It’s always a thrill for us when we get to visit the capital city of a state. Even though they all have a dome, each is unique in its own way. Our trip to Springfield, Illinois gave us a chance to find history galore, in this twin domed Midwest city. So many historical paths cross in Springfield, and we couldn’t wait to explore them. This was the home of the Lincoln family, and the city is rich with sites where the family frequented. Route 66 passes directly through Springfield, and thousands travel the Mother Road looking for adventure. The city has plenty to offer visitors of all ages, and we came here to prove that it makes a great vacation destination.
We want to thank Visit Springfield and all of the Springfield businesses for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
With a pair of capitol buildings, Springfield offers up a view of the old and new. The Old State Capitol has the distinction of being the place that Abraham Lincoln presented one of his most iconic speeches. “A house divided against itself cannot stand…” has been heard by millions and rings true even today. This speech was delivered by Lincoln during his campaign for U.S. Senate. While he will lose this race to Douglas, two short years later he will be elected President of the United States. In 1877, the Illinois legislature would move to its new home in the current State Capitol. Topped with a 405-foot dome, the building is quite a sight to see. You will certainly want to reserve some time to tour the inside and see the amazing details.
A Capitol View
We love finding cities that can be explored on foot. Springfield has a fairly level topography, so we knew that our journeys would be easy to navigate. With so many of the sights being in and around the downtown, we needed a home base that allowed easy access to this district. The State House Inn fit that bill perfectly and offered some amazing views of the current capitol building.
Getting It Wright
History buffs and Frank Lloyd Wright fans flock to Springfield to visit the Dana-Thomas House. Where most of Wright’s houses were built from the ground up, this one was actually a renovation. A rich socialite of Springfield met Wright in the early 1900s, and soon a plan was developed to transform the Italian mansion into a massive masterpiece. The house does have one special feature, as the owner wanted to preserve one room in remembrance of her parents. It was certainly a night & day kind of experience to suddenly happen upon a Victorian designed parlor in the midst of this beautiful home. (You can read more about the house here.)
While the Dana-Thomas House may be more appealing to adults, don’t fret that the children will be too bored. A stop at Kidzeum will certainly rev their motors. This children’s science center is designed to educate, while they play. The focus is on the human body, but there are also plenty of displays that focus on other aspects of life. Be aware that adults MUST be accompanied by a child to get in. This is one place that focuses heavily on making sure kids have an amazing visit. (You can read more about Kidzeum here.)
Connecting the Pieces
In almost every city or town we visit, we will root out the local museums. These spots give us access to better understand the history galore of the region. In capital cities, like Springfield, we will usually find the state museums. Places like the Illinois State Museum expand the focus to cover the entire state. From the earliest prehistoric times, right up to today, there are exhibits that show how Illinois came to be. This all-ages attraction is a great place to visit after touring the State Capitol next door. (You can read more about the museum here.)
Land of Lincoln
Now that we had a good grasp on the general history, it was time to do a deeper dive into one of Springfield’s most well-known citizens. Abraham Lincoln may not have been born in Springfield, but it is where he owned the only home he purchased. A visit to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site gave us a chance to tour the family residence. There are other historic homes that can be explored, throughout the neighborhood. (You can see more about the Lincoln home here.)
Now that we had learned a little about the home life of the 16th President, it was time to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. This museum was built about 140 years after Lincoln’s death, but perhaps it took that long to truly capture the story of this man. As we made our way through the exhibits, we tried to put ourselves in his shoes. The hardships that he faced, and the decisions he was forced to make wore heavily on him. We have had the opportunity to visit many presidential museums, and this one is certainly one of the best. (You can see why here.)
A Nation Mourns
Our exploration of the Land of Lincoln would not have been complete without a stop to pay our respects at Lincoln’s Tomb. From his humble beginnings, he rose to greatness and led our country through one of the most tumultuous times in its history. Even after his death, there were devious acts that prevented his body from resting at peace. Springfield was providing us history galore in almost every corner of the city. (You can learn more about that here.)
While Lincoln and his family finally are able to rest, the stories of their days in Springfield still resonate with locals and visitors alike. We joined Springfield Walks for a ghostly tour of downtown Springfield. Our animated host led us through the paths that would have been used regularly by Abraham Lincoln. As he told us stories, of days long gone, we held on to every word. This tour is a great family activity, as it offers an interesting look at Springfield after dark. (You can read more here.)
Even though we pack our itineraries full of attractions and dining choices, we always leave a little time to explore other local businesses. Peppered throughout the downtown, we found a collection of cute boutique shops. As time allowed, we would pop into some to check out the merchandise. Downtown Springfield has a good number of art shops, that offer an eclectic mix of styles. We love the bright colors that these bring into our days, and they certainly caught our attention as we explored the region.
When traveling, our late evenings are usually reserved for catching up on social media or prepping for the next day. There are occasions that we find some free time to do a little extra exploring. Since we were walking everywhere, we had an opportunity to check out some adult entertainment options, like Floyd’s Thirst Parlor. This downtown venue does double duty as a bar and an arcade. After grabbing a hard cider, we headed upstairs to check out some games. We spent quite a bit of time playing Skeeball, air hockey, and a couple of rounds of darts. Afterward, it was a short leisurely walk back to our hotel.
History Galore in downtown Springfield
While we only had three days to explore Springfield, Illinois, we were able to make the most of it by finding so much nearby. Whether you are a Lincoln fan, a Route 66 cruiser or a Civil war buff, you will find history galore in this Midwestern Capitol city. Even if you are bringing a family filled with adults and kids, there are plenty of options for everyone to have a great visit. Like many of the other cities we have explored, Springfield shows just how much can be found in the central part of our country.