When I visited Illinois recently, as well as Chicago I went to explore some of the most fun things to do in Springfield. Not the one off The Simpson’s, as I kept getting asked.
No, the most important Springfield of all the 33 Springfields in America – the one where Abraham Lincoln lived before he became the 16th president of the United States of America.
And it’s also the capital city of Illinois.
Yeah you’d think it was Chicago, right?
Abe Lincoln related attractions are kinda the backbone of the city, but there are some other things to do in Springfield I’d totally recommend. Take a look at this list to pique your interest…
Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois
This article will show you the best of what to do in Springfield, Il. I’ll help you plan your trip, and give you a little insight into the fascinating history in the city.
1. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum far exceeded my expectations. I kind of thought it would be stuffy, with too many facts and too much information for someone like me to take in. Someone who’s only knowledge of Lincoln before the trip, was from the films and movies that happened to mention him.
Turns out, I really enjoyed it!
This is one of the best things to do in Springfield, Illinois.
There are hi-tech exhibits, interactive displays, and multimedia programs, as well as a reproduction of the White House as it looked in 1861. The holographic and special effects theatre gave me the basic knowledge to build on for the rest of my two days in Springfield, and I loved the recreation of Abe’s childhood home.
Crazy to think that someone with such humble and penniless beginnings could go on to be president. Definitely wouldn’t happen now!
There were interesting displays, TV bites and sound bites to help us imagine what it was like during his times. They also showed the devastation when one of the most popular presidents of all time was eventually assassinated.
He’ll always be remembered as the president to end slavery, and sadly ended up giving his life for his beliefs.
2. Visit Custom Cup Coffee
Local entrepreneurialism is going strong in Springfield. The Custom Cup Coffee Shop is a microroastery serving coffee beans roasted on site.
The small batch, custom and roast to order coffee is right in the centre of town and with the sideline of cakes and pastries too you might as well pull up a chair and sit down and enjoy. Having said that, I took mine to go to keep my hands warm in December in the city.
If you’re looking for somewhere for coffee and cake in Springfield, this is the place.
3. See the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery
DID YOU KNOW, Springfield Il is actually one of the luckiest places in the world? Go on, Google it if you don’t believe me – it’s always cited in the top 10 lists.
And it’s all thanks to Abe Lincoln’s nose.
All you need to do to bring a little luck to your life is give it a rub, and the luck will rub off on you.
The monument is right outside the Abe Lincoln Mausoleum, the final resting place of Abraham, his wife Mary, and children, who all died before 18 – Todd, Tad, Eddie and Willie Lincoln. The only one who survived into adulthood, Robert, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Abe is actually buried a few feet underground with a few feet of cement poured on top, to ensure no one ever tries to dig him up.
Can’t believe they actually had to be worried about that…
Oak Ridge Cemetery is one of the most visited historical cemeteries in the United States – go see while you’re in Springfield.
4. Eat at Obed & Issacs Microbrewery
I saw a sign outside of Obed & Issacs Microbrewery inviting me in to try the ‘Porky Pig sandwich’ – pulled pork, bacon and cheese, all in one.
It worked on me.
I ordered straight away, with one of the beers they’d brewed on site. I forget which, but it tasted great in lovely, relaxing surroundings.
This place has won so many local awards, they’re definitely doing something right. If you go in summer there’s a great space outdoors for al fresco dining too. Surely one of the best places to eat in Springfield, Il?
5. Dana Thomas House by Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Dana-Thomas House for Susan Lawrence Dana in 1902. She was a forward-thinking socialite living in Springfield and wanted a house to show off about.
Annnnddd a few million in today’s money later and she got one.
The house now belongs to the Illinois tourist board on the basis that they don’t change anything inside.
The Dana Thomas House the 72nd building designed by Wright and contains the largest collection of house specific, original Wright art glass, fixtures and furniture from the Prairie Style.
It also contains this lamp worth TWO million pounds.
Surprised it didn’t have some sort of plastic casing around it to be honest.
There are 35 rooms with 12,000 square feet of living space, including an awesome bowing alley and pool table area too. You can arrange tours to look around – definitely recommend it!
More on travel in Illinois
6. Compare the Illinois State Capitol Buildings
The Old State Capitol building is the exact spot where Abraham Lincoln declared the immortal words, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand…’ before the Civil War. It’s a critical building in his life story.
