Presidents Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February, falling on Feb. 20 this year. George Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22, but in 1971 Congress designated that it be celebrated on the Monday, thus guaranteeing a three-day weekend. In addition to Washington, Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and William Henry Harrison were born in February. Your children can meet a couple of those Presidents (well, actors portraying them) at Presidents Day events this coming weekend and celebrate in other ways, too.
Ask Abraham Lincoln your questions at the Chicago History Museum
Feb. 20, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. (Doors open at 9:30 a.m., events begin at 10 a.m.)
1601 North Clark Street, Chicago
The Chicago History Museum is free on Presidents Day and there will be several fun activities throughout the day for families. One highlight is a production of Meeting the Lincolns by With Lincoln Productions, during which First Lady Mary Todd and President Lincoln will speak about their youth, education and the struggles of the Civil War, followed by a Q&A session. Visitors can mingle and snap a picture with the famous first couple before the program.
It’s also your last chance to see the “LIncoln’s Undying Words” exhibit, which explores how Abraham Lincoln’s changing views toward slavery transformed America through five key speeches made by Lincoln between 1858-1865, and how his words continue to inspire us today. See Lincoln’s family carriage and the bed in which he died.
Guests can also enjoy a performance by Chicago Brass Band, family crafts and storytelling. Winners of the Inspired by Lincoln speech writing competition who are in grades 5 through 12 will be delivering their award-winning orations.
Meet George Washington at the Wilmette Historical Society
Feb. 19, 2 p.m.
609 Ridge Rd., Wilmette
$10 per family
Actor Terry Lynch portrays George Washington and relays his journey from land surveyor to first president of our nation. Learn about how his commitment to his family was as important to him as his commitment to his soldiers and a brand new nation. Seating is limited, so early arrival is recommended.
Walk on the wild side at the Lincoln Park Zoo Camp
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
2001 North Clark Street, Chicago$68 ($58 for members)
As of press time, the Lincoln Park Zoo Presidents Day camp has some openings for kids in first through fourth grades. (The Pre-K and Kindergarten camps are full.) Camp activities will focus on primates. Campers will explore animal diversity, environmental conservation and the ways Lincoln Park Zoo cares for animals at the zoo and conserves them in the wild.
Make the most of a museum
If you aren’t feeling all that presidential but want to make the most of an open Monday, The Field Museum is free every day in February, including Presidents Day. The Adler Planetarium is also free on Presidents Day. You can find tips on making the most of museums with preschoolers here and advice for making the most of museum free days here.
Read about presidents
Libraries are closed on Presidents Day, so pick up a few books in advance. Here are some of our favorite books about former presidents
“I am George Washington” by Brad Meltzer
“I am Abraham Lincoln” by Brad Meltzer
“John, Paul, George and Ben” by Lane Smith (admittedly, only George was a president, but it’s a great read for kids that parents will appreciate, too)
“Abe Lincoln’s Dream” by Lane Smith
“Presidents Day” by Anne Rockwell
“Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents” by David Stabler
“Abe Lincoln at Last!” (A Magic Tree House book) by Mary Pope Osborne
Although she’d like to be taller and have more time to dive into good books, Shannan is awfully happy with her life as a recovering attorney living in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and teen daughter.
See more of Shannan 's stories here.
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