Few presidents have made the same impact on our nation as our 35th, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. From the first televised presidential debates to the Cuban missile crisis, JFK stands tall in our history. Even today biographies are bestsellers and historic sites dealing with his life are major attractions. Here is a short list of some of the top in the country.
83 Beals Street
Where else to start but the beginning? The birthplace of JFK is preserved at this national historic site in Brookline, Massachusetts. Three different tours are on offer that provide unique insight into the beginnings of a great man. Walk in the footsteps of the young “Jack” Kennedy to the school he attended or the local corner store he frequented. Tour the house and learn about the Kennedys’ family life in this humble home. The longest of the three tours provides a guided tour of Boston’s North End. All tours are free but make sure to call ahead and make a reservation.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
While you’re in Boston, head over to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. If Boston traffic is good to you, it should only be around a 20-minute drive. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, it is situated at Columbia Point on the Boston waterfront. The building houses original source materials from not only JFK but also Robert F. Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Literally anything you could possibly want to know about them is likely contained within this collection. In addition to the library, the museum is home to several fascinating permanent exhibits dealing with various aspects of the Kennedy legacy (the campaign, space race, etc.) as well as temporary exhibits.
The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum
This museum documents the days Kennedy spent on his beloved Cape Cod. The museum features a fascinatingly curated collection of photographs and much historical insight into this time in JFK’s life. There is also a video narrated by Walter Cronkite that sheds more light on Kennedy’s time on the cape. After visiting the museum, take some time walking the same beaches that so inspired him.
The Sixth Floor Museum
Located in the former book depository made infamous by its place in the story of John F. Kennedy’s life. On the seventh floor of the building that fateful day in November 1963 is documented by films, photographs, and various artifacts, including the original sign that hung over the entrance to the book depository. On the sixth floor an accurate recreation of the sniper’s nest used by Lee Harvey Oswald is preserved. Leading up to this is an in-depth exhibit detailing the social and political context of the times that led to the trip to Texas and ultimately to the end of Kennedy’s life. After the museum, try walking around Dealey Plaza and see the “grassy knoll” made famous by the Zapruder film. The museum also hosts informative events such as the upcoming “Living History Series.”
These are just a few of any number of places one could go to gain better insight into one of our most beloved American leaders, who with each passing year never seems to lessen in significance with respect to history or our public imagination. So go out, take a trip into yesteryear, and commune with our 35th president. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget.