Who doesn’t love the grandness and drama of the theater? You go not only for the performance, but to experience the space, the décor, and the vibe.
While the Kennedy Center is the most famous and obvious choice in Washington, D.C., there are many other great theaters that the city has to offer. Here are three more to add to your list.
511 10th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004
If you’re a history buff, Ford Theater should be a must on your list of theaters in Washington, D.C., to check out. Located in Penn Quarter, right off of Chinatown, this is the theater in which President Abraham Lincoln was shot, and it has acted as somewhat of a shrine to him ever since.
Even if you’re not seeing a show, Ford Theater is worth a visit because there’s a museum on the lower level devoted to Lincoln’s life and the time in which he served as president. You can learn about Lincoln’s presidency, the Civil War and its aftermath, and John Wilkes Booth’s assassination plan. Up the stairs, in the theater itself, you can see the booth where he was sitting when he was actually shot.
And if all that was not enough history for you, you may also visit the house across the street where Lincoln died shortly after he was shot. While most of the pieces on display are not originals, the depiction is historically accurate, and there are a few pieces from the time period placed around the house.
You should note that while the museum, the house across the street, and all the displays are free and open to the public, you will need to acquire timed tickets from the ticketing box to prevent overcrowding. Learn more about the theater here, and view a full calendar of performances here.
1215 U St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009
Though named after President Lincoln, unlike the Ford Theater, this theater has less to do with Lincoln and a lot to do with the cultural history of the city. If you’re interested in urban history, you’ll love Lincoln Theater, which opened in 1922 and served as the cultural hub for Washington, D.C., during a time period where jazz musicians, artists, and creatives were flourishing. In many ways, this theater was the locale for the D.C. version of the Harlem Renaissance. People like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong have performed on the stage.
The theater has a very 1920s vintage vibe. The seats are a deep red, and the walls are decorated with gold plating and accents. These days you can find all sorts of performances here — from authors to spoken word poets to musicians to discussions and talks. Different from Ford Theater and the National Theater, which maintain a more touristy appeal, the Lincoln Theater is mostly attended by locals, and shows tend to be smaller and more personalized.
To view the full schedule of events, visit the website here.
1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004
The National Theater is one of the larger theaters in Washington, D.C., and attracts the most people, aside from The Kennedy Center. Recently, it hosted Mean Girls prior to its debut on Broadway in New York, and it’s currently showing Les Miserables.
Like the other theaters, it boasts a rich history. While Lincoln Theater was the hub of what at the time was considered new and alternative culture, the National Theater acted as the center for the elite in D.C. Several presidential inaugurations were held here, and ironically, “Lincoln learned of his nomination to a second term while attending a performance at The National Theatre and ominously witnessed the Washington debut of John Wilkes Booth in the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard III.” It was a glitzy, glamorous spot to be, and many famous names have graced the theater’s stage.
Today you can go see hot ticket plays and musicals at the theater. View everything that’s coming this year, here.
Have you been to any of these theaters before? Which one is your favorite to visit? Let us know in the comments below!