On July 23, 1885, Former President and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant died of esophageal cancer in Wilton, NY. Before Grant passed, he had one request and that was to be buried next to his wife. West Point and many other military cemeteries did not allow women to be buried on-premises, so that left Grant’s widow Julia with finding a location for the resting place of her high-profile husband.
The same day Ulysses S. Grant died, Mayor William Russell Grace offered NYC to be Grant’s graveyard plot. After years of fundraising and construction, Grant’s final resting place was completed in 1897. The Mausoleum continues to be the largest of its kind in North America. On December 14, 1902, Julia passed away in Washington D.C. and interred next to her husband.
In 1958, The National Park Service took over care of Grant’s Tomb. Like many other places in New York City during the 70s and 80s, vandalism, graffiti, and neglect took toll on the mausoleum. On April 27, 1997 restoration was completed.
Grant’s Tomb is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. The Visitor Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free to the Tomb and Visitor Center. Grant’s National Memorial’s address is Riverside Drive and West 122nd St. I have heard stories of difficulties finding parking spots, but I have always had an easy time finding street parking within walking distance on Riverside Drive.
I’ve visited Grant’s National Memorial many times and there has never been a crowd. There’s normally one other curious person wandering around beside me and my children. Start out at the Visitor Center to learn about Grant and watch a short video. The Visitor Center is across the street from the Tomb. There are uniforms and artifacts to explore in the Center. If you have kids with you, pick up a Junior Park Ranger Booklet for the kids to fill out and once completed, they’ll receive a badge from the Park Ranger.
The experience takes 60 to 90 minutes. If you are taking 90 minutes, you must really love history. The area is a great place for a picnic lunch, so bring snacks. Usually, when we visit Grant’s Tomb, it is usually done on the same day as visiting Hamilton Grange, because they are only 1.5 miles away from each other.
You might also be interested in reading, National Parks: A Friend to Parents.
Other places to visit in NYC: