Springfield is best known as the home of Abraham Lincoln before he moved into the White House – oh, and possibly The Simpsons. Here are the top eight things to see and do in the Illinois state capital.
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site first opened to the public in 1887 and tells the story of Lincoln’s life as an attorney and politician in Springfield and his 1860 presidential campaign. Built in 1839, this 12-room Greek revival house was Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s home for 17 years. The historic site offers free ranger-led tours daily, a free viewing of a film about Lincoln’s life and several exhibits and houses throughout the historic four-block Lincoln-era neighborhood.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum consists of a library that is open to the public on weekdays for research, and the museum, which is open daily for touring. The presidential library has an expansive collection of Lincoln materials, including an original copy of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s family letters, along with items related to his assassination. The library also has exhibits on its historical Illinois holdings. The museum takes visitors on a journey through Lincoln’s life and hosts a treasure gallery of Lincoln artefacts; the museum also features a number of temporary exhibitions.
The Lincoln Tomb and War Memorials State Historic Site is located within Oak Ridge Cemetery. Lincoln was assassinated on April 15 1865, and at the wishes of his wife Mary, his remains were brought home to rest in their hometown of Springfield. The tomb is 117 feet (36m) tall and was designed by sculptor Larkin Goldsmith Mead. The rooms of the tomb are finished in polished marble trimmed with bronze, and the corridors contain recreations of important Lincoln statues. Also located in the cemetery are memorials commemorating World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The Illinois State Capitol is a French Renaissance-style building that was built in 1868. The building is 361 feet (110m) tall and has a dome that is 92.5 feet (28m) wide. The State Capitol is open to tour seven days a week, and the dome, decorated with colorful detailed patterns and elaborate stained glass, is the highlight of the visit. You can tour the ground floor on your own, but you must take a free guided tour in order to view the upper levels including the House, Senate and Supreme Court chambers.
The Illinois Executive Mansion has been the home of Illinois governors and their families since 1855. The mansion has been continuously occupied and has hosted US presidents, ambassadors and generations of Illinois residents. Free tours of the interior of the Italianate mansion are offered; they include viewings of four formal parlors, a state dining room, four bedrooms including the Lincoln bedroom (not to be confused with the one at the White House) and a library handcrafted from Native American black walnut.
Located in the historic Washington Park, the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon is one of the largest carillons in the world. It is also the site of many free weekly public concerts, community events and the International Carillon Festival held each June. Available for tours, the carillon is the fifth largest in the world and consists of 67 cast bronze bells ranging in weight from 22 pounds (10kg) to a whopping seven and a half tons (6,800kg). The tower is 12 stories tall and has three observation decks with views of Washington Park and Springfield.
Washington Park Botanical Garden consists of 9,000 square feet (836sqm) of greenhouse and conservatory area with more than 1,800 species of plants. It is an oasis of nature situated within an urban environment. Smell the flowers as you stroll through the rose garden, perennial border, peony collection, cactus garden, shade garden and Roman cultural garden. While you walk along the paths, listen for the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon playing just up the path.
The Route 66 Drive-In invites you to step back in time and enjoy one of America’s favorite pastimes on the historic Route 66. The Route 66 Drive-In is a restored twin drive-in with two double features showing nightly, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on weekends through the month of October. Starting at dusk, you can enjoy current movies from the comfort of your own car.