25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois
Springfield, Illinois, might be best known for its most famous resident, President Abraham Lincoln. The city is where Lincoln chose to move to pursue a career in law, where he met his wife, and where he lived while holding a position in the House of Representatives. It wasn’t until he was elected president that he left Springfield, and upon his departure many of the residents saw him off. Modern day Springfield is a destination filled with rich Civil War history, museums, and monuments dedicated not only to Abraham Lincoln, but also to the work he considered of the utmost importance. Photo: rruntsch/Fotolia
»Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden
The garden officially began on Nov. 14, 1936, when Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops planted the first acorns that have since grown into towering oak trees. Since its inception, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden has been primarily maintained by volunteers and members of the community, working hard to preserve the 100-acre site, which boasts 6 miles of peaceful walking trails interspersed with wooden benches, each inscribed with a different quote by Lincoln. The memorial garden is designed to represent the landscape that Abraham Lincoln would have been familiar with during his lifetime living in the Midwest, featuring and showcasing plants native to Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
Address: 2301 East Lake Shore Drive Springfield, Illinois 62712-8908, Phone: 217-529-1111 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Stas/Fotolia
»Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Although building the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum took almost four times as long as the Civil War, upon opening, the center quickly became the most popular presidential center in the nation. The museum primarily features exhibits on Lincoln’s life, including a rotating exhibit of many important artifacts from the museum’s Treasures Gallery. The museum was designed and researched by many top Abraham Lincoln scholars and the grand opening was visited by nearly 25,000 individuals, including President George W. Bush, and then future president Barack Obama. There are many rotating exhibits, and guests are encouraged to visit the website or call ahead of time to find out more information.
Address: 212 N. Sixth St., Springfield, IL 62701, Phone: 217-558-8844 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Henryk Sadura/Fotolia
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»Old State Capitol
As a modern recreation of the building that held heated political debates between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, the Old State Capitol is a Greek revival-style construction that was erected in the 1960s. The original building that Old State Capitol is modeled after, the Fifth Illinois’ Statehouse, was visited by Lincoln often, both as a lawyer as well as a politician, and was the location for his famous speech in 1858, “House Divided.” The Fifth Statehouse was also the location where Lincoln’s campaign headquarters were located for the 1860 presidential campaign. Guests visiting the Old State Capital can follow a 30-minute interpreter-guided tour or view the rooms at their own leisure.
Address: IDNR-One Natural Resources Way Springfield, IL 62702-1271, Phone: 217-782-4836 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: rruntsch/Fotolia
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»Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum
Founded in 2012 by Douglas King, the Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum is dedicated to celebrating the African-American history of Central Illinois. The museum features exhibits, presentations, as well as a large collection of over 700 oral histories from Central Illinoisans. The museum is funded by the Springfield African American History Foundation and strives to be an important part of cultural life in Springfield by partnering with organizations that share similar goals and strategies. Admission to the museum is free and it has varying hours, so it is recommended to check the schedule ahead of time. Donations are accepted and encouraged, and the museum provides volunteering opportunities for those who are interested.
Address: 1440 Monument Avenue Springfield, Illinois 62702, Phone: 217-757-2246 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum
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»Lincoln's New Salem
Located just over 20 miles northeast of Springfield, Lincoln’s New Salem is a recreation of the town where President Abraham Lincoln grew up and spent his first years as an adult. While living in the frontier village of New Salem between 1831 and 1837, Lincoln made a living working various jobs, including as a boatman, soldier, owner of a general store, postmaster, rail splitter, and surveyor. Lincoln’s New Salem provides visitors with a chance to see a completely reconstructed New Salem, complete with hands-on experiences, interactive exhibits, and a well-stocked country store with many handmade items created in time period appropriate fashions.
Address: 15588 History Lane Petersburg, Illinois 62675, Phone: 217-632-4000 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Lincoln's New Salem
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»Vachel Lindsay Home
Longtime home and birthplace of famous poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, the Vachel Lindsay Home is located moments south of the Executive Mansion, and is a two-story home built before the Civil War. Lindsay, best known in the early 20th century for his peculiar poetry, accompanying artwork, and animated performances, had two works that stand out above the rest in popularity: The Congo, published in 1914, and Collected Poems, published in 1938. The home was bought by Lindsay’s father in 1878, and in 1972 the Vachel Lindsay Home was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: IDNR-One Natural Resources Way Springfield, IL 62702-1271, Phone: 217-782-4836 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Vachel Lindsay Home
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»Washington Park Botanical Garden
Offering free admission all year round, the Washington Park Botanical Garden, located in Central Illinois, is one of the region’s primary horticultural attractions, featuring more than 1,800 species of plants spread among 20 acres of land. The gardens showcase a large variety of specialty exhibits, many of which are highlighted at different times of year. There are perennial and annual flower beds, a rose garden, many native evergreen tree varieties, as well as ample opportunities for exploration and learning. Guests have access to a Washington Park Botanical Garden guidebook to help guide them through the more than 1,200 species of plants. The gardens also feature a 9,000-square-foot indoor greenhouse, featuring a variety of warm climate plants.
