the new capitol visitor’s center

Our good friend Christen who still works on the Hill hooked us up with a tour of the new US Capitol Visitor’s center. Since both Brent and I previously gave the Capitol tours, we thought it would be fun to check it out. We were actually on a test tour, since the Visitor’s center does not open for two weeks.

The first thing that caused a bit of concern about the trip were the instructions on the ticket that said no cameras were allowed in. Humm. I noticed this in the cab on the way to the Capitol. Brent had his iphone and I had the flip video with me. What if they wanted to take them away from us? We went through security without incident.

The amazing and really big underground center awed us into submission at first. We could not fathom why it was so big, what where they thinking. And then we realized it was not really a place where people are encouraged to visit, it is more like a cattle yard. Herd people in, herd them out.

The first stop, a 12 minute video, is stirring but lacks a lot of definition. The red shirts then move you along to the tour. On the tour now, you only get to see two actual parts of the Capitol: the Rotunda, and the empty room where the US House of Representatives once met. No more former US Supreme Court chambers, no more former Senate chambers, no looking around. Herd in, herd out. Oh, and the no camera rule: not true. Lots of people had cameras. The poor people who followed the rules were disappointed.

After your tour, you can check out the supposedly interactive exhibits about the Capitol. Admittedly, they have six detailed models of Washington DC showing how the area around the Capitol has changed throughout the years. Other than that, however, there was not much to see.

They asked that we fill out a review of the tour before leaving, but we saw quite a few of these nicely filled out reviews strewn all over the information desks, in no particular order, and decided that they really were not interested in our review. And there was no official place to turn in the reviews.

Overall we give the tour, on a scale of one to five Capitols, two Capitols.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the visitor's center was supposed to cost $300 million, and ended up costing double that: $621 million.


Anonymous said...

I think you spelled capitol wrong in your headline...?

harkinna said...

i did...thanks.