Washington DC is the perfect place for history enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the rich history of our country. The Ford’s Theatre tour in Washington DC, in particular, takes guests through the life, leadership, and ultimate assassination by John Wilkes Booth of our 16th president, President Abraham Lincoln. This three-hour tour should not be missed while visiting Washington DC!
Last year, my husband Kaleb and I took a road trip to Washington DC. I had been there as a child, but it was Kaleb’s first visit. After driving through Ohio and Pennsylvania (and later returning through Shenandoah National Park and Luray Caverns), we arrived in Washington DC for several days visiting the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, the Spy Museum, and more.
Hands down my favorite activity in Washington DC was the Ford’s Theatre tour! Of course, it was a solemn topic. But the story of Lincoln’s positive impact on our world was inspiring!
Where is the Ford’s Theatre? Where Was Lincoln Shot? Where is the Ford’s Theatre Tour?
Ford’s Theatre is in downtown Washington DC, just a few blocks north of the National Museum of Natural History and a few blocks east of the White House.
The Ford’s Theater tour called “Historic Site Visit” takes visitors through the museum below Ford’s Theatre, then into the theater where President Lincoln was assassinated, and then across the street where President Lincoln fought for his life and eventually passed away at the Petersen House.
It is important to check your tickets before purchasing. A few of the “Historic Site Visit” tours do not actually go through Ford’s Theatre but just tour the Petersen House and Aftermath exhibits across the street. Make sure you get the tickets you want!
Ford’s Theatre Address: 511 Tenth Street, NW, Washington DC 20004
Is Ford’s Theater Where Lincoln Was Assassinated by John Wilkes Booth? Why Was Lincoln Assassinated?
Yes! John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln on April 14, 1865, while he was visiting the theatre with his wife, Mary.
The two were spending some quality time together after a hard few years including losing their son and leading the country through a very bloody war. The Civil War was coming to an end, and Lincoln and his wife were glad to be in a better place again.
While watching the comedic play, Our American Cousin, at Ford’s Theatre, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in the back of the head from close range.
Booth was a Confederate who was deeply saddened by the fall of the Confederate Army to the Union. He was especially angry at Lincoln’s views on voter rights for blacks .
Is the Historic Ford’s Theatre Tour Kid-Friendly?
Yes and no.
I think this would be a great place to take older kids who have learned or are learning about President Lincoln.
Younger kids could get bored easily, as not much of the museum is interactive. There is a lot of reading plaques and listening to informative talks with the rangers (as Ford’s Theatre is managed by the National Park System since it is a National Historic Site).
I do not remember seeing anything graphically depicting Lincoln’s wound. But, of course, parents would want to be confident their child could handle a conversation on an assassination.
Historic Ford’s Theatre Tickets
Tickets to Ford’s Theatre are very reasonably priced(!) and available online. At the time of writing this post (2023), tickets are $3.50 per person!
It is best if you plan to buy them online as tour times fill up fast. A walk-in may not be able to join the tour at their desired tour time. I arrived 30 minutes before my tour time; there were already several families lined up ahead of me for our tour time.
How Long is the Tour?
The full tour will take about 2-3 hours. As mentioned above, there are a few options for tours, some of which don’t go to the theatre (just the house and museum across the street), so make sure you pick the one you actually want.
You may also want to make some time for the gift shop. I’m not usually one to buy souvenirs, but the gift shop not only had several magnets, shirts, etc. It also had books on Lincoln that you could buy. After being immersed in the inspiring story of President Abraham Lincoln’s life, you may be like me and want to buy every book in the store! Lol. Plan time to at least look around.
Ford’s Theatre Tour
Ford’s Theatre Tour: Museum Highlighting Lincoln’s Life and Successes
At your assigned tour time, you’ll be shuffled down to the basement of the theatre to spend 30 minutes or so learning about the life of Lincoln. Here, Lincoln’s amazing leadership during the Civil War is highlighted. Visitors will leave with a great appreciation for Lincoln and his desire to unite our country during a very divided time in history.
