Learn about Lincoln and have some family fun in Springfield, IL!
My husband Andy and I have a common theme on vacations: find Abraham Lincoln. From Independence Day fireworks at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. to a random plaque in Cooperstown, New York, we have discovered him. But we have yet to involve Josh. This summer, it all changed when Andy’s state meeting was in Springfield, Illinois.
We want to help you discover the Land of Lincoln capitol.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPM) – Always stop to take your picture with most of the Lincoln family (in wax form). From there, you can head to the left for a glimpse of Lincoln’s life as a child, young adult, and lawyer with kids of his own. Head to the right, and you will learn about the presidential years.
In our opinion, the stars of the museum are the two presentations. In the indescribable, impressive Ghosts in the Library, a single actor tells the stories of the history to be found there. Next, you will see The Eyes of Lincoln. An artist discusses what the portraits, sculptures, and paintings of Lincoln tell us about him just by examining his eyes. Both presentations have lights, special effects, and some loud cannon fire and lightning cracking that made us all jump.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site – The Lincoln Home offers a 30-minute tour of where the Lincolns lived for 17 years. The tour guides are knowledgeable and will answer all your questions, especially those from the littlest tourists. After the tour, take a walk down the street to see the neighborhood as it was in the 1800s.
Oak Ridge Cemetery – No pilgrimage for Lincoln is complete without a trip to Oak Ridge Cemetery and the Lincoln Family Tomb. Make sure to rub the nose on the Lincoln bust for some good luck.
Cozy Dog Drive In – Our first stop was Cozy Dog Drive-In, a Route 66 landmark and the birthplace of the first corn dog. We beat the lunch crowd and enjoyed a wide variety of their offerings. The corn dog was a big hit with Josh.
Café MOXO – Centrally located downtown, it was perfect to grab breakfast on our Saturday morning before hitting the farmers market. Try the blueberry muffins, aged white cheddar hashbrowns, or one of their coffees.
Springfield Carriage Co. – Recommended by a park ranger, this was a great find. A historic home, it was walking distance from the Lincoln home and had kid options. Get the sweet potato fries. They come with a homemade marshmallow fluff dipping sauce. So good!
Obed and Isaac’s – On trips, we always check out the local brew scene. Here we sampled some of their beers – my favorite was the Strawberry Blonde Ale, Andy’s was the Upside Brown Coffee Ale. The food didn’t disappoint. With a great outdoor space, including two bocce ball courts and a giant connect four game, it’s kid-friendly.
Portillo’s – I am a traditional hot dog person but was very curious about The Original. I must admit I am a convert; still no pickle, please. They also had a seasonal lemon cake (add it to your strawberry shake!) that was Josh’s favorite thing. A misplaced meal led to a long wait. That said, the employees were incredible.
The Feed Store – This restaurant was closed for the weekend. It came highly recommended as being extremely kid-friendly with a great grilled cheese.
Knights Action Park – We had rested and needed an activity after pool time (Josh insisted I mention the pool at the Crowne Plaza), so I proposed putt-putt. The park also has a driving range, a small selection of carnival rides, and a water park. There are two courses to choose from when it comes to putt-putt. Choose wisely. The park is older, but we still had a good time. They also have a drive-in for night movies.
Kidzeum – Our last morning of adventuring was supposed to involve a hike (Lincoln Memorial Gardens, Sangchris State Park, or the Lost Bridge Trail). Sadly, it was storming; time to pivot. In line with their theme of health and wellness, you will meet a three-story-tall kid that your kids can crawl through to learn more about the inner workings of the body. There was also a water table, a food-focused area, and a special exhibit all about turtles.
Illinois State Museum – Located near the new state capitol building, it is free, and has a mammoth skeleton and a play museum. Josh didn’t want to go without his dad, so we will visit next time. It is not open on Sundays.
If you appreciate cool-looking buildings, both outside and in, check out these Springfield buildings:
- Pick up a Springfield visitor’s map. It was our best source for things to do and see. It will help you plan activities close in proximity, so you only have to park once.
- You can park for free at the ALPM garage. Meters are free on weekends. The National Park does charge for parking, but the tour is free.
- Bring your walking shoes. We did almost five miles on Saturday.
- Take pictures of all the Lincolns you find. Our total this trip was eight.
I hope you and your crew make the approximately 90-minute trip from STL for a weekend.