Address: 2500 South 11th St, 62703, Phone: 217-544-1751 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: licvin/Fotolia
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»Adams’ Wildlife Sanctuary
Miss Margery Adams, born in 1897, donated her estate and the surrounding woodlands to the Illinois Audubon Society upon her death. The Audubon Society is Illinois’ oldest non-profit independent conservation organization and works hard to maintain natural habitats and wildlife. Since receiving the Adams’ property in 1983, the Audubon Society has utilized the home and surrounding acreage to create an urban nature center and a system of trails. The trails at Margery Adams Wildlife Sanctuary are open to the public, free of charge, and are available from sunrise to sunset. For more information about the Audubon Society and other properties they maintain to preserve wildlife, please contact them via telephone or email, or visit their website.
Address: 2315 E Clear Lake Ave, Springfield, IL 62703, Phone: 217-544-5781 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: olga/Fotolia
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»Air Combat Museum
Featuring over 10 classic air combat planes, the Air Combat Museum of Springfield is a must-see for any classic warplane enthusiast. Visitors can expect to see well-kept exhibits of pristine aircraft, such as the 1928 Stearman C3B, the 1929 Stinson SM2AA Detroiter Junior, the Beech AT-11 Kansan, and the Vought F4U-5N Corsair. The museum does not charge admission, but does accept donations upon entry. The museum also offers a few military vehicles on display, such as the M3 Half-Track, a troop transport vehicle produced for WWII, and the Saladin (FV601), a UN vehicle that has been in service since WWII.
Address: 835 S Airport Dr, Springfield, IL 62707, Phone: 217-522-2181
25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Air Combat Museum
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»Cozy Dog Drive In
The Cozy Dog Drive In is home to the original and unique “Cozy Dog,” a hot dog on a stick that is now found nationwide at numerous state and county fairs. The Cozy Dog Drive In uses a special recipe batter that was developed by Ed Waldmire, Jr. while he served in the military. After his honorable discharge, he went on to establish a business selling his “crusty curs,” as they were called at first. The name changed due to his wife’s distaste, and after much trial and error eventually ended up as “Cozy Dogs.” The current location on Route 66, which opened in 1996, is next door to the original 1949 location, and the business has been in the family since its inception.
Address: 2935 S 6th St, Springfield, IL 62703, Phone: 217-525-1992 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Cozy Dog Drive In
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Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902, the Dana–Thomas house was built for Susan Lawrence Dana, a progressive socialite residing in Springfield, IL. The house was Wright’s first “blank check” project, and his plans included over 35 rooms in the 12,000-square-foot property, spread across 3 main levels and 16 varying total levels. The Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency, after acquiring the property, completed a massive restoration project that aimed to preserve and showcase Mr. Wright’s architectural style. Strict architecture aside, the house showcases Wright’s unique craftsmanship with glass doors, many terracotta creations, and an elaborate mural. The Dana–Thomas house is often regarded as the best maintained and most complete example of Wright’s “Prairie” home design.
Address: 300 E Lawrence Ave, Springfield, IL 62703, Phone: 217-782-6776 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Dana-Thomas House
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»Daughters Of Union Veterans Civil War Museum
Founded in 1885, the Daughters of Union Veterans Civil War Museum was created to preserve countless Civil War artifacts and history that would otherwise have been lost. The Civil War museum specializes in medals, photographs, firearms, drums, uniforms, and letters from soldiers fighting on the front lines. There is a gift shop, which contains an assortment of books about the Civil War as well as various other memorabilia for sale. Attached to the museum is the Dr. Benjamin Franklin Stephenson Library and Research Center, which boasts a rare complete set of official records from both the Union Army and Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Address: 503 S Walnut St, Springfield, IL 62704, Phone: 217-544-0616 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Kenneth Keifer/Fotolia
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»Edwards Place Historic Home
Edwards Place, originally constructed in 1833 and renovated in 1857, stands to tell the social and domestic story of Abraham Lincoln’s life in Springfield, Illinois. The museum was recently restored to its original Italianate mansion design in 2015, the same design it held while existing as the center for social activity in Springfield. Many important citizens and politicians, such as Lincoln himself, have enjoyed exquisite dinner parties, summer picnics, and political rallies there throughout its history. Modern day Edwards Place is home to the famous courting couch on which Lincoln and Mary Todd sat during the early days of their relationship.
Address: 700 N 4th St, Springfield, IL 62702, Phone: 217-523-2631 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Edwards Place Historic Home
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»Elijah Iles House
Designed and built by William Vigal in 1832 for Elijah Iles, this historic house is the oldest surviving house in Springfield, Illinois. Elijah Iles was one of Springfield’s earliest settlers, owning and operating the first store in Sangamon County. On February 23, 1978, the Elijah Iles House was added to the National Register of Historic Places, helping to ensure funds to preserve its Greek revival style. Although much of the original house has been preserved, some of the original materials have not survived the decay of time and weather. For example, the house’s original roof comprised walnut and oak shingles, but today the house has only cedar shingles. Inside the house the original walnut fireplace mantles remain intact, and the staircases are also of the original materials and construction.
Address: 628 S 7th St, Springfield, IL 62703, Phone: 217-492-5929 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Elijah Iles House
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»Engrained Brewery & Restaurant
Engrained Brewery and Restaurant, a locally owned farm-to-table restaurant and delicious microbrewery, has been servicing the Springfield area since its grand opening in 2013. They offer a seasonal rotating menu that is sourced using fresh food from family farms in the local area. All of their beers are brewed onsite, and the brewmaster is always creating new varieties that are offered on tap in this local brewpub. The brewery, kitchen, and restaurant were all designed and built with sustainability in mind, and a list of the over 30 different ways that Engrained Brewery and Restaurant works to reduce and reuse can be found on their website.
Address: 1120 West Lincolnshire Blvd, Springfield, IL 62711, Phone: 217-546-3054 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Engrained Brewery & Restaurant
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Since its original construction in 1856 by architect John M. Van Osdel for the cost of $18,000, the Executive Mansion has been the home of active Illinois governors and their families while serving their terms. After its construction, the Executive Mansion became an important building in Springfield’s social scene, hosting many important gatherings, meetings, and events. However, as time and weather affected the building, it quickly fell into disrepair and required a renovation in 1889. The mansion has required a few renovations since then, the first few were paid for with tax money, and the most recent have been funded by private capital. In 1976 the Executive Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and can be viewed with a scheduled tour, free of charge.
Address: 410 E Jackson St, Springfield, IL 62701, Phone: 217-782-6450 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: majorosl66/Fotolia
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»Free Press Coffee House
It started in 2006 when Jonas and Jane Ann Petty bought a rental building in Pittsfield Square, and the building was renovated and reopened as the William Watson Hotel in 2008. As time passed, it became clear that something was missing in the area, and after Jane Ann was promoted to full-time general manager she started to formulate a plan to bring her coffee shop idea to life. As the business came to be a reality, it needed a name, and using the rich history of the area they were inspired by the former Pike County Free Press, a newspaper that was amongst the first to announce Lincoln’s candidacy for president.
Address: 1370 Toronto Rd, Springfield, IL 62712, Phone: 217-441-2523
25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Free Press Coffee House
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»Great Western Depot
On the morning of February 11, 1861, the Great Western Depot of Springfield, Illinois, had its most famous patron pass through the station. Abraham Lincoln was scheduled for a train departing at 8 am to begin his journey to Washington, D.C., and before departing he made a famous impromptu speech. Thousands of Springfield residents had gathered around the station to say farewell to Mr. Lincoln, a man who had lived in Springfield for more than a quarter of his life, and at their gathering he was encouraged to speak before boarding his train. The Great Western Depot still welcomes visitors; however, it is no longer used for any transportation means.
Address: 930 E Monroe St, Springfield, IL 62701, Phone: 217-544-8695 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: rruntsch/Fotolia
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»Henson Robinson Zoo
Showcasing animals native to Australia, Asia, North and South America, as well as Africa, the Henson Robinson Zoo has more than 90 species of native and exotic animals for guests to learn about and view. Originally built in 1968 and opened in 1970, the zoo has acquired many new species over the years to add to its collection. Admission is charged per adult, child aged 3-12, or senior citizen over the age of 62, and group rates are available for parties of ten or more. There are often special feeding events that happen at various times; more information can be found by contacting the zoo directly.
Address: 1100 E Lake Shore Dr, Springfield, IL 62712, Phone: 217-585-1821 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Adam/Fotolia
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»Illinois State Capitol
The Illinois State Capitol, the highest building in Springfield, Illinois, was built in 1888 for over 4.5 million dollars. The building contains the legislative and executive branches of the Illinois state government and the current building is the sixth building to serve this purpose since Illinois officially became a U.S. state in 1818. The building is designed in the shape of a Latin cross, aligned with the major compass directions, and rests on the 9-acre Capitol grounds. The Illinois State Capitol building contains the primary chambers for the Illinois House of Representatives, the Illinois Senate, the Illinois Governor, as well as various other meeting, committee, and office spaces.
Address: 207 State House Springfield, IL 62706, Phone: 217-782-0244 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Brian Scantlebury/Fotolia
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»Illinois State Museum
Being Illinois’ official museum of natural history, the Illinois State Museum’s headquarters are located in Springfield, however there are satellite locations in Dickson Mounds and Lockport. The Illinois State Museum isn’t just a natural history museum, it also showcases a variety of Illinois state’s cultural and artistic heritage. A few of the primary exhibits include local fossils, household objects from numerous periods in time, exhibits on Native American life, and a large collection of glass paperweights. The museum does charge an admission fee; however, it is waived for children and veterans. For information about special events and programs please visit their online calendar or reach them by telephone.
Address: 502 South Spring Street, Springfield, Phone: 217-782-7386 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Illinois State Museum
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»Lincoln Herndon Law Offices
Set in a commercial block constructed between 1840 and 1841, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices are a modern recreation of the historic offices from which Abraham Lincoln practiced law from 1843 until 1852. The exterior of the building still reflects the Greek revival style that was popular at the time, and the first floor of the building has been converted to a visitors center that offers an exhibit gallery and audiovisual theater. The second floor now represents a time period federal court, and the third floor displays the plainness and disorder that is based on accounts of how Lincoln kept his office. Guests are directed to watch a short orientation video before receiving a 20-minute guided tour of the building.
Address: 6th & Adams Streets, Springfield, Phone: 217-785-7289 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: robynmac/Fotolia
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»Lincoln Home National Historic Site
When Abraham Lincoln moved from New Salem to Springfield in 1837 to begin his law career, he met his wife, Mary Todd, and together they purchased a home in 1844 after their marriage. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is the preserved house that Lincoln, his wife, and their four sons lived in, the only home that Lincoln ever owned. The house comprises twelve rooms spread across two floors, and while living in the home Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives and eventually became President of the United States of America. The home was donated to Illinois State in 1887 under the condition that it would be well kept and forever free of charge for anyone who wished to visit.
Address: 413 S 8th St, Springfield, IL 62701, Phone: 217-492-4241 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: rruntsch/Fotolia
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Resting in a concrete vault 10 feet below the marble floor of the burial chamber, President Abraham Lincoln’s remains are visited by many people every day in the Lincoln Tomb. Almost all of Lincoln’s immediate family is buried in the same tomb complex, including his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and three of the four sons they had together. Lincoln’s other son, his eldest, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Lincoln Tomb has been a National Historic Landmark since 1960, and has held a place on the National Register of Historic Places since very shortly after, in 1966. Renowned sculptor Larkin Mead designed the tomb and used local brick covered in Quincy granite for its construction.
Address: 1500 Monument Ave, Springfield, IL 62702, Phone: 217-782-2717 25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois - Photo: Henryk Sadura/Fotolia
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25 Fun Things to Do in Springfield, Illinois
- Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Stas - Fotolia.com
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
- Old State Capitol, Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
- Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum, Photo: Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum
- Lincoln's New Salem, Photo: Lincoln's New Salem
- Vachel Lindsay Home, Photo: Vachel Lindsay Home
- Washington Park Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of licvin - Fotolia.com
- Adams’ Wildlife Sanctuary, Photo: Courtesy of olga - Fotolia.com
- Air Combat Museum, Photo: Air Combat Museum
- Cozy Dog Drive In, Photo: Cozy Dog Drive In
- Dana-Thomas House, Photo: Dana-Thomas House
- Daughters Of Union Veterans Civil War Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Keifer - Fotolia.com
- Edwards Place Historic Home, Photo: Edwards Place Historic Home
- Elijah Iles House, Photo: Elijah Iles House
- Engrained Brewery & Restaurant, Photo: Engrained Brewery & Restaurant
- Executive Mansion, Photo: Courtesy of majorosl66 - Fotolia.com
- Free Press Coffee House, Photo: Free Press Coffee House
- Great Western Depot, Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
- Henson Robinson Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Adam - Fotolia.com
- Illinois State Capitol, Photo: Courtesy of Brian Scantlebury - Fotolia.com
- Illinois State Museum, Photo: Illinois State Museum
- Lincoln Herndon Law Offices, Photo: Courtesy of robynmac - Fotolia.com
- Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
- Lincoln Tomb, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
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