9 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois

When I visited Illinois recently, as well as Chicago I went to explore 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…

Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois

Capitol Building in Springfield Illinois

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!

Abraham Lincoln Museum

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!

To see his humble beginnings compared to my limited knowledge of the current president’s start in life, was kind of stark.

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

Cool coffee shop in Springfield Illinois

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.

3. See the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery

Me rubbing Abe Lincoln's nose

DID YOU KNOW, Springfield 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.

Abraham Lincoln Tomb

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!

4. Eat at Obed & Issacs Microbrewery

Obed Brewery Springfield

I saw a sign outside inviting me in to try the ‘Porky Pig sandwich’ – pulled pork, bacon and cheese, all in one. It worked on me. 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.

5. Dana Thomas House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Danas House in Springfield

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.

Light Frank Lloyd Wright

The house now belongs to the Illinois tourist board on the basis that they don’t change anything inside. It’s 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.

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!

6. Compare the Illinois State Capitol Buildings

Old Capitol building Springfield

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…

Springfield Town Hall

Things to do in Springfield

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.

7. Drive a bit of Route 66

You can get a flavour of Route 66 in Springfield, seeing as it starts in Chicago. 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 the years. I tried my first corn dog here – wasn’t convinced, as you can see by the pic.

Chilling on Route 66

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.

What to do in Springfield

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. And if you want a good value dinner, check out the menu.

8. Enjoy dinner at Augie’s Front Burner

Risotto and Flat Iron steak

Flat Iron steak, carrots and potato risotto – yessssaahhh. Augies Front Burner is one of the most special places to eat in Springfield.

Make sure to start with the cocktails.

9. See inside Lincoln’s actual home

Abraham Lincoln Museum

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.

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Springfield Illinois

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 – massive rooms, a large welcome area and an excellent breakfast spread. I 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. I 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.

Want to know what to do in Chicago in winter? 

Watch my video!

And you can check out my YouTube channel for the latest travel inspiration…

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