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Exterior view of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site and the new Ford’s Theatre lobby.
Exterior view of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site and the new Ford’s Theatre lobby.
 

Family-Friendly Attractions from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era

Help your kids discover the city's history in two history-altering eras.

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From interactive tours to surprisingly exciting exhibits, families will find educational experiences that teach the lessons of the Civil War and civil rights eras in an accessible way.

1. National Museum of American History: Kids will marvel at the treasures housed in this must-see museum, including the chairs that Generals Lee and Grant sat in during the surrender at Appomattox and Abe Lincoln’s top hat.

2. Lincoln Memorial: This classic DC sight, featuring a 19-foot Abraham Lincoln, is a perfect photo op.

3. The Presidents Gallery by Madame Tussauds: Get up close and personal and pose for photos with figures from the Civil War era and the civil rights movement, including Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

4. Navy Yard & Navy Museum: Naval history comes to life at this hands-on museum, where kids can peer into a real-life periscope. The Navy Yard played a pivotal role in the defense of Washington and also housed the Lincoln assassination conspirators before they were executed.

5. International Spy Museum: Kids can’t resist this high-tech and interactive attraction, where you’ll also find displays dedicated to Civil War espionage.

6. Lincoln Assassination Tours: Take your teens on a City Segway tour that travels past the locations where the conspirators sought vengeance and learn about the characters that played a part in that fateful night. Younger kids will enjoy the “History on Foot” walking tours offered by Ford’s Theatre, where costumed characters take on the roles of Mary Todd Lincoln’s confidante and the detective that pursued John Wilkes Booth.

7. Ford’s Theatre: Engaging Park Rangers relate the events of the night of Lincoln’s assassination through ongoing interpretive talks. You can also catch a family-friendly play or musical in the performance space, or check out the interactive museum located on site. The new Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership also houses additional kid-friendly artifacts.

8. Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery: Housed in the building that served as the site of Lincoln’s second inaugural ball, these downtown museums boast an impressive collection of kid-friendly art, including a complete collection of presidential portraits.

9. C&O Canal: Prior to the arrival of the railroad, the C&O Canal was used to transport provisions to the west. During the war, soldiers often came here to bathe and carouse. Today the path is popular for active Washingtonians and it's the perfect place for a family bike ride.

10. National Museum of Health & Medicine: The collection of mind-boggling medical marvels and oddities—including Civil War-era artifacts like General Daniel Sickles’ leg bone and the bullet that killed Lincoln—is certain to appeal to young visitors.

Housed in a historic building in Penn Quarter, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are home to thousands of art works, including the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside The White House
Housed in a historic building in Penn Quarter, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are home to thousands of art works, including the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside The White House
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