Best Ways To Learn About Presidential And American History In Washington DC

February 18, 2013 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

February 18, 2013 marks the 281st birthday of first President, George Washington. The District is named for him, was his home and the home of all the presidents since him. As the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. has exclusive access and insight into the life and times of the presidents. Presidents Day 2013 is celebrated with permanent and temporary historical and artistic exhibits on presidential and American history throughout the District. These national historical sites and landmarks offer meaningful and entertaining ways to learn about American history and the presidents in celebration of Washington’s Birthday and Presidents Day.

America’s Presidents
National Portrait Gallery
8th St. and F St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 633-8300

Featuring the largest collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House, the “America’s Presidents” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery is a complete visual history of the presidents. This art history lesson allows the viewer to look into the faces of all the presidents of the past. Portraits of the presidents reveal a lot about American culture at their time – with visual clues signifying war, peace, leadership and scholarship. The different artistic representations of the presidents demonstrate cultural and periodic significances of the times of the presidents.

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
14th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 633-1000

Compiling objects from presidents’ lives, executive work and history with insight into the personal, professional, national and international aspects of the presidents, this exhibit explores the varied depths of the American presidency. Spanning 200 years and 43 presidents it tells the broader story of America’s leadership, as well as the intimate, detailed stories of the individual commander-in-chiefs who have lead the country through history. Highlighting international and national cultural influences throughout history, the exhibit puts presidents within the backdrop of their time periods, immersing the viewer in a complete historical experience.

Gadsby’s Tavern
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
138 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 746-4242

Date: Feb. 18

Memories of a simpler time are not so far away as you might think in a place like Gadsby’s Tavern, one of the oldest and most unique buildings in the Washington D.C. area. Gadsby’s not only functions as a museum, but is also a popular restaurant where you can choose from a delicious assortment of favorite American dishes. This President’s Day, enjoy the annual George Washington Parade and tour the tavern for free. Costumed tour guides will guide attendees through the tavern, enriching them with historical facts. Plus, there’s the architectural design to enjoy and food awaiting just around the corner.

Related: Best Art Museums In Washington D.C.

George Washington’s Birthday
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, VA 22309
(703) 780-2000

Date: Feb. 18, 2013
Time: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm

Historic Mount Vernon invites all guests to celebrate George Washington’s birthday at Washington’s very own home. With period-style performances, music and a special military performance by the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife & Drums Corps, this event is a truly unique experience for history lovers, families, and citizens of all ages. A ceremonial wreath laying on Washington’s tomb pays homage to the great first president, while the rest of the event maintains an upbeat birthday party atmosphere.

Ford’s Theater Society President’s Day Programming
Ford’s Theater Center
511 10th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 347-4833

Hours: Feb. 18 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: $3.25-$3.75

A popular and historic venue, Ford’s Theater is the quintessential stop on President’s Day Weekend. One example of the many events happening this day is One Destiny, a one-act play depicting Abraham Lincoln’s life leading up to his untimely death in April 1985. Also, attendees can explore and listen in on dynamic performances done by The Ford’s Theater Youth Leaders Ensemble throughout the day, all encompassing Lincoln’s speeches. People of all ages will not only have a fun day out, but get the opportunity to learn about American History in new and exciting ways. To end the night, if you’re interested in something a little more geared toward an adult audience, go and watch Mark Russell, a gritty yet hilarious piano-playing comedian whose political views and opinions have gotten him quite a few recognitions, guaranteeing a night worth attending. Tickets for his show range from $49-$72 and can also be found on the Ford’s Theater website.

Related: Best Places to See Ballet In the DC Area

Kayleigh Bryant is a D.C. native, traveler, foodie, artist and frequent museum visitor. Her lifelong fascination with art has moved her to explore the themes, techniques and media artists have employed to express their ideas. Kayleigh has earned a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. Her work can be found on

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