With President Barack Obama’s inauguration upon us and the movie Lincoln sweeping up Oscar nominations, American presidents are enjoying their pop-culture moment. How better to experience this moment than through travel? You don’t have to weather the crowds in D.C. to get in on the presidential experience. Check out our roundup of the six best presidential spots just outside of Washington.
1. Historic Inaugural Venues
Tickets to President Obama’s Inaugural Balls might be a tall order, but you can easily check out the venues of past inaugural parties. Just a short train ride out of D.C. is the historic town of Alexandria. There you’ll find Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant, the site of some of the first inaugural parties in our nation’s history. The tavern’s upstairs ballroom was the site of Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 inauguration banquet, and also hosted balls in honor of George and Martha Washington. The tavern still occasionally throws costumed parties, but if you want something more low-key you can have dinner there and join the ranks of the tavern’s other presidential patrons: John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. Get a sense of the modern at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Old Town Alexandria, which offers easy access to other spots like Mount Vernon and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
U.S. Presidential history is constantly being captured through the lens of official White House photographers, and the Virginia Historical Society is letting visitors catch a glimpse at this history with a new exhibit starting this March. Consisting of presidential images over the course of 50 years, this National Geographic exhibition features dozens of rarely seen images of our presidents, including those of Barack Obama’s photographer, Pete Souza. From tense times to candid family moments, travel to Virginia Historical Society to explore the role of the presidential photographer in shaping the presidency.
3. Original Washington Monument
The Washington Monument may be one of the most recognizable architectural icons in the United States, but it wasn’t the first column created to honor George Washington. Robert Mills, the architect of the Washington Monument, created his first monument for Washington in the Mount Vernon area of Baltimore. Be sure to take a look at Mills’ 178-foot Doric column, which predates the Washington Monument by more than 30 years and bears a strong resemblance to the famous obelisk.
Everyone knows of about the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, but during the Civil War the divide nation had two White Houses. Take a look at the second White House in Richmond, Virginia. The executive mansion of President Jefferson Davis and his family during the war, the White House of the Confederacy has guided tours that will take you through its fully restored rooms where historic figures like Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln visited.
5. Washington’s Boyhood Home
Get a glimpse of the life of George Washington before he became the Father of Our Country at Ferry Farm, his boyhood home. The farm is open to the public and displays colonial and Civil War artifacts found on the property. There’s also a working archaeology lab, where scientists can be seen working Monday through Friday. The farm is spread over approximately 80 acres with gardens that feature plants grown in the 18th century, hiking trails, and plenty of bird watching.
6. Statue of Lincoln at Historic Tredegar
Just off the James River, Historic Tredegar has an interactive American Civil War Center that takes visitors though the three stories of the Civil War that of the Confederate States, the Union States, and the African American people. The center is also home to a statue of Abraham Lincoln, one of the only statues of the president found in the South. It’s a great way to learn about the causes of the Civil War, and also take a photo with the 16th President.
For more presidential travel destinations, take of look at Obama’s 2012 campaign hotels.
By Adriana Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com