Jeff’s brother moved to Springfield, Illinois, a year or so ago, so of course we visited on our road trip. We spent five nights here, and we had plenty to fill our days, most of it revolving around our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. We had a fantastic time exploring.
The Lincoln sites in Springfield are among the best historical sites we’ve experienced. Everything was extremely well done, and much of it was clustered in the downtown area, so it was easy walking from one thing to the next. We loved exploring Springfield, but we think this would be a great destination with kids as well. In fact, Jeff still remembers a lot from his family’s trip here when he was about ten.
We started at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site Visitor Center, where we watched a short, very informative movie which gave us background for all the other things we were to experience. Highly recommended! Next up we did the actual tour of his home, the only home he ever owned. To best protect the property, all tours are guided (and free!). It was very interesting. Not all of the furnishings and decor are original, but most are, and the others are true to the time period. Many of the furnishings and decorations are based on drawings of the Lincoln’s home from the newspapers of the day. Mary Todd Lincoln was reported to have suffered from migraines, and I have a personal hunch that it was actually the loud wallpaper and carpets that sent her brain into overdrive, but maybe that’s not accurate.
Walking through Lincoln’s neighborhood is fun because the streets are blocked off and have been left in the style of the time – graveled streets and boardwalk sidewalks. Most houses in the neighborhood have been restored to the way they’d have been at the time, and there are a few wagons and carriages in the streets. A few of the other houses have self-guided displays inside.
Around town there are Lincoln statues and murals everywhere. We found some favorites near the Springfield visitor center and up by the old Union Station building (building is closed, though). Of course we had to do some goofy poses with some of them, but by now you know to expect nothing less from us.
The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum are across the street from each other. The museum is extremely well done. It’s way more high tech than we expected, but it’s not cheesy. The movies are both great and the exhibit with the faux campaign news coverage (featuring the late Tim Russert) was excellent. Other exhibits are also very well done. The Illinois Gallery’s special exhibit “Stories of Survival: Object, Image, Memory” was a moving exhibit of photographs of items brought by refugees and written explanations of why they held special meaning. This gallery’s exhibit changes periodically. There is a cost to visit the Lincoln museum.
The last Lincoln site we visited was his tomb. This final resting place of President Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their children is a beautiful and stately spot. It is the second most visited cemetery in the nation, apparently, after Arlington. The monument is topped by a huge obelisk, a huge statue of Lincoln, and sculptures of soldiers from the Civil War on its four corners. Within the monument is a rotunda housing several smaller sculptures of Lincoln from different periods of his life and a memorial monument marking his burial location. It is a beautiful space.
Of course Lincoln is not the only top dog in Springfield. We also popped in to Cozy Dog, still owned by the family of the man who (arguably) created the corn dog on a stick; Scheels, a sporting goods store like no other which has the world’s largest PacMan game, an indoor Ferris wheel, a retro candy store, and sightings of Sasquatch; the Lauterbach giant; and the Ace Sign Company Museum where we got a fantastic tour (from the founder’s grandson) of not only the Route 66 sign museum but of the shop floor where they continue to create amazing signs. We are hoping the folks we saw from the Route 66 Association of France (yep, they were really from France!) stopped there, too.
Our trip to Springfield was terrific, and we highly recommend it – there’s plenty to keep you busy, informed, and entertained, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!