On the night of April 14th, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was mortally wounded by a gunshot to the head. The assassin was John Wilkes Booth. The scene of the attack was Ford’s Theatre. Honest Abe would die the next morning inside the back bedroom of the Petersen Boarding House, located across the street from the theater. If you’d like to learn more about the complex and riveting series of events that led to Lincoln’s demise, there’s no better place than the actual historic site!
Ford’s Theatre is still a working playhouse and it’s also a National Park Site. Perhaps you’d like to take your group there for a show? Terrific. The show tickets are very reasonable. This season's shows include A Christmas Carol, Twelve Angry Men, and Into the Woods.
(Learn about Ford's Theatre & Petersen House with our video guide!)
Take our word for it though, you’ll want to make a daytime visit and learn all about the assassination from the excellent ranger staff.
Visiting Ford’s Theatre is a ticketed experience, so if you’re interested in going, it must be organized beforehand. When you arrive, there are different ways to see the theater, depending on the time of day and ticket type.
Most groups visit the downstairs museum first. Here they can peruse an excellent exhibit about Lincoln’s presidency and the events leading up to his assassination. It is filled with amazing artifacts - such as the actual pistol Booth used to slay the 16th president. All groups will get a chance to see the interior of the theater itself and the infamous presidential box where the dastardly deed took place. Sometimes there’s a ranger lecture, other times there’s a ranger present for Q&A.
You have to hold onto your entry tickets because they also gain you admittance to the Petersen House across the street. It is here where Lincoln died and you’ll see the actual bed where he breathed his last. Upon exiting the house, you’re led into further exhibits focused on the aftermath of the assassination.
There’s also a gigantic tower of books to gawk at. Confused? You’ll have to pay a visit if you want to understand.
Nearby Ford’s you can find a number of inexpensive souvenir shops and lunch options. It’s also a stone’s throw from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.
Browse NationsClassroom's Washington, D.C.'s itineraries here.
Originally published July 2018, updated August 2020.