Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site | TICKETS

Peak season at Ford's Theatre

Peak season at Ford’s Theatre

Free tickets are required to enter any of the four venues at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site: Ford’s Theatre, Ford’s Theatre Museum, the Peterson House, and a museum at the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership. The theater and the Ford’s Theatre Museum are in one building, while the Peterson House and Education Center are located across the street. You must show your ticket when entering the Ford’s Theatre Museum (first stop on the tour) and again at the Peterson House, so don’t toss it in the garbage just because you got into the theater.

Advance tickets are available online at the Ford’s Theatre Historic Site web page, but while “free,” there is a small service charge ($3/ticket at the time of this writing). Completely free tickets can be obtained while supplies last by arriving early at the theater box office on the day you want to take a tour. Twenty percent of the tickets are held for walk-up visitors, plus any online tickets that did not sell. The box office opens at 8:30 AM, and on busy days the walk-up tickets are gone within 30 minutes. There may be a few tickets available later than this, but they tend to be onesies and twosies. Those with families will most likely be out of luck after 9 AM. You can get up to six tickets per person at the box office.

The peak season is from March through June due to school groups. You’ll see so many kids running around that if you didn’t know better, you’d think that every kid in town was skipping school that day. During these months most of the online tickets will be sold out well in advance, and I’m talking months, not weeks. I checked the website in early October and half the tour times are already sold out for March the following year. The rest of the summer through Labor Day can be equally busy, but I did not visit at this time and cannot give any advice other than to recommend reserving online tickets versus trying to get same day tickets at the box office, unless there is no other choice. Even after Labor Day there will be a few time slots sold out each day, but you can get a ticket at the box office as long as you have some leeway in your schedule. Again, reserve a ticket in advance to take the worry out of the process.

On any given day, certain tour times may be blocked out completely, or certain venues may be closed due to performances, rehearsals, or other scheduled events. This information is available on the Ford’s Theatre Historic Site web page. If you plan to get a ticket at the box office, it is still advisable to check the website for the current schedule.

When purchasing tickets online, the venues are listed in a color-coded strip for each tour time. Completely dimmed strips mean tickets are sold out. Closed venues will be crossed out. Be sure to purchase a ticket for a time when the venues that you want to see are fully lit up.

Screen shot of the on-line ticket schedule

Screen shot of the on-line ticket schedule

While most times are for self-guided tours, there are a few time slots when a National Park Ranger is scheduled to give a talk in the theater, and this is noted on the online schedule. Otherwise, Rangers are stationed at the various venues and can answer any questions you might have, but they will not be giving any type of formal lecture.

Instead of walking through the venues completely on your own, you have the option of renting an Acoustiguide 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 Ford’s Theatre 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.

Sasha listening to her Acoustigude at the Center for Education and Leadership

Sasha listening to her Acoustigude at the Center for Education and Leadership

Another add-on is the performance of a 35-minute one-act play entitled One Destiny. Performances are held from mid-March through early July. I was not able to see the play during either of my two visits due to scheduling and thus cannot comment on it, but it has been running for years and most reviews are positive. As with the Acoustiguide, there is a small charge for a ticket.

On a busy day there will be a line—often a very long line—formed at the entrance to the theater, and a theater employee or a park Ranger will be on duty to handle crowd control. This line is for ticket holders, so don’t get in it if you need to obtain a ticket at the box office. Also, before getting in line, ask the attendant what tour time is about to be let in. There is no need to stand in line for the 10 AM tour if you have a 10:30 AM ticket because you won’t get in. Being first or last in line makes no difference, as this is a museum, not a general admission concert where you must be first to get a good seat.

If you need to buy a ticket at the box office, tell the attendant and you will be let in. You can also get into the theater to use the restroom and to get your Acoustiguide, though you must return back outside to stand in line once you pick it up. During the off-season or on days when there is no crowd, there will not be a line or an attendant outside, so you can just walk in to the box office lobby, ticket or no ticket. In fact, if you bought a ticket online for noon and find yourself at the theater at 10 AM, you may be able to get in and begin your tour, though this is up to the theater management.

Start of the line to enter Ford's Theatre

Start of the line to enter Ford’s Theatre

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Last updated on June 23, 2020
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