a great addition to any D.C. itinerary. | tipsforfamilytrips.com | summer vacation | spring break | family travel

Library of Congress tours showcase two of the library’s greatest treasures:  a handwritten Mainz Bible and a printed Gutenberg Bible.  The Gutenberg bible was the first bible printed on moveable press in Europe, around 1455.

5 Tips for Library of Congress Tours | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Every inch of the Library of Congress is beautifully decorated.

Here are six tips to make Library of Congress tours easy and enjoyable.

Take a docent-led tour

The Library of Congress is open to the public Monday-Saturday, but plan to take advantage of the free one-hour docent-led tours.  These tours are led by knowledgable volunteers who love the Library of Congress and are happy to share many unique stories and insights that you will miss if you try to enjoy the beautiful building on your own.  Learn how many books are submitted to the Library each day.  Find out who the brilliant minds are that are memorialized in the Reading Room.  Learn about the first electric light bulbs to be installed in a building in Washington D.C.

Check the Library of Congress website to confirm tour times but they generally run on the half hour.  If you cannot do a guided tour, check out the self-guided tours available here.

5 Tips for Library of Congress Tours | tipsforfamilytrips.com

The Library of Congress on a Saturday afternoon in July.

Library of Congress tours are best for children over 8

There are no age restrictions on Library of Congress tours, but the Jefferson building is usually crowded and the tour groups are large so listening can be a challenge for younger children.  The information on the tour will be much more meaningful to older children.  However, if you do decide to bring young children like I did recently, you can start the tour and slip out when your children are finished.  The security officers at the entrance and exit have nice Junior Officer stickers for younger children if you ask them.

Don’t skip the exhibits

After you take the guided tour, leave yourself plenty of time to also explore the impressive exhibits.  You can see a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s library, which consisted of 6,487 books that Jefferson sold to the library in 1815 after the British burned the original Library of Congress during the War of 1812.

Visit the map room to see the first known map that uses the word “America” to identify this continent (circa 1507).  Take a few minutes to explore the amazing treasures inside the Library of Congress.

5 Tips for Library of Congress Tours | tipsforfamilytrips.com

The Reading Room is used for researchers studying materials at the Library of Congress.

Pair with a U.S. Capitol tour

Library of Congress tours work very well in conjunction with a U.S. Capitol tour.  There is a very convenient underground walkway between the two buildings.  Access it from the basement of the Library of Congress, near the building exit.  The beauty of using this underground tunnel is that once you’ve gone through security in one building, you can walk to the next without going through security a second time.  Pairing this tour with a U.S. Capitol tour makes for a perfect day of sightseeing.

Getting there

I strongly recommend that you ride the metro to the Library of Congress.  Use the Capitol South stop (orange/blue lines), exit and walk about 2 blocks north on First Street SE.

If you insist on driving in like I usually do, you can park at Union Station but allow yourself plenty of time.  The Library is only about 0.5 miles away from Union Station, but it takes time to wind through the parking lot and Union Station.  Give yourself at least 20 minutes to park, exit, and walk to the Library if you are planning to arrive in time for a tour.

There is a limited amount of two-hour metered parking nearby.  I successfully found free street parking one Saturday, but read the parking signs carefully since D.C. parking enforcement is very strict.

5 Tips for Library of Congress Tours | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Inspiring quotes surround the arches in the Library.

Good to Know

Where:  10 First Street SE, Washington D.C.  Just east of the U.S. Capitol.

When:  Open Monday-Saturday 8:30-4:30.  Closed New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How much:  FREE

How Long: 1 or more hours

Amenities:  Restrooms, small gift shop.  Picnic tables outside the exit.

How else can we help?

Need a place to stay? Allison has stayed at Kimpton Hotel Madera and Hotel Harrington, which are both within a short walk or Metro ride from the Library of Congress. Read her review of Hotel Madera HERE. Check rates and read reviews at TripAdvisor or Booking.com.

Do you know about Explorer Pass? Save up to 40% on admission to the International Spy Museum and Mount Vernon, plus other attractions of your choice. Learn moreHERE.

Need new walking shoes? The best way to see the monuments and other top attractions in Washington D.C. is on foot. Find comfortable walking shoes for your family at The Walking Company or Amazon.com.

Save money on your Washington D.C. trip! Learn more about our FREE Travel Deals Email Club HERE.

Get more ideas for your Washington D.C. trip on our Washington D.C. page or ourWashington D.C. for Families Pinterest board!

Katie is a busy mom living in Northern Virginia with her husband and five children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. When she isn't traveling, she is planning her next trip. Katie loves all types of travel, but she especially loves beach vacations. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a favorite family destination.


  1. Great tips. We are headed there this week. We are very fortunate to have a private tour set up with a family friend.

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  2. Great tips. We are heading there this week. We are very fortunate to have a private tour set up through a family friend. Looking forward to it.

    Post a Reply

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