Springfield, Illinois: Lincoln Country
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Lincoln and more in Springfield
Generations of Illinois kids have traveled to Springfield for state capital outings. Now there's even more for both kids and adults to see: the engaging Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which took nearly 16 years and more than $115 million to create.
Beyond the museum, visitors can explore many sites important to the days when Lincoln worked and lived in Springfield. Plus, the city has beautiful parks when you need a break from historical sightseeing. And you can get a taste of the storied Route 66, especially if you're in town for the annual Mother Road Festival.
Pictured: Visitors pose with figures representing Lincoln's family in the presidential museum.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Covering a city block, its interactive, eerily realistic exhibits bring to life important phases of the 16th president's life and apply 21st-century technology to his times.
Plan to spend three to four hours to see it all, including theatrical presentations made with holograms and blasting cannon fire.
Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices This downtown brick building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Lincoln practiced here from 1843 to 1852; visitors learn about the beginnings of his successful law career and about the courtrooms where he tried cases.
Old State Capitol Across the plaza from the Lincoln-Herndon law offices, you can take a 30-minute guided tour of the building where Lincoln served in the Illinois Legislature, gave his famous "House Divided" speech in 1858 and where his body lay in state following his assassination in 1865.
Pictured: Lincoln's likeness appears in a mirror at the Old State Capitol.
Learning more about Lincoln
Lincoln Home National Historic Site Tour the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned. The Lincolns lived in the Greek Revival-style house from 1844 to 1861, when they left for the White House. Some 50 items have been authenticated as belonging to the Lincolns. Costumed interpreters (left) guide your visit.
Springfield Walks Arrange a 10-minute talk if you're pressed for time, or join walking tours that last 90 minutes to 2.5 hours. Themed tours include "Lincoln's Ghost Walk: Legends & Lore" and "Mr. Lincoln's Bicentennial Springfield Walk."
Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site Tours offer revealing stories about the lives, deaths and burials of Lincoln; his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; and three of their four children. More than 300,000 people visit the 117-foot brick-and-granite tomb each year.
Lincoln sites near Springfield
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site Visit a re-creation of young Lincoln's 1830s town. Interpreters (left) chronicle frontier life, and self-guided walking tours weave through a tavern, store, one-room school and timbered houses near Petersburg, about 20 miles northwest of Springfield.
Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site Lincoln's father and stepmother, Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, lived on a farm in Lerna (about 100 miles southeast of Springfield) during the 1840s. Today, visitors can see a reproduction of the two-room cabin, furnished with 1840s-era items, and learn about 19th-century rural life.
More to do in Springfield
Washington Park Botanical Garden The domed conservatory (left), home to exotic plants, sits amid a variety of outdoor gardens, including a 5,000-plant rose garden, iris garden, perennial border, Betty Mood Smith Rockery, monocot garden, peony collection, shade garden and Roman Cultural and Learn-to-Grow children's garden.
Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon One of the world's largest carillons, the tower has 67 cast-bronze bells. Tours are available in the summer, and concerts take place on Sunday afternoons throughout the year (and on Wednesday evenings in the summer). The International Carillon Festival is held at the beginning of the summer.
Illinois State Capitol Built over a 20-year period starting in 1868, the domed capitol is the home of the Illinois Legislature and many state offices. Visitors can tour the historic building and, if the Legislature is in session, watch politics in action from balcony-level seats.
Getting your kicks on Route 66
Springfield is part of the legendary Route 66. Visit one of the Route 66 classic stops in and near Springfield, including the Cozy Dog Drive In. Or get your kicks on America's main street during the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival, a free car show and festival that features a vintage-car parade, food, music and kids' activities.
Where to eat
Bentoh's Legislators like this downtown Asian restaurant and sushi bar. (217) 544-6972
Cafe Brio Inventive, unexpected Caribbean and Mexican dishes bring families to this colorful restaurant in a historic downtown building.
Maldaner's A favorite since 1884, Maldaner's is known for fresh local produce and seasonal items, and pistachio-crusted salmon. Try a french-fry-smothered horseshoe sandwich (left) made with beef, chicken, ham or bacon, an open-face treat that originated in Springfield.
Saputo's Southern Italian cooking stars at this family-owned restaurant that's been around since 1948. Pasta, pizza and seafood are among the specialties.
Sebastian's Hideout Try Mediterranean dishes such as grilled pork with polenta, plus seafood and aged steaks.
Where to stay
Hilton Springfield Downtown, the remodeled 360-room hotel (left) has an indoor pool and a Starbucks.
The Inn at 835 An Arts-and-Crafts apartment house in the historic district has become an elegant bed and breakfast with verandas and fireplaces. Each room has a private bath.
The State House Inn This downtown lodging is close to many Lincoln attractions and has a fitness center and piano lounge.