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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Five Places to See Lincoln in Washington, DC

The box where President Lincoln was killed in Ford's Theatre

The box where President Lincoln was killed in Ford’s Theatre

There is no better place to see and experience the ideals of President Abraham Lincoln than in Washington, D.C. To make it simple, and in honor of President Lincoln’s 204th birthday this past Tuesday, here are the five best spots in the nation’s capitol to see, experience, and learn about Abraham Lincoln…

The White House

The White House

5. The White House

President Abraham Lincoln and his family called the White House home for just over four years. So, for any Lincoln enthusiast, how can you go to Washington, D.C. and not make it a point to see the current and former president’s house? It was a priority for me on my visit, and I don’t think you can go wrong with a stop.

A map of the White House and the East Room

A map of the White House and the East Room

I was in particular awe the moment I set foot inside the East Room. I couldn’t believe it, thinking of all of the history that has happened in that one specific room. In terms of Abraham Lincoln, it was where he lay in state following his assassination at nearby Ford’s Theatre. His body was later transported back to his home state of Illinois for burial.

President Lincoln's Life Mask

President Lincoln’s Life Mask

4. The National Portrait Gallery

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln

It is impossible to see all of the Smithsonian Museums in one visit to Washington, D.C. Believe me, I tried. But one place that shouldn’t be missed, especially for Lincoln geeks, is the National Portrait Gallery in the Penn District. It is only blocks off the National Mall, a short walk from Ford’s Theatre, and only a hop, skip, and a jump from the White House. And it houses an incredibly impressive collection of portraits, including those from all of our presidents.

A small display on President Abraham Lincoln at the National Portrait Gallery is particularly impressive. Not only is there a photographic portrait of the president, which was taken a month before his second inauguration, but there is also a life mask of the president’s face and hands on display, done only two months before the president was assassinated. So this is the place, the best one, to come face-to-face, so to speak, with Lincoln’s actual face, how he looked just before he died.

3. The National Museum of American History

The hat Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated

The hat Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated

If the National Museum of American History isn’t the best museum in all of Washington, D.C., then it comes in at photo-finish number two. Everything that is on display here – from General Washington’s Revolutionary War uniform, to the desk the Declaration of Independence was written upon, to a fantastic display on President Lincoln, and much more – makes the trip to town worthwhile all on its own. Combine that with all of the other amazing things to see in the museum, as well as in the city, and you simply can’t go wrong.

There is actually so much to see in the museum that I got lost and had to tweet them for help. Thankfully they’re quick on the keyboard, directing me exactly to where I needed to go to see the items of President Lincoln’s which are on display – The National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery on the second floor. This could all change, though, when the new African American History Museum opens nearby in 2015. But, for now, a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, the hat President Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, and so much more about the president and his public and private lives are on display in the museum.

The gun used to assassinated President Lincoln

The gun used to assassinated President Lincoln

2. Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen House

For any enthusiast of President Abraham Lincoln – take my father, for example, who has probably read all 15,000 books there about the president – you could spend all day between the Ford’s Theatre Museum and the Petersen House. The history of the theatre, and the displays about both the Civil War and the president’s assassination, are second to none. It is, hands down, the best place to learn about the President Lincoln’s time in office and what happened the night he was killed.

The pillow used at the Petersen House for President Lincoln

The pillow used at the Petersen House for President Lincoln

The Petersen House, directly across the street from the theatre, is where Abraham Lincoln was taken for care after John Wilkes Booth shot him on the night of April 14, 1865, while watching the play Our American Cousin. The president died early the next morning, April 15th, in the house. A second museum, which includes more about the president, his time in office, his legacy, and the night of his assassination and the events following, are all on display in the museum.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

1. The Lincoln Memorial

A better place than The Lincoln Memorial, located on the west end of the National Mall, cannot be found to experience the president’s legacy or ideals. All of the deep-seeded ideals of the United States of American are embodied in this one spot, on the steps of the memorial, in its halls. That is why it is such a popular gathering place for visitors and locals alike.

Inside the Lincoln Memorial

Inside the Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is beautiful on a crisp, clear day. The view is impressive, looking out across the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument and on to the U.S. Capitol. But at night, when the crowds have thinned and the lights turned on, I find it to be particularly impressive and inspiring.

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7 Comments on “Five Places to See Lincoln in Washington, DC”

  1. midlifewanderlust1965 February 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    The Lincoln Memorial on 4 July was one of the highlights of my visit to Washington DC.

    • Jason's Travels February 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      Wow. That had to be one heck of an experience. Color me jealous!

  2. The Guy February 15, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Great post Jason. I spent a weekend in Washington last year and really enjoyed the experience; far too little time to really see everything though.

    I didn’t realise they had tours of the White House, do you have to pre-book?

    • Jason's Travels February 15, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Yes. You most definitely need to pre-book White House tours. More on that, though, coming up on President’s Day, Monday.

  3. rayh526@msn.com February 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    The last time I was in the Lincoln Memorial in approx. 1999, I remember starting to tear-up, I was so moved reading his words on the walls.

  4. Cindy March 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Next time: you can now visit Lincoln’s summer cottage. I haven’t been there yet, but it is on my list.

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