I have driven past the highway exits for Springfield too many times to count. For all the times I have visited and driven through Illinois, I don’t know why I haven’t explored Springfield until now. Springfield is a beautiful city with so much to do that I’m going to have to keep coming back here to explore everything. As I get to know Springfield deeper, I will be adding more to this post with more things to do in Springfield. Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your next visit to Springfield, Illinois.
Abraham Lincoln is Springfield’s best-known resident. With all of his accomplishments and living here for most of his life, it is no wonder that there are so many places named after Lincoln. There is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Lincoln Tomb, Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, Lincoln Family Pew, and the Lincoln Depot. Whew! And there is even more. There is a Looking for Lincoln Story Trail that will take you by almost 50 historical locations around Springfield. But there is over 265 Looking for Lincoln storyboards around central Illinois. You can start your visit for all the things to do in Springfield at the Springfield Visitors Center at the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office at One S. Old State Capitol Plaza (corner of 6th & Adams). Open hours for the visitors center is Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Illinois State Capitol building is a fantastic sight to behold when you drive up on Capital Avenue. It looks so small until you get up close, and then you are amazed at the beauty of the 405-ft dome sitting atop a mixture of Renaissance Revival and Second Empire Architecture. You can even watch how the state of Illinois works with balcony seating. Did you ever wonder why Chicago is not the capital of Illinois? The reason why Chicago is not the capital is that Illinois was settled from south to north. And when Springfield became the state capital in 1834, Chicago was a small town only one-year-old.
Open hours are Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On the weekends; the Capitol building is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is free.
This National Park is small but packed with lots of historic buildings and exhibits. When I visited the National Park Office was closed, but you can still walk around the Lincoln neighborhood. As the tours inside the buildings were not available, I spent the time walking up and down the street admiring the houses and imagining how wonderful it was to live and grow up here. I can imagine kids running up and down the tree-lined street and neighbors yelling hi from across the street.
While visiting, you can learn about the homes and buildings throughout the site by reading the signs or by downloading an audible app. You can find out all about how Lincoln raised a family, built a successful legal and political career, and made lifelong friends and allies. This is a fantastic outdoor national park where you can practice social distancing while you absorb a little bit of history at the same time.
The Lincoln Depot also is known as the Great Western Railroad Depot, is where Abraham Lincoln boarded a train heading to Washington D.C on February 12, 1861. This is the spot where Lincoln gave his emotional farewell address to his friends and neighbors. Even as it was raining, everyone’s hats were lifted as they strained forward to hear every word uttered by Abe. The Depot is free for you to enter and explore around the main floor, which still has the look and feel of yesteryear. Several photographs and displays are showing the prominent people in Lincoln’s life. And you can sit on one of the benches and watch a video of what it was like for Lincoln to travel those 12 days to Washington from Springfield. Open hours are Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Situated in Old Aristocracy Hill in Springfield, the Dana Thomas House offers visitors a chance to enjoy the beauty of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Looking in the windows gives it away immediately that this is a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The Dana-Thomas House contains one of the largest and finest collections of original Frank Lloyd Wright-designed art glass. Tours through the home are offered daily at specific times. You can schedule your tour here.
The Lincoln Colored Home (a.k.a the Lincoln Colored Old Folks and Orphans Home) was the first historic site I found in Springfield. Located at 427 South 12th Street, the building looks abandoned and neglected. There is no sign saying what this building is. I had to look up its history later. The house was opened on March 8, 1898, and remained in operation in Springfield, Illinois, until 1933. The Lincoln Colored Home was one of the first orphanages for African American children in the United States. I have hope that this building gets restored as it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
Where to Stay in Springfield
There are plenty of options for you to stay when you are visiting Springfield, Illinois. If you like to stay in your own place, an Airbnb would be your best option. Or you can book a hotel at Booking.com.
I was so excited to find all the things to do in Springfield. Especially since Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president, with all the Lincoln historical sites to visit, I’ll be exploring Springfield further in the coming months. Have you visited Springfield before? What was your favorite thing to do?
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