Washington, DC has a wealth of historic knowledge to offer and is an ideal place to explore the history of the Civil War. Enjoy these three days in DC exploring museums, taking ghost tours, and visiting historic sites.
Among the many historic battlefields and parks throughout the country, the nation’s capital is a perfect place to visit if you’re looking to learn the history of the Civil War. Your first stops will be museums to set the scene for the time period. Visit the National Museum of American History to see their collection, Treasures of American History featuring artifacts form the Civil War.
For the afternoon step into the shoes of the man in charge during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln. You’ll be paying a visit to Ford’s Theatre, the site of Lincoln’s assassination. The theatre today is not only a theatre but also a museum with great details surrounding the war and days leading up to Lincoln’s assassination. Ford’s Theatre is what can be referred to as a living landmark, because it is still an operating theatre. After taking a tour during the day consider returning for a matinee performance on the weekends or an evening show nightly. They put on a variety of shows, from classic stories to modern musicals. The full schedule can be found here.
To round out Day 1 of your DC visit, consider joining a tour of the monuments by moonlight. The monuments are majestic during the day, but every Washingtonian swears that the best view of them is by night, when they light up the skyline. You can explore on your own or book a tour to have a licensed guide lead you through all the history. In addition, or in place of this, the spooky side of DC is waiting for you all year. DC Ghosts offers two nightly walking tours that take you through 8 haunted locations.
Your second day will start off at the African American Civil War Museum, located just off of U Street NW. This free to enter museum tells the stories of the 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops and the important roles they played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. Directly across from the museum, you’ll find the outdoor memorial commemorating these brave men and honoring their sacrifice.
Continuing into the northern areas of DC, your afternoon will be spent in Petworth at President Lincoln’s Cottage, a historic site and museum where Lincoln lived and worked for a large part of his presidency. While living in the cottage, Lincoln visited wounded soldiers from the Civil War and developed the Emancipation Proclamation. Step into the private life of this great leader in our history and see how the peaceful grounds of the cottage helped shape some of his greatest accomplishments. Tickets are required for a tour of the grounds and can be found here. For an additional dive into the Civil War’s presence in the city, visit Fort Stevens. This fort was the site of a Civil War battle is a quick ten-minute drive from President Lincoln’s Cottage. Admission is free and open to the public.
To end the day, we suggest partaking in a dinner that comes with a side helping of history as well. One option would be the historic Old Ebbitt Grill. Old Ebbitt was founded in 1856 and became Washington, DC’s first known saloon after being converted from a boarding house. Visitors of the boarding house included Presidents McKinley, Grant, Johnson, Cleveland, Roosevelt and Harding. Make a reservation and step into the shoes of historic figures at DC’s oldest saloon.
Starting your final day, we suggest you head just outside of Washington, DC to visit Arlington National Cemetery. This cemetery is the resting place for numerous men and women who have served the United States in the armed forces and passed away. Famous sites to see within their grounds include Arlington House and the grave of John F Kennedy. There is also a changing of the guard ceremony every two hours that is interesting to watch. You can roam through the grounds on your own or purchase a ticket to join a scheduled tour throughout the day.
Make your way back into the heart of the city to visit the home of another historic figure, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. Her Missing Soldiers Office was uncovered accidentally when the building was set to be demolished. A gentleman sent to inspect the site stumbled across records stored in the attic along with the sign that used to be placed out front identifying the office. This building is now The Clara Barton Mission Soldiers Office Museum, dedicated to sharing the story of Clara Barton and her mission to find missing soldiers from the civil war and reunite them with their families. With your spare time in the afternoon walk over to the National Portrait Gallery also houses a variety of works of art from the Civil War time period or relating to the content of the Civil War.
Your final stop in DC will be dinner at District Chophouse, a brewery located in the heart of Downtown DC. The restaurant will offer you a wide selection of libations with a delicious meal and is conveniently located steps away from museums like the National Portrait Gallery and the National Archives and one block from Capitol One Arena.