Ford’s Theatre is one of those gold-star destinations for history lovers. It’s the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, which changed the course of American history.
Ford’s Theatre is located in the heart of downtown Washington D.C., just a few blocks from the most popular monuments and museums. Ford’s Theatre was renovated and reopened in 2009, so the exhibits are all new, with up-to-date exhibits and technology.
I recommend Ford’s Theatre for families with school age children. It’s a great educational destination. Young children probably won’t get much out of it, but they are welcome. You can move through the exhibits at your own pace.
Ask about the FREE Junior Ranger program for kids ages 5-12 when you arrive. It’s a great way to help kids get more out of the exhibits and they will receive a souvenir gold badge at the end.
There is no charge to visit Ford’s Theatre. However, the museum is not large, so all visitors over the age of 2 must have a timed ticket. There are two ways to get your ticket.
First, get free same-day tickets anytime after 8:30 a.m. Our hotel was just around the corner from Ford’s Theatre, so my husband picked up our tickets first thing on the day we planned to visit. He had no trouble getting four tickets for our preferred time on a summer weekday.
Second, you can reserve your tickets at www.fords.org for $3 each. This is the best option if your schedule is not flexible or you can’t stop by the theatre early for same-day tickets.
Either way, check the calendar at www.fords.org before you go. The schedule varies and parts of Ford’s Theatre may not be open for all ticket times. If the theatre walkthrough is not available, pick another time.
Your first stop at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is the museum. Depending on your level of interest in the Lincoln Assassination, it will take you anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour to explore the exhibits.
My children (ages 9 and 12) did like the museum. However, the rest of my family was ready to move on before I was.
The gun that John Wilkes Booth used to kill Abraham Lincoln and the clothes that Lincoln was wearing that night are on display, among other artifacts. The museum is a great place for adults and children to learn about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth and the circumstances that led to Lincoln’s Assassination on April 14, 1865.
Next, walk up to the theatre. Feel free to walk around and take photos. The President’s Box where Abraham Lincoln was shot is easy to spot. You cannot go inside the box, but you can get close to it.
Stick around for a Ranger Talk if you can. The National Park Ranger who spoke on the day of our visit was an excellent storyteller. It was fascinating to hear about the Lincoln assassination where it happened.
The wounded president was carried across the street to a private home – now known as the Peterson House. Abraham Lincoln was so tall that he had to be laid diagonally across the bed. He died there a few hours later.
Today, visitors can follow his path across the street and tour the Peterson House. The space is small and there may be a line.
The final exhibits at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site explore the aftermath of the Lincoln assassination. Find out how the nation mourned and learn what happened to John Wilkes Booth and his associates. This section of the site also explores Lincoln’s legacy and his impact on today’s history and culture.
See a play at Ford’s Theatre
You can still see plays at Ford’s Theatre! How cool is that? One Destiny is performed from March-July. It is a 35-minute examination of Lincoln’s assassination from the perspective of two people who were there.
Ford’s Theatre also has a regular theatre season. Visit www.fords.org to find out what will be on stage during your visit.
Good to Know
When: Open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Schedule may vary.
How Much: FREE, but timed tickets are required for ages 2+. Same day tickets are available beginning at 8:30 a.m. You can reserve tickets for $3 each at www.fords.org.
How Long: 1-3 hours
Amenities: Restrooms, gift shop. Ford’s Theatre is wheelchair accessible, but limited space and stairs make Ford’s Theatre tricky for strollers.
How else can we help?
Need a place to stay? We stayed at Hotel Harrington, just around the corner from Ford’s Theatre. This 100-year-old hotel isn’t for everyone, but the price and location are hard to beat. Check rates and reviews for Hotel Harrington and other downtown Washington D.C. hotels at TripAdvisor or Booking.com.
What’s nearby? Ford’s Theatre is in the heart of Washington DC. It’s a block from the International Spy Museum, which is really fun for families. It’s also within a couple of blocks of the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Madame Tussaud’s.
Both the International Spy Museum and Madame Tussaud’s are included in the Washington DC Explorer Pass.