Even though I lived in Washington, DC for years, I was unfamiliar with President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Retirement Home. Once I heard about this cottage and its importance in history, I knew I had to make a visit! It makes a great addition to any trip to Washington, DC and is a good place to get away from the crowded museums around the National Mall. Plus you can check off another Presidential site from this list after visiting!
Lincoln’s Cottage is on the grounds of the retirement home for the U.S. Armed Services, which was called the Old Soldiers’ Home in Lincoln’s time. You do have to show an ID to enter the grounds and you need a pass to walk around the grounds (obtained at the Visitor Center).
This cottage was used as a retreat for President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, during the turbulent years of the Civil War. In total, he spent over a quarter of his presidency here at the cottage. Be sure to watch this great animated video with your children about his commute to the White House before your visit.
Coming here, Lincoln could get away from the intensity of his work, breathe fresh air, and visit with wounded soldiers and former enslaved people in the contraband camp. The peace and tranquility here allowed him to think up some of his best ideas, including the Emancipation Proclamation.
The tours of the home are done by guided tour only, and I recommend purchasing your timed entry tickets in advance of your visit. Before your tour, check the cottage’s website to see if there are any child-friendly programs happening during your visit, such as the Social Studies for Early Learners program. Arrive at least 15 minutes early to visit the exhibits in the Visitor Center. Strollers are allowed in the Visitor Center but not in the home itself.
At your tour time, your guide will lead you into a video room to watch a short movie about Lincoln and his time at the cottage. You will then be escorted across the lawn to the cottage, which has been renovated to appear as it was during Lincon’s time there. The guided and interactive tour lasts approximately one hour and takes you through several rooms of the home. No photos are allowed in the building.
The rooms are left unfurnished but you can just imagine President Lincoln sitting at his desk, looking out over the capital city, and imagining a better life for all Americans. The tour guides focus on Lincoln’s message of making the world a better place, and it really inspires children and adults alike!
As you leave the cottage, you can head back to the visitor center to finish exploring the exhibits. Don’t miss taking a great family photo with the statue of President Lincoln and his horse in the yard!
Your kids will definitely want to visit the gift shop before you leave! Lots of fun Abraham Lincoln toys, books, and memorabilia, including this adorable Lincoln doll.
My kids and I loved visiting the Lincoln cottage. The hustle and bustle of DC falls away and it is a peaceful and meaningful spot to reflect on history. While off the beaten path, it is worth the short drive from downtown DC to visit!
- Cost: $15/adult; $5/child (ages 6-12)
- Recommended: ages 6 and up for guided tour
- Tour times:
- Guided tour: 1 hour
- Exhibits and grounds: 30 minutes
- Gift shop located in Visitor Center
- Visitors must enter through the Eagle Gate, located at the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road NW and Upshur Street NW. You will need to show an ID to enter through the gate. Parking is readily available in adjacent lot.
- Public transportation: The Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro Station (Green & Yellow Lines) is about one mile from the entrance. The H8 Metro bus stops directly in front of the Eagle gate (can take from Metro station).
- Dining options nearby: The Hitching Post Restaurant is across the street. The nearby neighborhood of Petworth has many eateries, including Timber Pizza Company.
- Hotel options: See my DC guide for recommendations.
- Nearby attractions: U.S. Armed Forces Retirement Home grounds, St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, U.S. National Arboretum, and National Zoo
- Other Lincoln sites include:
- DC: Lincoln Memorial and Ford’s Theatre
- CA: Lincoln Memorial Shrine
- IL: Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Heritage Museum, and Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site
- IN: Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
- KY: Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, The Lincoln Museum, and Mary Todd Lincoln House
- TN: Lincoln Library and Museum
- Additional resources:
Books to Read:
- 14 and up:
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up:
Several photos provided by Libby McNamee