History is a huge part of the Washington, D.C. culture. Museums, monuments, and even theaters all play an important roll in exploring the American experience. You won’t find a better example than at Ford’s Theatre, the site of President Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth.
In our effort to highlight all of the best museums in Washington, D.C, we spoke with Lauren Beyea, Associate Director of Communication and Marketing at the Ford’s Theatre. She is sharing what makes this museum and performance space a premier destination in Washington, D.C., why you should visit, and what you need to know before you go.
Where is the Ford’s Theatre located?
Location: 511 Tenth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20004
Ford’s Theatre Metro Stops
- Red, Blue, Orange and Silver Lines
- Metro Center: Red, Blue, Orange and Silver Lines
- Chinatown/Gallery Place: Red, Green and Yellow Lines
- Archives/Navy Memorial: Yellow and Green Lines
- Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro
Bike to Ford’s Theatre
Capital Bikeshare pick up and drop off kiosks are located around the corner from Ford’s Theatre.
Ford’s Theatre Parking Garage
Some of the best parking in the city can be found under Ford’s Theatre. It’s centrally located and you can claim a spot on a number of Washington DC apps, like Spothero and ParkingPanda.
- Parking Garage Address: 950 F Street, NW (Entrance on 10th Street; elevator directly to theatre lobby)
What topics does the Ford’s Theatre cover?
The site of the April 14, 1865, assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Ford’s Theatre is a working theatre, historical monument, world-class museum and learning center. Through its moving and dynamic theatrical productions, live historic interpretation and engaging educational programs, Ford’s Theatre is the premier destination in the nation’s capital for all audiences to explore and celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s ideals and leadership principles.
Since reopening to the public in 1968, Ford’s Theatre has operated through a public-private partnership between the not-for-profit Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service.
The Aftermath Exhibits at the Center for Education and Leadership (opened February 2012) bring the values and ideals of Lincoln from the past into the present, examining the immediate aftermath of Lincoln’s death and his multi-faceted legacy. Housed in a building directly across the street from the historic theatre, the Center features:
- 34-foot tower sculpture of Lincoln books
- Two floors of permanent exhibits
- Leadership Gallery floor for rotating exhibits, lecture and reception space
- Two floors of education studios to house pre- and post-visit workshops, after-school programs and teacher professional development
- Distance-learning lab outfitted with state-of-the-art technology that allows Ford’s Theatre to engage students and teachers nationwide and around the world.
What is the Ford Theatre’s claim to fame?
One of the most visited sites in the nation’s capital, Ford’s Theatre reopened its doors in 1968, more than a hundred years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Ford’s Theatre Society was founded under the guidance of executive producer Frankie Hewitt. During her 35-year tenure, Hewitt established Ford’s as a living, working theatre producing performances that highlighted the diversity of the American experience.
Ford’s Theatre Performances Today
Since the arrival of Paul R. Tetreault as Director, critics and the theatre going public have recognized Ford’s for the superior quality of its artistic programming.
Each holiday season the theatre offers visitors the opportunity to see A Christmas Carol, bringing Charles Dickens’ beloved characters to the main stage. With works from the Tony-nominated Come From Away to the nationally acclaimed Big River, Ford’s Theatre is making its mark on the American theatre landscape.
World premieres at the Ford’s Theatre, include:
- Meet John Doe
- The Heavens Are Hung In Black
- Liberty Smith
- Necessary Sacrifices
- The Widow Lincoln
- The Guard
Tell us more about the Center for Education and Leadership
In the past decade, the mission of Ford’s Theatre Society expanded to include education as a central pillar. This expansion led to the creation and construction of the Center for Education and Leadership, which opened in February 2012.
Under the current leadership of Board of Trustees Chairman Phebe Novakovic and through the lens of Lincoln’s leadership and legacy, Ford’s today endeavors to advance Lincoln’s “unfinished work” with programs and performances that cultivate empathy, encourage dialogue and bridge divides in our American life.
Since 2018, the Society has had a Platinum rating in GuideStar and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.
