Illinois: Springfield, Family Vacation Ideas – Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic, Ghost Walks, and a Trolley Ride.
Solidly linked to the life and time of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield is a remarkable family vacation spot showcasing plenty of history and offering modern day fun as well. The size is manageable – not overwhelming or exhausting, and cost affordable. From living history, time travel and vintage carriage rides to glow-in-the-night golf and a drive-in movie theater, it is all about having fun and sharing memories.
Just 200 miles from Chicago, and 100 miles from St. Louis, Springfield showcases American history and provides plenty of family fun along the way. Historic sites include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, the Lincoln Home and Neighborhood, and Lincoln’s New Salem plus world famous Route 66, miles of hiking and biking trails, mini golf, disk golf, go carts and farm adventures. We have a list of favorite spots to make any family vacation terrific. Park your car and tour.
The city has a surprising number of ways to see the city and visit historic sites, the most conventional of which is Springfield Mass Transit with buses that run specifically to Springfield Historic Sites. For a more vintage approach Springfield Trolley Tours run daily between 10 different locations with hop-on hop-off privileges. On weekends Springfield Carriage Company offers transportation by Percheon draft horses. And it is also possible to enjoy a 30-minute chauffeured pedi-cab tour of the historic area. Bonus points:
No matter your choice of transportation as you tour you will notice more than 30 interpretive exhibits placed throughout the historic downtown area part of the “Here I Have Lived” installation enabling visitors to imagine Lincoln’s life in the community.
Meet the Lincoln family.
Before touring any of the historic buildings it is essential to get a glimpse of the big picture and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is the spot to do it. The facility showcases the life story of a most remarkable man – Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States - using the latest technology including multi-screen, multi-layered special effects. An additional dimension is presented using live actors and Holavision technology. Bonus points:
For young children not quite ready for the big picture there’s a spot to be enjoyed. Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic provides dress up clothing and vintage games once enjoyed by Lincoln’s children. There’s even a mini replica (dollhouse size) of Lincoln’s Springfield home. Walk where he walked.
Springfield has taken care to keep the story alive. Lincoln historic sites include: Lincoln Home National Historic Site – the four-block historic neighborhood; Lincoln-Herndon Law Office – where he practiced law over Seth Tinsley’s dry goods store; the Old State Capitol, Lincoln Depot, and Lincoln Tomb. Visit the rustic Indiana cabin the young Lincoln called home; travel with Lincoln down the Mississippi to New Orleans and confront the horrors of slavery; enter a modern-day television control room to see campaign commercials interpreting the complicated presidential election of 1860; step into the Blue Room at the White House to meet Mary Todd Lincoln; listen to black servants gossiping in the White House kitchen about the possibility of emancipation; experience the Civil War in four minutes; join the Lincolns in their box at Ford’s Theatre, and share in the grief of thousands in 1865. Bonus points:
An informative and engaging Junior Ranger Program has been developed at this site for young visitors ages 6 to 12. The activity plan encourages participants to have fun and learn while pursuing the tasks which include searching the neighborhood, finding artifacts, and writing a letter to Mr. Lincoln. Walk with the ghosts.
Every town with history has more than one story to share and Springfield is no exception. Springfield Walks’ costumed guides conduct lantern-lit tours of not-so-scary but still pretty cool walks throughout the historic area. On “Mr. Lincoln's Ghost Walk” hear tales and unusual stories about Lincoln's life and death. On the “Haunted Dead Walk” (best for teens and older) visit the Museum of Funeral Customs and stop at spots within the city which are believed to be haunted. Step back in time.
What was it like to be a kid in the 1800s? At New Salem State Historic Site you may find the answer. The reconstructed 1830s village replicates the community where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood. You’ll find 12 log houses, the Rutledge Tavern, 10 workshops, general stores, a mill, and a school where church services were held. The community is furnished with authentic early-nineteenth-century articles including wheat cradles, candle molds, cord beds, flax hackles, wood cards, dough and cornmeal chests and early American pewter. Costumed interpreters convey a sense of the time and provide plenty of historic anecdotes. Throughout the year New Salem produces an entertaining Chautauqua Series and Theatre in the Park during the summer months. Bonus points:
During the summer months they conduct an awesome Pioneer Life Summer Day Camp for kids – no prior pioneer experience required. Drive along Route 66.
Springfield has a spot along the “Mother Road” – Route 66. During the summer months it’s still possible to take in a drive-in movie 1950s style at none other than Twin Route 66 Drive-In Theater. More ‘50s style fun can be found at Kicks Family Entertainment Center n Route 66 with go-karts, bumper cars, laser tag, & 70+ video/redemption games and plenty of pizza and pasta. Talk to the animals.
Small in size but large in memory making value, the Henson Robinson Zoo is home to more than 300 animals native to Australia, Africa, Asia and North and South America. Meander along the pathways and observe more than 90 species of native and exotic animals thriving within naturalistic exhibits. Throughout the year they conduct events and activities ideal for families. Count the bees and smell the roses.
Spanning 20 acres, 10 unique garden areas and a marvelous conservatory comprise the Washington Park Botanical Garden complex. The garden complex embraces each season showcasing more than 1800 plants. Surrounding the conservatory are a variety of gardens, including a 5,000-plant rose garden, the largest of its kind in central Illinois, an iris garden, perennial border, Betty Mood Smith Rockery, monocot garden, peony collection, shade garden and Roman cultural area, and Learn-to-Grow garden. Within the conservatory discover tropical Africa, the jungles of Asia and the rainforests of South America. Seasonal displays include Easter lilies, poinsettias, orchid exhibits and Japanese bonsai displays. The Botanical Garden also features an additional 9,000 square feet of indoor greenhouse area. Just for kids.
Getting kids excited about a vacation spot often makes the whole journey more enjoyable. The folks in Springfield know that, and so they have created pages for kids at www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/About/Kids Happy birthday Mr. Lincoln!
In 2009 Springfield will be celebrating an historic bicentennial birthday with plenty of events and activities to showcase the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. Their impressive plan will add extra value to an already great family vacation spot. Make it happen.
For information on overnight accommodations in the greater Springfield area, call the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau toll-free 1-800-545-7300 or go to Visit Springfield Planning Details
Lincoln Home National Historic Site. 413 South Eighth Street Springfield, IL (217)391-3241 or www.nps.gov/liho
Springfield Walks. Garret (309)221-5579, Tinsley's (217)525-1825 or www.SpringfieldWalks.com
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site. 15588 History Lane Petersburg, IL 62675 (217) 632-4000 or www.lincolnsnewsalem.com