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3-Day Lincoln Memorial Centennial Itinerary

Celebrate the Lincoln Memorial Centennial with events going on throughout May

Celebrate the Lincoln Memorial Centennial with events going on throughout May

Experience this special itinerary the weekend of May 20-22, 2022

Washington, DC welcomed the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 1922. This May, the National Park Service commemorates its 100-year anniversary with a Centennial Celebration. One of the nation’s most recognizable and visited landmarks, the Memorial has served as a powerful backdrop for inauguration events, demonstrations and civil rights marches. Honor the legacy of Abraham Lincoln with a three-day tour itinerary highlighting his life and accomplishments, completed in partnership with the National Park Service National Mall and Memorial Parks

Accommodation Idea: Follow in Lincoln’s footsteps during your DC visit with a stay at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. Due to an assassination plot at a Baltimore train station, Abraham Lincoln was secretly smuggled into the Willard Hotel on February 23, 1861, arriving early in the morning. He left The Willard at noon, March 4, en route to the Capitol to attend his first Inauguration.

Day 1 – Friday, May 20, 2022

Morning

Take a walk along Pennsylvania Avenue to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building and the site of Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address. Be sure to circle the entire building as Lincoln’s Inauguration occurred on the East front. Enjoy a self-led tour or a guided experience with the United States Capitol Historical Society. Currently, tours inside the building must be requested through your Congressperson and are limited in size and availability.

Take a stroll down the National Mall to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The museum holds several Lincoln artifacts of note, including the inkstand Lincoln used to draft the Emancipation Proclamation, his top hat, as well as information on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Afternoon

Get your photo op at The White House before traveling through Lafayette Park to historic St. John’s Church. Known as “the church of presidents,” Abraham Lincoln attended services here a few times, most notably with William Seward on Feb. 24, 1861. He would often sit in the back of the church unnoticed by the congregation, and the pew he often used is still there. The church is currently closed but can still be viewed from the outside.

Take the opportunity this day to marvel at the Washington Monument. On July 4, 1848, Congressman Abraham Lincoln attended the laying of the cornerstone ceremony for the Washington Monument. Also, in attendance, was his future Vice President: Congressman Andrew Johnson. You can ride the elevator to the top, but be sure to get tickets in advance. Don’t forget to fit in other monuments and memorials along the National Mall including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial along the Tidal Basin.

Evening

Many ghost stories surround the Lincoln family. If you are up for some tales, join Fiat Luxe Tours on its Haunted Georgetown Tour. The tour begins at Oak Hill Cemetery, where Abe’s beloved son Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in February of 1862 in space loaned to the family in the Carroll family crypt. President Lincoln visited his tomb several times, and after the assassination, Willie was disinterred, and his remains accompanied his father’s back to Illinois.

Other options include ghost tours back at Lafayette Park, where Lincoln is said to roam, with DC Ghosts or Ghost City Tours. Or you can opt to chase Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, through DC on Ford’s Theatre’s Detective McDevitt Walking Tour.

Day 2 – Saturday, May 21, 2022

Morning

Journey outside the downtown core and step closer into the Civil War at Fort Stevens. On July 11-12, 1864, Confederate forces attacked this fort on their assault of Washington, DC. Abraham Lincoln visited the fort on July 12, and there became one of only two presidents to have come under a military enemy’s fire while in office.

Take refuge just as Lincoln did with a tour of President Lincoln’s Cottage. Located near the Petworth neighborhood, Lincoln took his family to this site only three miles north of the White House to escape the diseased downtown marshland with its mosquitos and plethora of foul smells. It was at the cottage where he wrote the principal portions of the Emancipation Proclamation, which transformed the war into a cause and fight to set other men free. Today, this land is also home to the Old Soldier’s Retirement Home.

Afternoon

On your route back downtown, make a stop at the famed U Street, once known as "Black Broadway" for its theaters and nightlife. In this neighborhood, you will find the African American Civil War Memorial and accompanying museum. The memorial was dedicated under the leadership of Dr. Frank Smith Jr. and Colin Powell and serves as tribute to the United States Colored Troops. The wall lists the names of 209,145 USCT who fought for freedom during the American Civil War. The related museum just across the street commemorates the African American soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Round out your afternoon with a stop to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Known as the U.S. Patent office during the Civil War, this was also where Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Ball was held on March 6, 1865, which was fitting since Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. President to hold a patent (for a device he invented to lift boats over shoals). Make sure to visit Lincoln's portrait in the President’s Gallery exhibit.

