Massachusetts is steeped in history, including the legacy of 35th President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. History buffs on Cape Cod getaways will love the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. In fact, we’ll give you seven strong reasons why you have to take a day trip to visit this JFK museum.
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About the JFK Presidential Library and Museum
Located on a 10-acre park, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum overlooks Boston and the ocean waters that this great man loved. The library and museum is a vibrant tribute to his life and contributions to the nation.
The overall mission is to preserve and provide access to Kennedy-related historical materials to engage all ages and nationalities through his life story and ideals. Along with exhibits, the museum uses educational programs to achieve this mission.
History & Facts About the JFK Museum in Boston
Officially, the Presidential Library system started in 1939 with a donation of personal and presidential papers from President Franklin Roosevelt. All succeeding presidential libraries have followed that example. Here’s how the JFK presidential library came to be.
A month before his death in 1963, John F. Kennedy chose a site for his presidential library next to Harvard University. The following December, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and other family members decided that the library would be his official national memorial.
The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library nonprofit corporation was established to choose a site and handle everything related to the library construction and management. It eventually abandoned plans to build on JFK’s chosen site next to the university, opting instead for the current waterfront location.
After remarrying, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis continued to be deeply involved in preparing the library. She chose architect Ieoh Ming Pei to do the design. This Chinese-American architect gained recognition for designing the Mesa Laboratory at Colorado’s National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Groundbreaking on the 115,000-square-foot building started in 1977 (more than 13 years after Kennedy’s death), and the library was dedicated in 1979. In 1991, the Stephen E. Smith Center was added before a rededication in 1993. Then, the archival/museum storage block was added in 2012.
The current facility is 164,000 square feet and stands 9 stories or 125 feet high!
Amazing Permanent Exhibits
The Boston JFK museum features a dozen permanent exhibits related to the late president’s life. Here’s a quick look at each of them.
From this exhibit, you get a glimpse at Kennedy throughout his early life, leading up to his political aspirations. You can see what he was like as a boy, student, decorated war hero, and young man seeking his path.
1960 Presidential Election
Delve into JFK’s presidential candidacy in 1960 after losing the 1956 vice presidential nomination by a narrow margin. His opponent for the presidential nomination was Vice President Richard Nixon, and the following election was one of the most energetic and exciting in history.
The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy
In January 1961, Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. In this exhibit, you get a sense of what that day was like — like the nearly 1-million-strong crowd that gathered to see the newly elected leader amid the Cold War.
JFK Meets the Press
Just five days after taking office, Kennedy became the first president to conduct press conferences on live television. You can take a look at portions of that press conference as well as the others that he did during the course of his presidency — which amounted to about one every 16 days.
The Peace Corps
The Peace Corps was one of the Kennedy administration’s major contributions. The presidential library and museum expresses the agency’s importance and contributions to providing support to struggling developing nations.
The White House Corridor
The Kennedys received gifts from 106 foreign leaders during their time in the White House. Gift-giving is a centuries-old tradition, and they were particularly enchanted by the gifts that showcased foreign craftsmanship. You can see a selection of the ceremonial gifts in this JFK museum exhibit.
On diplomatic and social occasions, the Kennedys celebrated American achievements, culture, and history, bringing an innovative spirit to dinners and state visits. This gallery displays documents and artifacts from those events, including some of Mrs. Kennedy’s wardrobe.
John F. Kennedy challenged the country to take a leading role in space, and the U.S. space program took off in 1961. You can see documents and photographs in the museum that chronicle key events during his leadership. The exhibit includes archival footage in a video presentation too.
Robert Kennedy’s Attorney General Office
In a controversial move, Kennedy appointed brother Robert Francis Kennedy as U.S. attorney general. You can get a glimpse into the attorney general office through film footage, documents, and personal items in this exhibit, showcasing RFK’s achievements during his time in the role.
The Oval Office
Civil rights was a major domestic issue during the Kennedy administration — African Americans held demonstrations against segregation and other injustices. This exhibit features 1963 film footage related to the movement and the president’s commitment to enforcing equal rights.
