Updated July 7, 2020.
One of the things I wanted to do most when I first moved to D.C. nearly 12 years ago was to tour Ford’s Theatre! I have a passion for history, and Ford’s has a permanent place in local and world history. If you didn’t already know, it’s the place where President Lincoln was shot just days after the Civil War officially ended.
There are actually four parts to the museum included in the Ford’s Theatre tour experience: Ford’s Theatre Museum, Ford’s Theatre Ranger Talk in the Theatre, The Petersen House, and the Aftermath Museum. Plan to spend an hour and a half to two hours to explore all four!
511 10th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Drive: If you choose to drive, there are at least four parking garages within a block of the Theatre. You may find street parking, but have a parking garage in mind for a back-up plan. Find parking options here.
Metro: You can get to Ford’s Theatre from every Metro line. Metro Center is just three blocks away on the Red, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines. The Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro is also three blocks away on the Red, Yellow, and Green lines!
Need a Metro Briefing? Read Your Guide to D.C.’s Metro System!
Here are the top things to know about touring Ford’s Theatre:
- The daily schedule for tours can vary, since Ford’s is a working theatre. Check their daily schedules here.
- The Box Office is open daily 8:30-5:00pm.
- Timed entry begins at 9:00am and runs every half hour until 4:30pm.
- You can get tickets the same day or in advance.
- The tour is self-guided, but audio guides are available for $5.00 each.
Same Day Walk-up Tickets
You can get day-of tickets at the box office inside. Tickets are for timed entry, so you may have to leave and come back later for entry to the museum. But best of all, walk-up tickets are FREE!
Advance and Group Tickets
You can get advance and group tour tickets on the Ford’s Theatre website. Advance tickets are $3.00 each. Ford’s recommends getting advance tickets during the high season months of March-July.
Ford’s Theatre Museum Highlights
When you get your ticket you’ll head down the ramp to the museum in the basement of the Theatre. The museum walks you through the build-up of the Civil War, the people who knew Lincoln, and of course, Lincoln himself.
The most interesting parts of the museum, to me, are the actual gun that John Wilkes Booth used to shoot Lincoln, and the timeline of events on Lincoln’s last day—for both Lincoln and Booth.
Ford’s Theatre Ranger Talk
This was by far my favorite part of the Ford’s Theatre Tour experience. Self-guided tours have their benefits, but there’s no substitute for being able to ask questions and talk with a real person with a working knowledge of the subject! As long as there is not a performance or rehearsal happening, you will be able to sit in the Theatre and talk to a National Park Service Ranger.
And don’t miss your chance to peek into the Presidential Box for yourself!
The Petersen House Highlights
Whether or not there is a performance at the Theatre, you can always tour the Petersen House* and the Aftermath Museum, right across 10th Street. This is the house where Lincoln was taken after he was shot, and where he died. The blood-stained pillow he died on is in the Ford’s Theatre Museum, but the room where he died is on display. Unfortunately, none of the furniture inside is original to the house, but the period pieces inside will give you an idea of how the house may have looked at the time of Lincoln’s death.
*The Petersen House will be closed for restoration January and February 2020 for preservation.
Fun Fact: The Petersen House is the first building ever purchased by the United States government specifically for preservation purposes! The government bought it in the 1890s and the National Park Service has interpreted the home as a museum since 1933.
The Aftermath Museum Highlights
From the Petersen House you’ll be led into the Aftermath Museum, which explains the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, the funeral, and the months and years following the assassination. You’ll have the opportunity to walk through a replica of the funeral train, see the final photograph of Lincoln, and learn about the route John Wilkes Booth took from Maryland to Virginia in his attempt to escape.
Seeing a Show at Ford’s Theatre
Touring Ford’s Theatre is a must for history lovers and theatre lovers alike, but what’s even better than that? Seeing a show! They perform A Christmas Carol every year, but I’ve also seen Hello, Dolly! here, and I was fortunate enough to see The Heavens are Hung in Black, an original play created for Ford’s Theatre’s grand re-opening in 2009 after extensive renovations. Every performance at Ford’s Theatre is excellent, so if they will be performing something you like while you’re in town, don’t miss an opportunity to see it here! Click here for their performance schedule.
Need more ideas for tours to take, restaurants to try, and insider info? Take a look at my Washington, D.C. Page!
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