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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.