The third Springfield post’s a charm.
A couple of weeks ago, Sara of Travel with Sara invited me to join her on a road trip to Springfield, Illinois, the land of Lincoln. The Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau had graciously invited her to visit and arranged all of our lodging, dining and activities. When she said she had room for one more, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.
Learn about why the Lincoln Ghost Walk was my most memorable experience and what Springfield foods we ate.
This third and final Springfield post will focus on the stuff between. We experienced as much of Springfield as possible within our 36 hours. Here are five more reasons to visit Springfield:
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
I confess I haven’t visited many museums, post-college, except for the occasional art museum. When I grew up, my folks took my brother and I to museums during every vacation and I know we’re all the better for it.
I hope you’ll believe me when I say that the Lincoln Museum is worth a visit.
A museum employee will greet you upon entering and offer a minute-long guide to exploring the museum. Our guide highly recommended that, if nothing else, we attend the museum’s two videos presentations Ghosts of the Library and Lincoln’s Eyes. I was not sure what to expect, but found them both engaging.
This replica of the Lincoln family is located in the lobby entrance.
A figure of John Wilks Booth lurks around the corner and I can only imagine what would happen if like Night at a Museum occurred here after dark. Fortunately, I think the Lincoln family mannequins far outnumber those of Booth.
Ghosts of the Library utilized holograms that explained the museum and library’s mission to preserve Lincoln-era memorabilia and educate the public about this period of history. The museum continually receives historical items people randomly find or donate. Lincoln’s Eyes explains how the presidency affected Lincoln and his family on a personal level. People who are easily startled should know the seats shake during parts of the presentation.
The museum features many life-sized displays depicting different parts of Lincoln’s life, but my favorite corner was the Treasures Gallery displaying items like the Lincoln family’s letters and clothing. You can find more original pieces in the Lincoln home.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
In 1887, Lincoln’s son Robert donated the family home to the National Park service as long as they maintained it and allowed the public to visit free of charge. The home is located on a four block stretch that the park service has renovated as closely to Lincoln’s time as possible. It’s the only national parkland in the state.
Park rangers lead small groups on tours through the home. Reserve a free ticket at the main park building. If the site is busy, you may have to wait for a tour which leaves an opportunity to explore the rest of the historic site. Several of the restored homes are open for viewing.
One employee facilitated an interactive demonstration on how women in Lincoln’s time washed clothes. She invited the children to participate and we, adults, were more than happy to oblige as they eagerly volunteered.
When it was time for our tour, the park ranger advised us to hold our bags closely so they didn’t scrape the home. We viewed some of the Lincolns’ original belongings including a horsehair furniture set, Mary’s cake stand, and stove. We also got to use their original stair railing, which the ranger called “shaking hands with Lincoln.”
Mary and Abraham slept in separate, connected bedrooms. This was Mary’s.
The house is also decorated with items from the Lincoln era or replicas based on photos, such as Mary’s wallpaper. I especially loved wandering the neighborhood at night when it felt like I was stepping back in time, but don’t miss the opportunity to visit the site during the day when it’s staffed by knowledgable rangers.
Washington Park Botanical Gardens
We caught a moment of serenity as we wandered through Washington Park and its botanical gardens.
The rose garden reminded me of the Lyndale Park Rose Garden by Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, MN. We arrived at the botanical gardens just in time to take a peek before closing.
We were mesmerized by all of the flowers and the singing birds.
There are 150 species of plants growing just within this conservatory. Admission is free.
The Lincoln Tomb is located in the Oak Ridge Cemetary and is open to visitors free of charge.
Abraham, Mary and their three sons Edward, Willie, and Tad rest in this tomb. One of my readers shared that it’s tradition to rub Lincoln’s nose for “luck” while visiting the tomb. Of course, we had to participate. The statue is elevated and I saw adults hoisting up their family members just for this opportunity.
Korean War, Vietnam War, and Word War II memorials are also located at the cemetery.
Phil Kadner explains why people should visit Lincoln’s tomb in his Post Tribune article, though, I would broaden his plea to the entire city when he says:
“It is difficult, even now, despite the books about his life and the movie, to comprehend just how beloved and reviled Lincoln was at the time of his death. Many schoolchildren will likely be forced to see “Lincoln,” through school outings or by well-intentioned parents. Do them a favor and take a trip down to Springfield. Take them to the tomb.
At Oak Ridge Cemetery, you can feel the meaning behind the words.”
Route 66 Drive In
We ended our road trip on a lighthearted note, by going to the Route 66 Drive In. The Drive In is located next to Knight’s Action Park, so we mini-golfed while we waited for dusk.
This drive in features two movie screens on opposite sides of the sprawling parking lot that show a pair of movies, back-to-back. The employee listed our film choices of cars, robots and apes so we chose apes, of course! We brought plenty of treats including Del’s popcorn the Chamber had left in our hotel room and Beth’s addictive Fish Snack Mix.
People trickled in as it got darker and darker.
Sara fully expected to dislike Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but ended up getting a kick out of the film as the plot thickened. I never expected that apes would make me feel so emotional. “Oh no,” I kept thinking, these battling monkeys are going to make me cry and that’s how I’m going to leave Springfield.” Plus, Sara might laugh.
In the end, all was well. The apes did not make me cry and so Sara did not have to laugh (at me, at least).
Springfield surprised me. I expected to have fun exploring a new place, but I didn’t expect the city to move me so profoundly. If you pursue the loves of food and history, you’ll want to experience this city for yourself.