President’s Day is this upcoming Monday, February 17, 2014. While your kids have been spending the last week or so in school learning all about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, have you been taking advantage of the day off and planning a long weekend getaway to celebrate the holiday? With the way this winter’s been, we can’t blame you if you haven’t even thought about it yet. So don’t worry! Check out our recommendations for some educational and artistic things to do President’s Day weekend this year.
Get historical! This holiday is all about celebrating the great things our first President accomplished for this country. Try some historical New York City Attractions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its impressive selection of presidential portraiture and artifacts. “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is a must-see, of course! You can also see well-regarded portraits of our first president by Charles Wilson Peale and Gilbert Stuart (the first image in this post). In fact, take a stroll through Gallery 753 to see an impressive collection of Revolutionary War-era painting. The Brooklyn Museum also has another portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart (he was a favorite subject of the artist), as part of their popular “American Identities” exhibit.
It’s hard to get more historical than some of our favorite Boston attractions. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ newer “Art of the Americas” wing has a fantastic collection of Colonial and early American art and artifacts. You’ll see entire rooms lovingly recreated from original period homes, featuring everything from authentic replicas of wallpaper to restored furniture, décor, and craftwork. The MFA also has one of the best collections of early American portraiture, including a number of works by famed American painter John Singleton Copley.
You’ll want to celebrate not only Washington’s triumph, but also the entire grand progress of the American Civil War. Fortunately, Boston is just the place to do it! Visit some of the most iconic sites in American history, like the famous Freedom Trail, the Old State House Museum, and the Paul Revere House. Take a tour of Colonial Boston and learn about the transformation of the American Colonies into our own nation. Insider tip: check out the Colonial Boston Pass for additional discounts on the best Presidential attractions.
Let’s not forget about Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President whose birthday also falls in February. You’ll find several classic Chicago Attractions that honor him and his time period through all kinds of art. Illinois is “The Land of Lincoln,” after all! The Chicago History Museum has a special ongoing exhibit called “Lincoln’s Chicago,” where you can see paintings, photographs, and photography related to Lincoln’s time in Chicago and the city as it was during his day. Don’t miss a special photograph of the President before his election, taken during the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
You can also see a wide variety of Lincoln art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, including a large bronze sculpture of the President by Daniel Chester French. Among the most famous pieces is an Alexander Hessler photograph from 1860, considered by Lincoln to be his favorite portrait. The MFA also has a significant collection of early engravings and daguerreotypes featuring Lincoln. You’ll even find some jewelry belonging to Mary Todd Lincoln!
The Art Institute of Chicago is another fantastic resource for Lincoln and Civil War-era art. Their American Art galleries contain a number of portraits and sculptures of our sixteenth President, including additional photographs by Hessler and sculptures by French. If you’re interested in the history of the Civil War, the American Art galleries also contain some unique representations of the period, like George Cope’s depiction of a soldier’s regalia and a number of Winslow Homer’s wood engraving prints, like “The Songs of War” and “News from the War.”
Spend a few days in Boston, New York, or Chicago this Presidents’ Day Weekend to explore some of the most important moments in our nation’s heritage, and learn how the two men we celebrate on this holiday led us to where we are today.