Take a Capital Trip Through History in Lincoln’s Footsteps and Beyond


Standing over six feet tall—his commanding stature further elongated by a stovepipe hat—the 16th president left a sizable footprint on U.S. history. Enjoy your time communing with the great man’s humble, humanitarian spirit in between stops on this three-day tour of D.C. celebrating his life and legacy. You’ll also have the chance to delve into more of the nation’s fascinating past, making it an enriching trip for history buffs and novices alike.

Trip Designer

Visit Washington, DC

Visit Washington, DC is your capital travel expert, offering access to some of the world's best—and free!—museums, neighborhoods with homegrown businesses and diverse communities and events, festivals, and performances you'll find no place else. Visit Washington DC wants to make sure your next trip to Washington, DC is one for the history books.

Trip Highlight

The Legendary Lincoln Memorial

Stand in the shadow of greatness on Pennsylvania Avenue—not at the People’s House, but at the Lincoln Memorial, where anyone may have an audience with the Savior of the Union. Daniel Chester French’s titanic statue of Abraham Lincoln is an inspiration to all who meet his gaze.
Lincoln_Day 1.jpg

DAY 1From Presidential slumber to major memorials

The most convenient place to stay is also the first stop on this trip, whether you choose to spend the night there or not. Only a small percentage of travelers get the chance to stay in the White House’s Lincoln Bedroom—but anyone may visit the historic hotel where Lincoln rested his head, the Willard InterContinental, also known as “The Residence of Presidents.” Author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of the Willard that it “more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.” Lincoln slept here in 1861, just prior to moving into the White House. See a copy of the distinguished guest’s hotel bill, framed and hung in the five-star property’s history gallery. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast (in your room or in the hotel’s restaurant, Café du Parc, a contemporary French brasserie)—or grab a croissant and Lavazza coffee on-the-go from Le Café.

Just a few minutes from the hotel, pause to appreciate the sanctuary where Lincoln spent many a Sunday morning, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. His compassionate, inclusive spirit is alive and well at this house of worship, a member congregation of More Light, a network to “empower and equip individuals and congregations to live into their welcome for LGBTQIA+ people.” The church voted to join this network in 1998 “to advocate for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in the world and the church.” (Currently, the church is under construction and due to reopen in Fall 2021.)

A few more minutes of travel and you’ll arrive at Lincoln Memorial, the breathtaking outdoor temple honoring the 16th president. Seeing about 4 million visitors annually, the memorial is presided over by a 19-foot seated statue of Lincoln, carved from Georgia white marble. According to the American Institute of Architects, it is the 7th most-favorite example of American architecture.

Lincoln was a tall man, and fittingly, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, located on the National Mall directly east of the Lincoln Memorial, is another expansive tribute to the titanic figure. It’s lined by walking paths and shaded by a long promenade of elm trees on either side. Depending on the viewer’s perspective, it offers a dramatic reflection of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the elm trees, and/or the sky. Although not completed in time for the Lincoln Memorial’s dedication in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool has become an almost equally iconic—and frequently filmed—feature of the D.C. landscape.

While at the National Mall, take time to honor another American hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The 32nd President of the United States is almost as universally revered as Abraham Lincoln, and FDR was equally articulate—so it’s no surprise that the Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall includes no fewer than 22 famous quotations by or about FDR, the words engraved in the red South Dakota granite walls of the memorial. Among the voices is that of his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt: “Franklin’s illness … gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons–infinite patience and never-ending persistence.”

Respect must also be paid at the nearby Washington Monument. Built to honor George Washington, the Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk that casts a long shadow over the district named in honor of the first President of the United States. Construction began in 1848, and the monument has survived numerous restorations; it remains one of the most identifying features of the D.C. skyline.

Once upon a time, the 300+ acres of the National Mall were populated strictly by statues of Caucasian males. Today, the landscape embraces a far more diverse group of American heroes. Case in point: the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 1993, the one-ton bronze sculpture is a tribute to the 265,000 women who served during the Vietnam era; American military women served as nurses, physicians, air traffic controllers, communication specialists, and intelligence officers. It is the first statue on the Mall to depict military women. A multi-figure monument, it was designed by New Mexico sculptor Glenna Goodacre, who says that the emphasis of the statue “is centered on their emotions—their compassion, their anxiety, their fatigue, and above all, their dedication.”
African American_Day 2.jpg

National Portrait Gallery exterior

courtesy of

DAY 2Exploring Lincoln’s Cottage and iconic historic images

The Great Emancipator’s second home, President Lincoln’s Cottage, where he took regular breaks from the White House, is now a historic site and museum located on 250 acres. Its mission: “to reveal the true Lincoln and continue the fight for freedom… to plant the seeds of his brave ideas around the world.” Here, Lincoln developed the Emancipation Proclamation, and was inspired to make some of his most critical decisions on our nation’s behalf. Guided tours, exhibits, and interactive programs—including the Q&Abe podcast—bring his core beliefs to life.

The bearded president—who grew facial hair after a little girl from New York wrote him a letter advising him to do so—was notoriously no-frills, yet impeccably groomed. Anyone with facial hair will stand taller after a clean shave, beard trim, and/or haircut at the popular clip joint Barber of Hell’s Bottom. Consider a tribute to Honest Abe by having them razor off the hair above your lip, to replicate Lincoln’s “Shenandoah” style of beard.

The presidential portraits on view at the National Portrait Gallery come in many different media. One in particular may catch viewers by surprise. A cast of Lincoln’s face looks, at first glance, like a death mask—but it’s actually a life mask, a popular form of portraiture in the nineteenth century. As the first president whose term coincided with the rise of photography, Lincoln left behind numerous iconic images; see many of them here.

Six minutes away, the flavors on offer at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams—Nancy Pelosi’s favorite—would do the 16th president proud. Consider baked apple sorbet (a nod to Abe’s appetite for apples), or sweet corn ice cream, combining two treats Lincoln loved, frozen dessert and corn. (He held that he could eat corn cakes as fast as a person could make them.)

A short walk away is Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was slain by an assassin’s bullet. The theatre’s underground museum chronicles the events leading up to this real-life historic tragedy. Nonetheless, a visit here is an uplifting experience: “We honor Lincoln’s love of the performing arts by producing theatre that captivates and entertains.” Honor the president yourself by taking in a play; view the schedule on
DAY 3 HERO_Culture.jpg

DAY 3Immerse yourself in artifacts and books

Yes, it’s a bit of a trip from downtown D.C.—about 40 minutes—but Lincoln himself undertook many trips to Maryland during his political career, so it’s well worth the trek to the National Museum of Health & Medicine. Artifacts on view here include the bullet that killed Lincoln, as well as actual fragments of his skull.

A 19-minute drive away is Fort Stevens, the military fortress that’s the site of the only Civil War battle to take place within the District of Columbia itself. The commander-in-chief risked his life to visit the fort on July 12, 1864, a trip memorialized by a bronze marker that reads “LINCOLN UNDER FIRE AT FORT STEVENS.”

President Lincoln loved a good library; much of what he knew, he taught himself from books. The Library of Congress, our nation’s ultimate library, houses more than 164 million items and is a must-see for its architecture and rotating exhibitions. When you emerge, check out nearby Lincoln Park, location of the Emancipation Memorial (or Freedman’s Memorial). The statue of the Great Emancipator, paid for by newly freed enslaved people, was unveiled on the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s death.

Honest Abe did most everything with modesty and authenticity; why not emulate him with a first-rate casual meal? At Chiko Restaurant, contemporary Korean cuisine is counter-served for a delicious, unpretentious experience to help you say goodbye until next time.
More From This Author