Tourists get their Capitol tour tickets in the Capitol Visitor Center.
The center also trains Congressional staff to lead their own tours. So far this year, the CVC has trained more than 800 staffers in four-hour sessions. The staffers receive a manual that guides them through the recommended tour path and gives them talking points, from the statues on display to the construction of the Capitol.
“When people don’t know what something is, they tend to get a little creative with their explanations,” Fontana said. “The handbooks help prevent that.”
For the Capitol Police, the start of tourist season doesn’t necessarily mean beefing up security, spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said.
Since the force needs to be prepared to deal with crowds at all times, whether it’s a group of demonstrators or tourists, the Capitol Police department remains flexible with placement of officers.
“It’s just routine for us to deal with large crowds,” she said.
Over at the Library of Congress, the way to deal with the bigger crowds is to add more docents to give tours, said Giulia Adelfio, head of the LOC’s visitor services. Much like the CVC, it’s all about making sure there are enough staff members to deal with the crowds. Since the CVC’s opening, the LOC has experienced a 40 percent increase in traffic. Last year brought in 1.7 million visitors. More than 1 million of those came through the Thomas Jefferson Building, which is connected to the CVC by tunnel.
Adelfio said she believes this increase is because people don’t have to go through an additional security check if they come to the LOC from the CVC.
“We’ve made it easier, so they want to stay,” she said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.