First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy
If you want to learn more about Jacqueline Kennedy, this exhibit highlights her early life and substantial achievements as First Lady — the third youngest in history at 31 years old. A focus is given to her strides in restoring the White House and developing the art and historic furniture collection.
State Visit to Europe
In the summer of 1963, Kennedy went on a tour of Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union. This gallery highlights his time in Europe, including artifacts, film footage, and photographs.
A Huge Collection of 20,000 Artifacts
Among all of the exhibits at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, there are about 20,000 works of art and other three-dimensional objects. Many hold significant historical and monetary value.
Part of the collection includes Kennedy’s personal memorabilia, like his collections of ship and scrimshaw models. You can see a wide variety of heartfelt and handmade artifacts, as well as sculptures and paintings. In addition, many of Mrs. Kennedy’s outfits are on display.
The Pertinent Details for Planning Your Visit to the JFK Museum
Planning your visit to this JFK museum is pretty easy, including the directions to get there. But, let’s cover some of the essentials so that you’re prepared.
Museum visitors can park in the dedicated parking lot for free. You’ll find the lot between Columbia Point and University Dr. N. The main entrance is on Columbia Point, but other entrances along University Dr. may be open as well. Bus parking via University Dr. is available for large groups too.
As of September 2021, museum admission for adults is $18, while seniors ages 62 and older pay $12. Veterans get a $4 discount off those prices. Teens ages 13-17 can enter for $10, while younger children can enter for free.
If you’re a Massachusetts resident, you could get a $3 digital pass through the Public Library Museum Pass Program. Families with EBT cards can also take advantage of $3 admission for up to four people.
There are so many fantastic things to see in the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. Fortunately, the museum encourages photography unless otherwise noted on the exhibit. Just don’t take a selfie-stick, tripod, or drone; and don’t use the camera flash out of courtesy for other visitors.
The museum accommodates people with disabilities of all kinds. It offers manual wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis, and personal scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs are welcome. Additionally, elevators and power-assisted doors are located at the start and end of each gallery.
Individuals with hearing disabilities can still enjoy all of the video presentations, which feature captions. With advanced notice via 617.514.1575 or email@example.com, you can arrange for American sign language interpretation.
Furthermore, people with disabilities can bring specifically trained and certified service animals into public areas. The service animals must remain under their handlers’ control at all times.
Dining at the JFK Cafe
Whether you need to fuel up before touring the museum or after absorbing all the interesting facts about JFK’s life, grab a bite at the JFK Cafe. The dining area offers views of Inner Harbor and the Boston skyline, and it can seat up to 45 people.
In the morning, breakfast includes baked goods, cereals, fruit, yogurt, hot specials (such as omelets or Belgian waffles), and hot beverages. Lunch offerings include salads, soups, sandwiches, and hot specials. Novelty ice cream, brownies, cookies, candy bars, and other baked treats are available too.
On top of that, the cafe offers all-day service for cappuccinos, coffees, and teas, as well as sodas and juices. You can even get packaged snacks, such as candy bars, cookies, and chips.
The JFK Presidential Library and Museum Gift Shop
Before you leave the Boston JFK museum, stop by the gift shop for a souvenir. It sells accessories, apparel, books, CDs and DVDs, home and office decor, posters and prints, and more. All purchases go toward maintaining and updating the museum and its programs.
Stay at Cape Cod’s Premier Bed and Breakfast
When you’re planning a getaway to Cape Cod, why not stay at the best historic bed and breakfast? Candleberry Inn rests in about the middle of the cape, so the JFK museum is only a 1.5-hour drive away. You may even enjoy other stops on the Boston to Brewster road trip.
Located on Route 6A in Cape Cod, our inn boasts luxurious guest rooms, a daily gourmet breakfast, and other first-class amenities. Best of all, we’re less than a 30-minute drive from the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum if you want to learn even more about our 35th president.
Start planning your next Cape Cod trip by checking our availability!