Clara Barton was also a clerk at the Patent office. If time permits, be sure to visit the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum. In 1865, Barton hired a staff and opened the Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army in this building. Barton took up the cause of grieving parents, family and friends whose husbands, sons, brothers, and neighbors were missing. By the time the office closed in 1868, she and her staff had identified the fate of over 22,000 men. 

Evening

Your night has two Lincoln-themed opportunities. The first is to take in a show at the National Theatre, just as Lincoln did. During his time as President, Abraham Lincoln attended at least 17 plays at the New National Theatre, managed by Leonard Grover. He saw Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth's more famous brother, act there in a series of Shakespearean performances. On April 14, 1865, 12-year-old Tad Lincoln was watching the play Aladdin or His Wonderful Lamp at Grover’s Theatre, when it was announced that his father had been shot. Tad was escorted to the Executive Mansion, where he said to the doorkeeper, “Tom Pen, Tom Pen, they’ve killed papa dead.” Today the National Theatre is home to pre-Broadway premieres, traveling Broadway shows and other acts to enjoy.

If sports are more your speed, head over to the Navy Yard neighborhood for a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Park. Each game after the fourth inning, fans are encouraged to cheer for their favorite Racing President. On your visit, make sure to root for Abe!

Day 3 – Sunday, May 22, 2022

Morning

Ford’s Theatre takes you through the events leading up to Lincoln’s assassination. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln and his wife Mary went to the theater as celebrations of the end of the Civil War filled DC. Actor John Wilkes Booth waited until Act 3, Scene 2 of the play Our American Cousin, when one of the funniest lines of the play was delivered by actor Harry Hawk. Then, while the audience roared with laughter, Booth stepped forward into the President’s Box and shot President Abraham Lincoln at point blank range in the back of the head. The President slumped forward as if he was sleeping, never again to regain consciousness. Take time to walk through the museum, where you can view the dreadful gun, before entering the theater itself.

Your ticket gains you entry to another part of the Ford’s Theatre complex, the Petersen’s Boarding House across the street. Amid the chaos of the assassination, soldiers and doctors carried Abraham Lincoln out of Ford’s Theatre onto 10th Street. One of the Petersen House borders, Henry Safford, saw the commotion from his room, came out onto the stoop and yelled, “Bring him in here!” They placed the President on the back bed where he died nine hours after he was shot. Your journey then takes you through the Center for Education and Leadership to earn of the manhunt for Booth as well as how Lincoln’s legacy lives on.

Afternoon

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Washington Monument in background

Nearby the theatre sits the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Although not officially members, Abraham Lincoln and his family regularly attended church here, where you can still sit in the Lincoln family pew and see his hitching post outside. The Church’s minister Reverend Gurley was by Lincoln’s side when he died and gave the eulogy for both Willie and America's 16th President. Lincoln said, “I like Dr. Gurley, he doesn’t preach politics. I get plenty of that throughout the week, and when I go to church, I like to hear the gospel.”

Don’t miss out on making a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum leads you through the United States 400 years of slavery, including the Civil War, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the journey towards the 13th Amendment which made slavery illegal. Be sure to plan in advance, as this museum still requires advance tickets.

Evening

Lincoln Memorial at Night

The Centennial Celebration culminates in a Lincoln Memorial Rededication Ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. The Lincoln Group of DC, in partnership with the National Park Service, will hold a “rededication ceremony” at the Lincoln Memorial to highlight the full range of meaning behind the Lincoln Memorial, from its original meaning as a memorial to Lincoln’s life and contribution as savior of the Union to becoming a symbol of civil rights. Participants will include Lincoln historian Harold Holzer; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, noted Lincoln scholar from Howard University; Dr. Charlotte Morris, president of Tuskegee University; and actor Steven Lang of Avatar, Gettysburg and Gods and Generals fame. The ceremony will also include musical accompaniment from the United States Marine Quintet and singer/actress Felicia Curry, who recently played Marian Anderson at the Ford’s Theatre production of My Lord, What a Night.