An important thing to note is that the Supreme Court is only open on weekdays (not on weekends like many of the other sites in DC), but it’s well worth a visit if you can fit it in.
When you enter on the ground floor, there are exhibits highlighting the construction of the Supreme Court building. Although very interesting, my kids usually quickly skim by these exhibits—so if that’s the case for you, too, keep everyone moving straight back to the end of the hall to watch the movie in one of the two theatres. It’s a 24-minute film (running continuously in the two theatres) that gives you a great overview of what the Justices do and how the judicial process works. I really like how the movie features all of the Justices, helping you become more familiar with them.
Before you watch the movie though, check your watch. If the time is close to the half hour (9:30, 10:30, etc.), I’d first head up to catch the Courtroom Lecture held one floor up in the Courtroom—the only one in the building—where the Supreme Court meets. Attending the lecture is the only way to actually get into the room where the Supreme Court meets. Otherwise, you can only peek in through the door.
The lecture lasts a half hour, and I always find it very interesting. My kids have not always found that to be the case. So you have to evaluate if your kids can sit through a half hour of talking so you can all go inside this amazing room where so much living history is happening. Every time we’ve gone, we’ve attended the lecture because I hope that the solemnity and grandeur of the Courtroom will impress my children, and then when the lecture is over, I discuss what I thought was interesting with them.
Currently they are working on an activity page or pamphlet geared for kids to explore the Supreme Court better. I can’t wait to see it—they said it should be out by Fall or Winter of 2014—so ask at the visitor desk.