IN THIS POST: It’s hard to narrow down what to do when you visit Washington, DC – there’s so much to take in and it all seems important! These three tips for visiting the Supreme Court will help you get the most out of your visit.
The year that the girls and I studied civics we explored the Constitution and visited the buildings for all three branches of the federal government. It is a perk of living near the nation’s capital.
Whether you’re coming for a visit or live nearby or are just curious about the judicial branch of the U.S. government, keep reading for three ways to enhance your visit.
Tip #1: Check the dates and time
When Court is in session, touring the building is dependent on when the Justices are hearing arguments. They keep a rolling calendar to let the public know when it’s available. When I was planning our trip, this meant that Thursdays and Fridays were open.
The Court is not open on weekends or on federal holidays. Keep this in mind if you are planning a multi-day visit and want to include the Court on your itinerary.
Check your dates and times.
Keep this link handy: https://www.supremecourt.gov/visiting/visitorservices.aspx
Tip #2: Attend a Courtroom Lecture
The only way to see the Courtroom where less than 1% of the cases that are appealed to the Supreme Court are heard is to attend a 25-minute lecture.
I thought the lecture was full of good information, but our docent was a bit dry in his delivery, so my girls faded.
Even with that though, I’d still include this on your list. It’s the only way to see the Courtroom. I was surprised how intimate the whole space is. And, I’m adding “attend an oral argument” to my bucket list.
There is zero photography or videography allowed in this space. Turn off your phone or put it on silent – they were adamant in making this point.
Lectures are given on a first-come, first-serve basis and free of charge. During hours when the Court is open to the public, lectures are offered at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30 and 1:30.
Again, pay attention to the calendar. They’ll indicate which days will host lectures.
Go up the marble staircase to find the queuing area. Get in line at least 15 minutes before the lecture starts, maybe earlier depending on how busy it is when you visit.
Tip #3: Grab an Activity Guide
Don’t overlook this last of the three tips for visiting the Supreme Court. I was very impressed with the activity guides that they offered to younger visitors!
These are some of the best activity guides for an educational location that we’ve used. They include guides to the various symbols as well as scavenger-hunt-type activities for the portraits, animal imagery, and others.
I hate when these kind of guides feel forced or too controlling of the experience. I picked one activity for us to focus on as we wandered and that seemed to strike the right balance.
There’s a range of options depending on what might interest your kids and at which level they are learning. We sat down at one point on one of the conveniently placed marble benches (yes, everything’s marble), and the three of us did the crossword puzzle in the guide.
I was overall very impressed with this option even more so than at other venues that we’ve visited. And we’ve been on some field trips!
What to Know about Visiting the Supreme Court
Visiting the Supreme Court is one of the easier visits in Washington, DC to make. You arrive when you can, and the Court is open to the public, and you do as much as you can.
I appreciated how much space they had between exhibits so that we never felt truly crowded.
If you don’t attend a Courtroom lecture you could probably have a good visit in less than an hour (depending on your level of interest and number of “must-read-everything” visitors in your group).
But don’t do that – attend a Courtroom lecture! See where the business goes down!
More Tips for Visiting Washington, DC
Stay tuned for my tips for visiting the White House and Congress.
If you’re planning a visit to DC, check out Planet Word Museum. It’s not a Smithsonian, but it is such a well-done museum exploring language. It is one of my favorites!
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