President Obama also announced his candidacy at the Old State Capitol in February 2007 and returned in August 2008 to announce his Vice Presidential running mate, Joe Biden. You’re not allowed in but they’re happy for you to wander outside and take a few pics.
Looks fancy until you see how the new Capitol building looks…
The Illinois State Capitol is now the most important building in Illinois, and amazingly impressive too. The 405-foot glass dome is absolutely incredible.
Go in and take a look around. As long as there’s not a session in service, you’re free to wander around and soak up the history. Of course, once you’ve gone through those strict security checks.
This is definitely the most popular thing to do in Springfield Illinois, and is the main reason for a lot of people to visit.
7. Drive a bit of Route 66
You can get a flavour of Route 66 in Springfield, seeing as it starts in Chicago and winds down.
The Cozy Dog Drive Inn is an icon of the route. This diner has been a Springfield Route 66 Landmark since 1949 and is filled with memorabilia from years gone by.
I tried my first corn dog here – wasn’t convinced, as you can see by the pic. Might be for you though?
The actual Route 66 has been paved over and slightly moved since the 60s, thanks to developments and innovation in road building. If you’re upset or offended by this, go and drive the 1.4-mile stretch by Snell Road and Curran Road. You’ll soon see why they decided to change the brick road to a smoother ride!
This mile and a bit stretch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Go for the photo op.
That’s me, on Route 66! Cooool!
On the way back stop in at the Route 66 Motorheads Bar, Grill and Museum. The selection of memorabilia the owner has managed to collect is just amazing. Looking through his collection is one of the most fun things to do in Springfield.
And if you want a good value dinner, check out the menu. Beautiful place for sunset in November.
8. Enjoy dinner at Augie’s Front Burner
Flat Iron steak, carrots and potato risotto – yessssaahhh.
Augies Front Burner is one of the most special places to eat in Springfield. They serve ‘modern dining in historic downtown’.
At Augie’s Front Burner, we strive to provide you with a fine dining experience beyond your expectations. Let Chef dazzle you with innovative flavor combinations that are comfortable, yet exciting, in a vibrant & colorful setting in historic Downtown Springfield.
Conveniently located only blocks away from the Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library, the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Lincoln’s Home, & directly across from The Old Capitol Building.
Treat yourself to a culinary experience second to none in Springfield.
Make sure to start with the cocktails before you peruse their tasty, tasty menu. Open for lunch and dinner!
9. See inside Lincoln’s actual home
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is the actual house where Lincoln lived with his young family for 17 years, before they got the call to go to the White House.
We had an hour tour around and saw his bedroom, his wife’s bedroom (separate rooms was a sign of affluence) and the kids’ rooms too. We saw the servant’s area, the bathroom and the kitchen. He bought the house small and as he got more money, he added to it.
Looking round the house was really amazing, again, just such an important place in USA’s history.
10. Visit Washington Park Botanical Garden
The Washington Park Botanical Garden is one of the most popular attractions in Springfield. Here you can sit and enjoy the natural surroundings and urban environment, after a busy morning in the city.
Expect flower beds, rose gardens and over 1200 species of plants. I didn’t actually go when I was there as it was a chilly November, but I’m sure in the summer it’d be lush.
Check the listings for your visit to see if there are any fairs or festivals on when you’re there.
11. Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon
This is definitely one of the more interesting Springfield activities – the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon. The carillon is the 5th largest in the world (this is America!) and has 67 cast bronze bells ranging in weight from 22 pounds to 7½ tons with a total bell weight of ~85,000 pounds.
You can sign up for a tour to learn more about the carillon, and to go up in to enjoy the 360 views from the top.
If you’re visiting Springfield Illinois in June, then they have a week-long festival at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon with music, dancing and fun.
Where to stay in Springfield
I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton, right in the centre of the city. It was a great location.
The hotel had a jacuzzi area – which I didn’t actually get to use thanks to having so much to do in Springfield – massive rooms, a large welcome area and an excellent breakfast spread. My room was up on floor 10 and so had a great view over the city
I was in Chicago, Illinois thanks to Enjoy Illinois, the Illinois Office of Tourism, and received visits to most of the above in return for a review and a mention in my travel blog. If you’d like to find out more about Illinois, just click this link.
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