If one name is synonymous with Springfield, Illinois, it is Abraham Lincoln. From the day his pioneer family moved to the area, Lincoln loved it and called it his own. He launched his legal career in Springfield, raised his family here and was later laid to rest within its borders.
Lincoln’s legacy is present in the many Springfield historic sites bearing his name. Costumed re-enactors walk the reconstructed village streets of so-called Lincoln’s New Salem, a gathering of timber houses and quaint shops near Springfield, where his family first settled. Downtown offers several important sites within walking distance of each other. At the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, visitors can tour the house in which Lincoln and his wife raised their children. The home is open every day except major holidays, and entry is free. Nearby, see the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, a three-story Greek Revival building, from which Lincoln practiced law with his two partners. A few blocks away stands the Old State Capitol, where before the Civil War Lincoln’s prophetic words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” still resonate in the halls.
Also downtown, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a state-of-the-art facility built in 2005, is a must-see Springfield attraction. The venue holds the world’s largest collection of biographical material about the sixteenth President and displays the original Gettysburg Address, written in Lincoln’s own handwriting, and the quill pen the President used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Here, Lincoln’s life and times can truly be experienced. Live performances and even holographic special effects conjure up the ghosts of Lincoln and his contemporaries, transporting audiences to another time. A 10-minute drive away, in Oak Ridge Cemetery, lies the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, a more somber memorial that includes Lincoln’s burial vault.
After a historical tour, explore Springfield’s other top attractions. The capital city hosts the Illinois State Fair in early August every year, providing family fun and agricultural awareness. The original “hot dog on a stick,” or “Cozy Dog,” was first sold at the State Fair in 1946, and hungry travelers can order these tasty treats anytime at the original Cozy Dog restaurant on South Grand Street or at the Cozy Dog Drive-In on South Sixth Street, fondly known as “Route 66.”
There are other kicks on Route 66, the storied highway that runs through Central Illinois and into Springfield. The Route 66 Drive-in Theater, one of a very few drive-ins still open in the United States, shows outdoor flicks from April through September.
Shoppers can browse through a variety of stores throughout Springfield. Sangamon Antique Mall, on Sangamon Street, houses more than 100 dealers of antiquities and kitsch. For more modern wares, visit the department stores and specialty shops of White Oaks Mall in western Springfield or Prairie Crossing on the southwest side of town.
Finally, the Panther Creek Country Club in the city has hosted the LPGA tour since 1976, attracting elite women golfers and spectators every June.