An unforgettable afternoon at the White House with the First Dog and Michelle Obama’s veggies

white house south lawn

Holy crap, you guys!

During my visit to Washington DC last week, I got up early one morning, intending to walk down to the White House to snap a couple of photos from each side of the building from behind the fences.

You can’t get super-close to the residence unless you book an official White House tour, and that has to be scheduled weeks or months in advance through your Congressperson. So I was prepared to be content with getting a couple of distant touristy shots.

white-house-tourists

white-house-distant

As I was snapping away, I noticed some volunteers walking around handing out free passes for something called a White House Garden Tour later that afternoon. It turns out that twice a year, the South Lawn is open for tours of the Rose Garden and the vegetable garden that was started by First Lady Michelle Obama. I was fortunate to be in the right place on the right day and secured a ticket. Score!

security-checkpoint

After passing through a heavy security checkpoint on the South Lawn side of the building, we were guided up the sidewalk right to the front door (or back door, officially) of the White House.

We were so close!

me south lawn

Up-close pics of the White House like this are rare, because on the official tours that take place daily, visitors must relinquish all personal items, including cameras. That made the opportunity to photograph the building from just a few feet away a very special experience.

How close were we? Close enough to see one of the workers bring out Bo, the First Dog, for an afternoon walk along the Rose Garden.

bofirstdog2

bofirstdog

Close enough to reach out and touch the actual roses in the Rose Garden.

rose-garden

roses-close

Close enough to have a hard time fitting the entire house into the frame.

white-house-front

Close enough to zoom in on for an extreme close-up of the architecture accents.

white-house-architecture

Close enough to see the West Wing, where the president spends his days working.

west-wing

The walking path was surrounded by various types of trees, most of which had been planted by previous presidents. Many of them had photos showing who planted them and when. It was cool to see how they had grown. Hillary’s tree has grown up.

hillary-plants-tree

We had a clear view of what the president sees everyday when he looks out the window or steps out the back door: The Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

presidents-view

A look at the presidential putting green on the South Lawn.

putting-green

And the Obama kids’ playground equipment.

playground

The line was endless. Thousands of people must have visited that day.

white-house-visitors

After the initial stroll right past the back door of the White House, we were herded further south, past the beautiful fountain, where it was possible to get photos of the building from a bit further away.

Here’s that fountain surrounded by flowers with the Washington Monument in the background.

flowers-fountain-monument

fountain-flowers

This poor guy on the grass got stuck with the task of trying to move everyone along in a timely fashion, which meant that every 30 seconds he would firmly but politely yell, “Folks, please move that way! Walk towards the band!” What a tedious day he must have had, doing this for something like six hours.

move-along-guy

A closer look at that band, which played patriotic and celebratory tunes.

band

I think this dude was going for some sort of forced perspective shot.

white-house-pose

I went with the victory formation, which has officially become my signature pose.

victory-pose

Park rangers and police patrolled the grounds. Imagine being a park ranger and working not in a wilderness park like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but instead being stationed on the White House lawn.

police-park-ranger

Next, it was on to the vegetable garden. Not far from the veggies sits a beehive. These are the official honeybees of the White House. These mindless insects have no idea they are living on special ground.

white-house-beehive

The garden was beautifully landscaped, with more than a dozen vegetables growing in their own separate boxes.

white-house-kitchen-garden

white-house-garden

The presidential buttercrunch lettuce.

presidential-buttercrunch-l

And peppers of various colors up close.

garden-peppers

Remember when George H. W. Bush refused to eat broccoli? The current first family has no such reservations. But I have to brag – the broccoli in my garden was bigger than this!

broccoli-white-house

Mustard and artichoke? I’ve never known anyone who grew these. Way to get creative, Michelle.

mustard-artichoke

On the way out, we were reminded that we were being watched constantly. Wave to the Secret Service!

hidden-camera

Seeing the White House this close, with a glimpse of the First Dog and the veggies that were planted by the First Lady, was an incredible experience.

You can take part in the next Garden Tour by applying online. Keep an eye on the official White House site for details. The next one takes place in Spring 2013.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

32 comments on “An unforgettable afternoon at the White House with the First Dog and Michelle Obama’s veggies

  1. How cool! We managed to go to the Easter Egg Roll at the White House one year after my husband spent all night waiting in line in the snow and sleet. Even he’ll admit that it was worth it. There’s nothing like being on the White House lawn, is there? (Unless it’s going inside. Which I also got to do. :))

  2. You were super lucky to be there at just the right time! During the Clinton Administration, I took an inside tour of the White House, but had to wait a few hours in line. It was well worth it, however. I also got to see Buddy the dog from a window inside. You got some terrific shots!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Scary in Spain

  3. How lucky to have stumbled upon this! I love reading about the White House garden and the work the First Lady is doing to promote healthy eating and outdoor activity. (Also, Bo is adorable!) Did you know they use the honey from that beehive in the home-brew beer that the White House kitchen crew has been making?

    Awesome pics, thanks for sharing!
    Cassie recently posted..Foto Friday | Galapagos Lava Heron Hunting

    • Oh that’s great info, thanks! I was wondering exactly what the beehive was for, but that makes perfect sense. I wonder how I can get some of this White House beer. That could be my next challenge.

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