Top Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and other Lincoln sites, plus a Frank Lloyd Wright home and Route 66 stops, are among the top things to do in Illinois' capital city.

Springfield delivers both serious history lessons and light-hearted slices of Americana. But the city where Lincoln lived is known for informative sites that put a relatable face on a larger-than-life figure.

What to do

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Exploring a re-creation of the one-room cabin where Lincoln lived and catching a Lincoln- theme film in the Union Theater provide a good intro to the 16th president. Immersive galleries portray key moments in his life.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Dana-Thomas House If you need a break from the Lincoln-mania, try a home tour. This 35-room house, designed in 1902 by Frank Lloyd Wright, contains the nation’s largest collection of Wright’s site-specific original art glass and furniture.

Governor’s Mansion The 164-year-old mansion reopened in summer 2018 after an extensive renovation. Docent-led tours go through elaborately decorated areas such as the state dining room and up a grand staircase to four suites.

International Route 66 Mother Road Festival More than a thousand hot rods and vintage motorcycle roar into Springfield for the festival featuring live music and food vendors (September 27-29, 2019).

Lincoln Home National Historic Site Tour the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned. Lincoln and his wife, Mary, lived in the 12-room Greek Revival-style house from 1844 to 1861. Living-history interpreters enliven special events.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site Visit a reconstruction of the town Lincoln lived in for six years (near Petersburg, 20 miles northwest of Springfield). Interpreters chronicle frontier life, and self-guided tours weave through a tavern, one-room school, 12 timbered houses, mills, workshops and stores.

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site During free self-guided tours, docents answer questions about Lincoln and his family (all but son Robert were laid to rest here). In front of the tomb is a bronze reproduction of Gutzon Borglum’s marble head of Lincoln; it’s tradition to rub the nose for good luck. 

Lincoln tomb

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site

Old State Capitol Take a free tour of the building where Lincoln served in the Illinois Legislature and gave his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858.

Old State Capitol

Old State Capitol; photo courtesy of Illinois Office of Tourism

Springfield Walks Seasonal tours explore Lincoln’s life, death and family. The most popular is the 90-minute Lincoln’s Ghost Walk: Legends and Lore.

Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon One of the world’s largest carillons features 67 cast-bronze bells in a single tower. Concerts take place year-round.

Where to eat

Augie’s Front Burner Entrees infused with seasonal flavors (like summer’s salmon with sweet corn and tomato) make this upscale restaurant a winner.

Cozy Dog Drive In Ed Waldmire, Jr. created his “crusty cur” while serving during World War II, then renamed it when he came home. (You’ll know it as a corn dog.) Check out the Route 66 memorabilia.

Incredibly Delicious Flourless chocolate cake tops a menu of desserts; lunch fare includes quiches, soups, and sandwiches served in an 1840s Italianate mansion.

Incredibly Delicious

Incredibly Delicious

Long Nine Junction This fast-casual restaurant wins over diners with dishes such as barbecued pork and apple butter or a French dip sandwich of slow-roasted beef with provolone. Long Nine Junction on Facebook

Maldaner's It’s the place to go for a horseshoe sandwich: meat or veggies on toast, smothered with french fries and cheese sauce.

Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery Play cornhole or bocce in the outdoor beer garden while sipping craft brews or nibbling on flatbread pizzas.

Obed and Isaac's

Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery

Saputo’s Southern Italian specialties like pasta, pizza and seafood star at this modest family-owned restaurant that’s been around since 1948.

Where to stay

The Inn at 835 A 1909 apartment building in the Aristocracy Hill historical district is now an elegant bed-and-breakfast.

The State House We loved finding a remodeled downtown boutique-style hotel with a piano lounge and 1960s vibe.

Wyndham Springfield City Centre The 369-room downtown hotel has a heated indoor pool, a Starbucks, steakhouse, grill and a lounge 30 stories above the city.

More information: Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau


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