Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site | NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE TOUR

Touring Ford's Theatre

Touring Ford’s Theatre

The Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is comprised of four different venues. For detailed information on each one, see the following web pages:

Ford’s Theatre Museum

Ford’s Theatre

Peterson House

Center for Education and Leadership

A tour of the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site begins at 511 10th Street NW in Washington, D. C., the address for Ford’s Theatre and the Ford’s Theatre Museum. Next to it is the building that now serves as the box office and concession stand. The general progression for the tour is to visit the museum first, then proceed to the theater. Once done, venture directly across the street to the second complex of buildings, the Peterson House—where Lincoln was carried after being shot and later died—and the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership, which features three more floors of museum exhibits that cover the aftermath of the assassination and the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators.

A ticket is required to enter any of the facilities. You must show it when entering the Ford’s Theatre Museum and again at the Peterson House, so don’t toss it in the garbage just because you got into the theater. You can reserve a ticket online for a small service charge, or arrive early at the box office on the day you want to take a tour and get one for free while supplies last. The box office opens at 8:30 AM, and on busy days the walk-up tickets are gone within 30 minutes. Reserved tickets are definitely the way to go. See the Tickets web page for more information.

The peak season is from March through June due to school groups, but the rest of the summer through Labor Day can be equally busy. During these times the Ford’s Theatre Museum and Ford’s Theatre tend to be packed to the point that it is hard to move around, particularly in the museum where the tour begins. While tickets have a timed entry, there is no time limit for the tour, so you can stay in the museum or theater for as long as you wish. If you plan to take photos (be advised that it is awfully dark in there), wait a few minutes for the crowd to move on ahead—give it fifteen minutes and most everyone is gone—but keep in mind that another group will be coming right behind you, for groups are let in every 30 minutes. Most people see the theater and leave, so the crowd at the Peterson House across the street is nothing in comparison to what you may encounter at the theater.

When purchasing a ticket online or getting a free ticket at the box office, you have an opportunity to rent an Acoustiquide for a small fee ($5 at the time of this writing). This is an audio device that takes the place of an actual tour guide, and it has a separate tour for adults and children. Stops are located at key exhibits throughout the National Historic Site. Instead of reading the information panels at the exhibits, you can listen to information about them, and most people find listening to be more interesting than reading. I highly recommend adding this to your ticket purchase. Don’t quote me on it, but if I remember correctly, you can plug in your own earphones, which I also highly recommend so you don’t have to hold the device to your ear the entire time.

Sasha with an Acoustiguide strapped around her neck

Sasha with an Acoustiguide strapped around her neck

If you want to learn something, plan to spend no less than two hours for a tour of all four venues at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site. I visited twice, once with my daughter, Sasha, and once on my own. Sasha listened to the entire Youth Tour on the Acoustiguide, and it took us two hours to complete the tour. On my own, I read all of the information in both museums plus listened to the Acoustiguide and spent 4.5 hours, though I doubt many people will want to do the same. I did notice, however, that the exhibits captivated people for much longer than usual, so plan to spend more time here than at a typical National Park museum.

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Last updated on April 26, 2020
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