For more information on Ford’s Theatre and the Ford’s Theatre Society, please visit fords.org.
What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?
In addition to the permanent collection at the Ford’s Theatre Museum and four mainstage theatre productions at the theatre, Ford’s Theatre Society offers History on Foot walking tours. Visitors will delight in this experience led by costumed actors portraying figures from Civil War Washington.
These outdoor tours guide patrons to different sites throughout downtown, Washington, D.C., in a unique 1.5-mile interactive historical journey. Ford’s offers the assassination conspiracy walking tour Investigation: Detective McDevitt from March through October annually.
Additional virtual events, distance learning programs for educators, students and the historically curious are provided throughout the year by the Ford’s Education staff.
Check out fords.org/for-teachers/digital-programs for a schedule of upcoming programs and how you can get involved.
Are there guided tours available?
A visit to the Ford’s Theatre campus is typically self guided and available on a timed-entry schedule.
- Guided tours are available on occasional Sundays throughout the calendar year.
- Audio Tours are offered during daytime visits to the Ford’s Theatre campus.
How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?
Every visitor to Ford’s Theatre needs a ticket. We have timed-entry every half hour. Please note that the Museum and theatre are not included entries with every ticket. To guarantee tickets, reserve in advance through fords.org. Same-day tickets are limited.
March-July is our busy season. The Ford’s Theatre Box Office opens at 8:30 a.m. daily. Dress for the weather, as the queue starts outside each morning.
Visitors should plan about two hours to visit the entire site, leaving plenty of time in Washington, D.C. to explore related museums and memorials.
What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?
- Food & Drink: Food, drinks, candy and gum can not enter the building. You are only allowed bottled water.
- Strollers: Strollers are allowed throughout Ford’s Theatre, except in the Petersen House.
- No Costumes: Please leave your period costumes and historic masks at home. No one but the staff is allowed to dess up.
Please visit the Ford’s Theatre Visitor Guidelines page for the full list of what is or is not permitted at fords.org/visit/visitor-guidelines
Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?
Photography of the museum and historic spaces is allowed. No photography is permitted during a ranger program or live performance on the Ford’s Theatre stage.
Is Ford’s Theatre Good for Kids?
Generally, school children visit Ford’s Theatre starting at 3rd grade, but that doesn’t mean younger children can’t immerse themselves in the America of Lincoln. Kids love to check out the sky-high book tower. This 34-foot sculpture is a great way to learn about the importance of reading and how much Lincoln devoured books during his free time.
There is also no better time to learn about the power of democracy than when you are young. Stroll through the exhibits, seeing how Lincoln’s decisions are revealing meaningful connections throughout history, from the Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond.
For more useful information about visiting Ford’s Theatre with kids, check out their blog.
Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?
No food is permitted at the historic site. We recommend the following restaurants close to Ford’s Theatre:
- The Partisan
- Shake Shack
- Teaism Restaurant and Tea Shop
What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?
There are a number of resources available at fords.org/for-teachers to prepare your students for a visit, or even learn from afar. From lesson plans to classroom activities and tips teachers have an abundance of tools at their figure tips to bring the life and legacy of Lincoln to their students.
NOTE: Groups of 10 or more should contact our Group Sales office for additional details on booking a visit.
Is Ford’s Theatre Accessible?
Yes! Full accessibility information can be found online, but the following is available within the Theatre:
- Accessible Seating
- Accessible Chair Rental
- Audio-Described Performances
- GalaPro Free Closed Captioning Mobile App
- Assisted Listening Devices
- Large Print
- Sensory Friendly experiences
What are your normal days of operation?
Traditionally, the Ford’s Theatre campus is open to the public daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Is there an admission fee?
Every visitor needs a ticket to tour Ford’s Theatre. There is a nominal fee for online reservation in advance. Day-of tickets are free but limited. Advance reservations are recommended.
Ford’s Theatre performances start at $28, with discounts and free tickets offered throughout the season. Check: fords.org/performances for upcoming shows and tickets.