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My Travels: US Capitol Dome Tour

View of the capitol dome from outside

Hi friends,

I feel so lucky to live in the Washington D.C. area. The federal government with it's three branches, plus all the monuments and museums make the city an energetic place where there is always something new to learn, experience, and enjoy.

I've visited the US Capitol so many times, and each time I discover something new. I look like a crazy lady,  mouth agape looking at all the beautiful columns and moldings.

This time I was ecstatic because I had no idea one could tour the entire dome all the way to the top. How awesome is that! Well, not everyone can take this tour, the US Capitol dome tour has to be arranged with a member of the Congress. Having a husband that works on Capitol Hill is a big benefit to getting to know more about this marvelous piece of architecture.

I was determined to get lots of pictures and even videos because I wanted you to tour it wit me!
So, get yourself comfortable because this is a long post.

Washington DC Capitol building

We had a perfect day, sunny and clear. We arrived sharp at 1:00pm. This was our way to get into the building, the Capitol's south entrance.

center of Washington DC

From there we headed to the Crypt, which is the room that is directly beneath the US Capitol Rotunda. Here, we met with our tour guide, signed some papers, got our badges and started the tour.

The climbing of the stairs started here, with a diagram of the interior of the capitol dome and all the sections we had to pass until reaching the top, well, almost the very top.

Here and all along the way, my son was right behind our tour guide, ears wide open. :)

While climbing the first set of stairs I got a peek at this, the old senate rotunda. How beautiful! The Chandelier has stolen the show with its estimated 14,500 crystals.

After another flight of stairs we reached this point, the skirt part, check the picture below for its location within the building.

Via: Architect Of The Capitol

We stopped right here to read and learn about the history of the Capitol's dome.
Did you know it consists of two domes? Yes, one inside the other.

*An amateur architect from the British West Indies, Dr. William Thornton was awarded $500 and a city lot for his design of the Capitol. Today, he is honored as the first architect of the Capitol. This drawing depicts the East elevation of the Capitol circa 1796.

*One of the earliest known photographs of the Capitol, this image shows the building's first dome, which was made of brick, wood,  and copper (1846).

*During construction of the U.S. Capitol's House and Senate extensions and the new Capitol Dome, Thomas Ustick Walter, Fourth Architect of the Capitol, and engineer Montgomery C. Meigs used cast-iron for both decorative and structural elements.

We resumed the climbing between the inner and outer domes...

While admiring this 19th-century incredible piece of engineering.

Iron trusses supporting the cast-iron outer dome.

Our next level: The Peristyle.

This is the view of the rotunda below and the canopy above.

I love these windows!

But, we still needed to conquer some more of the 365 steps that lead from the basement all the way to the top of the outer dome.

We were getting closer and closer to the very top.

I'm here ready to climb the final line of steps.

Which brought me right here, to the inside balcony, right below the Apotheosis of Washington.

180 feet above the Rotunda floor.

Painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, the Apotheosis of Washington depicts George Washington rising to the heavens in glory.

You can watch the next video for the details about the fresco:

It was simply mesmerizing to be up here, so close to such an amazing work of art.

However, another fascinating part of the tour was right there, a few steps away as we opened this door.

Washington monument with the mall and Smithsonian museums

Right there on the outer balcony is the best view in Washington D.C. Breathtaking! The Washington monument center stage with the Smithsonian museums lining the mall.

I couldn't help but take a picture of myself in front of this magnificent view.

The best part: You get a 360 view from the US Capitol!  Here, overlooking the district we could easily see the Supreme Court.

Here, a picture of our group. ;)

And a video of the complete view from this point.

Looking up, this was my view: The Tholus, and after that, the Statue of Freedom not visible from here.

The way back was much easier.

Here, getting a great view of Library of Congress.

Some more steps down until we reached our starting point.

Check these links for more information:

Capitol Dome - Architect of the Capitol
Capitol Dome - US Capitol

For more about Washington D.C. check these out:

the tidal basin with the Jefferson Memorial in the background

a stone house in Georgetown

big landmarks in washington dc white house, US Capitol, vicepresident's office, Washington monument, library of congress

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  1. So cool!! You are so fortunate to have been able to do this tour. Thank you for all the great photos and explanations of what we were seeing. The structural photos are so interesting. I worked across the street in the Library of Congress for years and got to take the LOC dome tour, but it is obviously much lower than the Capitol dome. Great post!
    Sue P.

    1. Oh, how good to know you worked there at LOC, Sue! That's one space my daughter LOVES! I like it too, but she can stay in there in the library for ever! She told me, she missed classes multiple times because she wanted to stay there in the library attending conferences, or just doing research at the rare books division. We haven't done the LOC dome tour, but now that you mentioned it, I'm gonna added to the list. ;) Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I'm such a huge history buff, so I was absolutely eating up this post with all the photos, videos, and information! Thank you so much for doing it!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern and Style

    1. Oh Jordyn, you gotta come visit Washington DC if you have not yet done so! So much to see and do.
      It's so good to hear you liked the post. Thanks!

  3. I have 2 questions. 1- Is the restoration complete or is it still in progress? 2- Does a member of Congress have to be on the tour with you or do you just go through a Congressional office to arrange the tour? This is on my daughter's bucket list so we have to do it!

    1. Hi Pat, yes, the Dome restoration project was completed before the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. Besides our tour guide, yes, there was a member of Congress with us. You should contact your local congressional representative or senator for more information on how to request a tour. If your party is granted the tour, they will assign a member of the stuff and a tour guide to go with you.

  4. Wow! What an amazing tour! Until I was 5, we lived in Annandale,VA as my Dad was stationed at the Pentagon. I was too young to remember any siteseeing we may have done. I would really love to visit DC with my family! So much to see and do!

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