Painting of George Washington: Rembrandt Peale, George Washington (1732–1799), 1853, Oil on canvas; New-York Historical Society, Bequest of Caroline Phelps Stokes
New York City is rich with presidential history, from hosting the inauguration of the country’s first president to being home to Grant’s Tomb, the largest mausoleum in North America. Presidents’ Day celebrates the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln each year on the third Monday in February. Those who get the day off from work or school can spend the holiday learning about the city’s presidential history, from Federal Hall to the Flatiron District. Or, for a more low key (but still patriotic) three-day weekend, eat cake, go bowling, or catch a Commander in Chief-themed comedy show.
History buffs should head to the General Grant National Memorial in Morningside Heights this Presidents’ Day for a unique living history experience at the largest mausoleum in North America. Historical reenactors playing U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and First Lady Julia D. Grant will greet and take photos with guests in the memorial, followed by a reading of President Grant’s 1870 State of the Union Address. A Q&A with the 18th-century figures will follow in the visitor center.
Tour one of the city’s most presidential neighborhoods this holiday. The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is hosting a free guided walking tour of historic spots in the area tied to U.S. presidents. Led by historian and author Miriam Berman, the tour makes stops at the old Fifth Avenue Hotel, the Hoffman House, and the site of the original Madison Square Garden on 26th Street and Madison Avenue. No advance registration is required for the event; meet at the tip of the Flatiron Building at 11 a.m. on Sunday, February 16, rain or shine.
3. Who Are The Brave: Presidents’ Day Concert at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is putting on a patriotic-themed show for Presidents’ Day. The “Who Are The Brave” concert, taking place on February 17, features original works by American composer-conductors. Enjoy performances from the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Singers, led by Mack Wilberg, of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, Joseph Martin, Robert Istad, and Christopher Peterson. Buy tickets, which start at $20, here.
President Nixon shakes hands with entertainer Elvis Presley in the Oval Office; December 21, 1970, Richard Nixon Library. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society (P5364-18)
4. New-York Historical Society’s “Meet the Presidents” Gallery
February 14, 2020-ongoing
Kick off Presidents’ Day Weekend at the New-York Historical Society’s new permanent gallery dedicated to exploring the role of the president. “Meet the Presidents” features a recreation of the White House Oval Office, equipped with a replica of the Resolute Desk for photo ops, audio recordings, and historic photos. Starting February 14, check out unique presidential artifacts, including the Bible used during George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and a scrapbook made by a student in 1962 following JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And on February 17, children of all ages are invited to enjoy a colonial hot chocolate with George Washington and First Lady Martha, as well as President James Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison, portrayed by interpreters. Kids will learn about the arrival of chocolate in the United States and its role in the American Revolution.
5. President’s Week in Prospect Park
Since winter recess lines up with Presidents’ Day, parents of New York City public school students may want to hit up Prospect Park for family-friendly programs during the week. On February 17, the Prospect Park Alliance will celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln at the Lefferts Historic House, the former home of a Continental Army lieutenant. Enjoy presidential trivia tailored to kids, along with a special birthday cake for the two former Commanders in Chief. There is a suggested donation of $3. And on February 18-21, kids are invited to make their own salve using similar recipes from the 19th century.
6. George Washington in New York City at the Fraunces Tavern Museum
February 15 and 16
It’s no surprise the New York City museum dedicated to preserving the history of the American Revolution is hosting special events this Presidents’ Day Weekend. The Fraunces Tavern Museum, which served as the headquarters for Washington during negotiations with the British, is hosting a special guided tour on February 15 and 16. The hour-long tour explores the connection the first POTUS had with New York. “Within New York City, Washington suffered his greatest military defeat, created a spy-ring which laid the groundwork for today’s intelligence community, and set precedence as the first President of the United States,” according to the event description. The tour is included with the price of regular museum admission, which is $7 for adults.
For a more lighthearted day off, check out a comedy show happening at the Lower East Side venue, Caveat. During “Every President Ever: Together Again: The Reckoning,” 45 different comedians will play all 45 of the country’s presidents. Based on “the real, insane, kooky quirks of men who ran this country,” the comedy show will make powdered wigs funny again. The show, happening at 6:30 p.m. on February 17, costs $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Buy tickets here.
The first inauguration of the country’s first president happened at Federal Hall in the Financial District. The historic Wall Street site was also home to the first Supreme Court and Congress. A guided tour of Federal Hall–considered the birthplace of American government–would be a fitting way to spend the long weekend. Free 30-minute guided tours take place at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. are available every day during operating hours. Get more details here.
9. Family Bowl at Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn Bowl is hosting its annual Presidents’ Day Family Bowl on February 17. Perfect for parents who like to keep their kids busy, the alley will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Brunch, along with a kids menu, will be served.
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