Ford’s Theatre Tour: Theater
Next, visitors will head upstairs to the theatre. Inside Ford’s Theatre guests will listen to a very informative speech on the life and assassination of President Lincoln. The guide will point out exactly where Lincoln was shot and give a Lincoln assassination timeline. The guide will then ask for any questions.
This was my favorite time of the tour! The guide (also a national park ranger because Ford’s Theatre is managed by the National Park System) was so knowledgeable!
Worth noting, the theatre has been renovated since the assassination, so guests will not get a perfect representation of the layout of the room. However, Lincoln’s presidential box where he was assassinated is still there and the room overall is very similar.
However, Lincoln’s rocking chair is no longer at the theatre. (More on that below)
Ford’s Theatre Tour: Petersen House
The Petersen House, where President Lincoln was rushed for medical attention, is across the street from Ford’s Theater.
Inside the home, you will tour the room where President Lincoln received medical care. Several doctors who were in the audience that night tried their best to save him. But President Lincoln passed away just nine hours later on April 15th.
When I toured, I remember the tour guide mentioning that he was so tall his feet hung over the end of the bed!
Ford’s Theatre Tour: Aftermath Exhibit Highlighting Lincoln’s Funeral and John Wilkes Booth’s Escape and Capture
After touring the Petersen house, the Ford’s Theatre tour sends guests to “The Aftermath Exhibit”. Here, visitors can learn more about the days following Lincoln’s assassination.
While many Americans were not always happy with the decisions Lincoln made, they knew he cared deeply for the country and fought hard to preserve unity and give freedom to slaves. People flocked to Washington DC to pay their respects. Even those who disagreed with Lincoln’s choices were deeply saddened by the news. He had eleven(!) additional funeral services in the days following .
John Wilkes Booth, on the other hand, was realizing not as many people wanted Lincoln dead as he thought. In fact, Booth was determined he would be seen as a hero for killing the president. But it didn’t take long for him to realize that was very much not the case! Booth was found hiding in a tobacco barn and died during the struggle to seize him.
Lastly, the Ford’s Theatre tour shuffles guests down through the gift shop on their way out. I was amazed by this book tree! Every book in the tree was written about Abraham Lincoln!
Stone, Tanya Lee. DK Biography: Abraham Lincoln. DK Pub., 2005.
Buy this great reference guide on Abraham Lincoln here!
My Favorite Parts of the Ford’s Theatre Tour
My favorite part of Ford’s Theatre tour in Washington DC was being immersed in the life of one of our greatest presidents. President Lincoln did so much to bring unity to our country! While I wish he had truly seen the need for equality for blacks (and maybe he did toward the very end of his life), he helped the country make great strides in the right direction!
I also learned a lot about John Wilkes Booth on this tour! How did he know where Lincoln would be? How did he have such close access to our 16th president? How did he escape? I won’t give away the whole story. But it is definitely one worth learning while at Ford’s Theatre!
Where is Lincoln’s Chair? Where is the Chair Used During Lincoln’s Assassination? Is There Blood on Lincoln’s Chair?
You may be wondering, where’s the chair Lincoln sat in when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre. Well, it’s not in Ford’s Theatre anymore! It’s actually on permanent display in the indoor section of the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. We saw the blood on the chair when we visited.
We LOVED the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI! It’s also where we sat on the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, went into the courthouse where Lincoln practiced law, and explored Thomas Edison’s laboratory!
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Restaurants Around Ford’s Theatre in DC
Anyone who follows this blog knows I eat gluten-free and dairy-free and often try to share suggestions in the area for those who follow a similar diet. Historic Ford’s Theatre is just a few blocks away from Seoul Spice, a 100% gluten-free Korean fast food restaurant.
We loved dropping by Seoul Spice for lunch before heading out to explore more of DC (in this case, The Spy Museum!).
Additionally, I wrote a post on gluten-free and dairy-free restaurants around DC that you may want to check out! Or, the post on Chicago to DC road trips offers several gluten-free and dairy-free restaurants along the way to DC through the Midwest.
Summary of Ford’s Theatre Tour
The Ford’s Theatre tour in Washington DC honors the life of President Lincoln, the last moments of a president both loved by most and hated by others, and the days following his death as the world mourned. Anyone who loves history should visit this historic landmark!