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11 Ways to Celebrate the JFK Centennial in Washington, DC

John F. Kennedy Bust in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Theaters and Performing Arts Centers in Washingtno, DC

The Kennedy Center and other DC locales honor the 35th president’s 100th birthday

John F. Kennedy promoted the ideals of courage, freedom, justice, service and gratitude, spreading a notion of empowerment during his time as commander-in-chief.

Born on May 29, 1917, Kennedy’s 100th birthday is just around the corner, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has been celebrating all year long with unique performances inspired by his legacy. We’ve also detailed several additional ways you can celebrate JFK in the District this spring and summer.

Events at the Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center Millennium Stage Washington DC

Millennium Stage – Daily
The Kennedy Center is considered a “living memorial” to John F. Kennedy, and his ideals of freedom and gratitude are something you can celebrate at the Millennium Stage 24-7, 365. Every day of the week at 6 p.m., the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage hosts a different free performance or event, including local, national and global acts ranging from dance and theater to storytelling and music.
6 p.m. | Free

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@endave - John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Foggy Bottom - Theater in Washington, DC

National Symphony Orchestra: John F. Kennedy Centennial Celebration with Yo-Yo Ma – May 24
Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most successful musicians in the world, a cellist with more name recognition than most in the classical music genre. He’ll join the National Symphony Orchestra in honoring John F. Kennedy during this one-time-only concert. The Orchestra’s composer-in-residence, Mason Bates, will also debut a new program during the performance.
8 p.m. |  Tickets

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The Washington Ballet Presents ‘Frontier’ – May 25-27 - JFK Centennial Performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

The Washington Ballet Presents ‘Frontier’ – May 25-27
The Washington Ballet’s Artistic Director, Julie Kent, will present her first-ever commissioned work during this Kennedy Center production. Kent’s piece is heavily inspired by President Kennedy and his desire to make America an artistic, cultural and intellectual power, including his determination for the U.S. to be the first country to put a man on the moon. Choreographer Ethan Stiefel actually met with members of NASA to discuss space travel, so movements will be inspired by the concept of "zero gravity." Another unique aspect: the lead astronauts will be played by women. This production will also feature pieces choreographed by Antony Tudor and Sir Frederick Ashton.

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John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Theaters and Performing Arts Centers in Washington, DC

Kennedy Center Open House: Celebrating JFK at 100 – May 27
The Kennedy Center’s doors open wide for this day full of free performances that will feature street art, hip-hop, skateboard culture and the classic and contemporary arts, all in one place. Dance troupes will show off their skills, a skate park and music stage will be open on the plaza and a UK spoken word artist will perform. The National Memorial Day Choral Festival will also take place in the Concert Hall.
12 p.m. |  Free admission

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@anapedroso - John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Foggy Bottom - Theater in Washington, DC

JFK Centennial Celebration – May 29
The Opera House at the Kennedy Center plays host to this grand finale celebration, held on the actual day of JFK’s 100th birthday. The large-scale show will be studded with stars and will honor the ideals of President Kennedy in spectacular fashion. More program details for this free performance will come at a later date.
7:30 p.m. |  Free admission

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Other DC Activities

John F. Kennedy Wax Figure at Madame Tussauds Washington, DC - Things to Do in Washington, DC

The Presidents Gallery at Madame Tussauds – Ongoing
The DC outpost of the famous British museum features patriotic wax figures, including John F. Kennedy and every other U.S. president. You and yours can pose for pictures with each and every prez, as well as try out the Commander-in-Chief’s seat in a replica of the Oval office. The family-friendly exhibit includes fun facts about each POTUS as well.

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John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and Gravesite - Arlington National Cemetery - Landmarks Near Wahshington, DC

Pay tribute at the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery – Ongoing
The Eternal Flame rests at the gravesite of the 35th U.S. president, located inside Arlington National Cemetery. JFK is one of only two presidents buried at the cemetery – the other is William Howard Taft. The flame rests at the head of the grave, using natural gas and a special design to ensure that it is always burning. The touching scene is a powerful reminder of Kennedy’s immense historical impact.

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John F. Kennedy Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery America's Presidents Exhibit - Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC

‘America’s Presidents’ at the National Portrait Gallery – March 24 – Sept. 4
The National Portrait Gallery is the only place outside of the White House that is home to official portraits of every Commander-in-Chief. With the official gallery dedicated to American presidents currently under renovation, this temporary display will live in the west gallery’s second floor through Sept. 4 (the restored gallery will re-open Sept. 22). William F. Draper’s portrait of JFK is one of the standouts.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free admission
National Portrait Gallery, 8th and F Streets NW, Washington, DC 20001

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President John F. Kennedy with Peace Corps Volunteers - JFK Centennial

Celebrate at the National Archives – April 28 – Oct. 11
The National Archives features programming honoring John F. Kennedy well into the summer, from an exhibit on JFK creating the Peace Corps to a career fair for students to screenings of American Experience: JFK, a documentary on the great man’s life. On June 15, the museum’s William G. McGowan Theater will host a musical celebration including the Air Force Strings. You can also follow@USNatArchives on Instagram for special #JFK100 posts, and use the hashtag for our own favorite photos and moments while honoring the centennial!
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |  Free admission
National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20408

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‘American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times’ – May 3 – Sept. 17 - Celebrate the JFK Centennial in Washington, DC

‘American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times’ – May 3 – Sept. 17
Before JFK, no politician had been photographed with such frequency. This new exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum pulls from several libraries to showcase the incredible life that Kennedy had, from his war hero days to his tragic death in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Some photos in the display are iconic, while some have never been seen in public before. The exhibit is based on the forthcoming book, JFK: A Vision for America.
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Free admission
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F Streets NW, Washington, DC 20001

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‘Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe’ – Opens Sept. 29
Newseum brings back one of its most popular exhibits in honor of JFK’s 100th birthday. More than 70 images from the Kennedys’ personal photographer, Jacques Lowe, will be on display. Lowe’s photos created the legend of the Kennedy presidency known as “Camelot,” showcasing the public and private life of one of America’s most famous families in intimate detail. The images have been restored for ultimate quality and resolution.
Hours & Admission
Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001

Interested in other U.S. presidents? Read up on some of our favorite presidential experiences.