Visiting the JFK Presidential Library

There was once a president who inspired a nation with a dream to send a man to the moon. In modern America, lessons can be learned from JFK.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


There’s a moment on a tour of the JFK Presidential Library that brings on tears. Around me, as I stood there, some people sobbed. I could even feel that slight sting in the eyes myself.

The moment comes right at the end of the exhibits in the room dedicated to that fateful day in Dallas.

Unlike the other rooms before, there were no glass display cabinets or typed explanations. It was just a room painted completely black, a date on the wall – ‘November 2, 1963’ – and television screens with that infamous broadcast of Walter Cronkite informing a nation they had lost a president.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

The sadness comes not from the act of the assassination itself, which is now a part of history rather than a pain in the national consciousness, but from the realisation of how great and inspirational a president can be.

At a time in American politics when a man who promised hope and change has failed to unite a fractured country, it stirs the heart to find out more about the man who made a pledge of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” and worked until his dying day to see that dream realised.

The tribute to his life, The JFK Presidential Library and Museum, looks out to the harbour of his hometown of Boston.

To save money if you’re visiting the JFK Library as part of other sightseeing in Boston, I would recommend the Go City Boston Pass.

The building’s striking architecture is impressive as you approach it but it’s inside the white walls and large latticed glass pavilion that visitors are truly impressed.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

The exhibits follow the story of John F Kennedy chronologically from his days as a student, through his military service, his time as a congressman and senator, to the presidential campaign and his achievements in office.

To be fair, to see these stories of history is to believe JFK was flawless, which he obviously wasn’t. In some ways it reminded me of the propaganda museums I saw in North Korea.

Still, it’s designed as a tribute, not an impartial analysis, and there’s no doubt that he made many bold leaps forward on behalf of the USA.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

JFK was the president who made mental illness and children with disabilities national priorities – not because focus groups told him to or because he could see a wave of public sentiment which he needed to ride.

No, it was because he believed passionately it was the right thing to do and the country would be better for it.

His fight for the rights of black Americans and his support for the campaign to abolish segregation made him unpopular with many people but, once again, it was because he dreamt of a country that was greater than a collective of selfish intolerance.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

John F Kennedy today

I write all of this not just because I was inspired by the museum (which was probably the highlight of my trip to Boston), but because study of a president like JFK has never been more important than in America today.

There were parallels made between him and Barack Obama years ago and there are clear similarities in their language.

In his acceptance of the nomination, the young senator from Massachusetts said, “the old people without medical care – the families without a decent home – the parents of children without adequate food or schools – they all know that it’s time for a change”.

Ah, yes, “change”. I knew we’d heard that somewhere before.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

It’s what you do with the power invested that maketh the man, though, not the rhetoric with which you got it. At a time when protests are growing at cities across the US, real leadership is needed.

President Obama may have it within him and one day his library may tell the tale of how he led America out of an economic and social depression.

But in the meantime, the young people occupying Wall Street could do worse than to get inspiration from JFK (who was probably no older than them when he entered public service) when he said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

And as far as Obama goes, there is some inspiration for him as well. The final quote you see at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum is written on the wall at the exit of the exhibits.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

It has become, in about a dozen words, as much of a shrine for the 35th president as a phrase can be.

It simply reads: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on”.

Visiting the JFK Presidential Library

It takes quite a while to go through the JFK Presidential Library and see all the different exhibits in the museum. I would recommend planning to be here for at least 90 minutes, although you may even find yourself spending a bit longer here.

A well as the permanent collection, which is obviously the focus of the museum, there is usually also a temporary exhibition highlighting different topics like the Kennedy children, world events, and artists of the time.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum Boston, USA

There is a security check when you visit the JFK Presidential Library and you can’t take in any large bags, so I would recommend leaving anything big in your car or not bringing it at all.

In regards to accessibility:

  • There are 14 accessible spaces in the car park.
  • Manual wheelchairs are available at the visitor desk, or you’re welcome to bring your own.
  • The museum is wheelchair accessible, there are Braille maps and brochures, and video presentations have open captions.
  • Service animals are also welcome.

You can buy tickets when you arrive, or you can buy them online here in advance if you want to save a bit of time.

I would also recommend you have a look at the Go City Boston Pass. If you’re planning to see a lot of sights around the city, you can save a lot of money with the pass – and the JFK Presidential Library is included.

Where is JFK Presidential Library?

JFK Presidential Library is found near UMass Boston. The official address is Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125, United States.
You can find it on a map here.

How do you get to JFK Presidential Library?

If you’re driving, there is free car parking at the JFK Presidential Library.
To get to the JFK Presidential Library by public transport from central Boston, take the Red Line to the JFK/UMass stop and follow signage to the ground level bus shelters.
From there, catch the Paul Revere Route 1 shuttle bus, provided by the University of Massachusetts Boston free of charge. Exit the bus at the Kennedy/Archives stop located at the intersection of University Drive North and Columbia Point, across from the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. 

When is JFK Presidential Library open?

The JFK Presidential Library is open daily from: 10:00 – 17:00.
Regular admission will end at 15:30 to give visitors enough time to experience the museum.
The museum is closed on these holidays:
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November)
Christmas Day (December 25)

What is the JFK Presidential Library entrance fee?

Standard entrance fee to the JFK Presidential Library is $18, and $12 for concession.
If you’re doing a lot of sightseeing in Boston, I would recommend using the Go City Boston Pass to save money, including when you visit the JFK Library.

You can see more at the official website of the JFK Presidential Library here.

If you’re looking for a refreshment, there is the JFK Cafe on site, which is open from 10:00 – 15:00.

While you’re out here, you might like to visit the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, which is right next door and has replicas of the US Senate Chamber and Senator Kennedy’s Senate office.

NOTE: The institute is currently only open for pre-scheduled group visits.

Also nearby is the University Hall Gallery of UMass Boston, which is always changing its interesting temporary exhibitions.

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