4 Ways to Learn About Lincoln in Springfield, IL
With the upcoming President’s Day weekend, you may be interested in delving into the background of our nation’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Here are 4 things to do in Springfield, IL where you can learn more about this influential and important leader beginning with his childhood through his lifetime.
4 Springfield, IL Attractions on Abraham Lincoln
1. Old State Capitol
The Old State Capitol, the fifth version of the Illinois State Capitol building, was reconstructed and named as a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s. It has been lovingly preserved so that visitors can walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, in the halls where he worked as a lawyer and politician prior to becoming President.
Entrance to the Old State Capitol is free and visitors have the option to take a 30-minute guided tour. Our guides did a great job of tailoring the tour to our kids’ age group, explaining the history and function of each of the rooms. Highlights included the law library, the circuit court adorned in red velvet and gold tassels for the high profile court trials, and Representatives Hall, where Lincoln delivered the famous “House Divided” speech.
2. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is comprised of two “life journeys.” The first focuses on Lincoln’s life prior to his presidency, beginning with what a log cabin of the time period may have looked like. Realistic and lifelike sculptures depict some of the key influencing moments of Lincoln’s younger life. The figures were so convincing that my 4 year-old daughter asked me several times throughout the exhibit if they were real people. This exhibit did have several installments that I needed to explain to my children, so be prepared to answer high-level questions about slavery and the Civil War if you are visiting with younger children. (Although in my opinion, it was age appropriate and a great learning experience.) At the end of the first life journey is a collection of personal effects that belonged to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, including one of only three remaining iconic stovepipe hats and a sampling of the china that Mrs. Lincoln had specially designed for Lincoln’s second term.
The second life journey details life during and after Lincoln’s presidential campaign. The journey to the Civil War is documented in a multi-media fashion. Dioramas depicting the turmoil leading up to the Civil War, a vast collection of satirical cartoons and critical quotes written about Lincoln and his family, and variations of Civil War uniforms are on display. One really captivating installment was The Civil War in 4 Minutes. You can watch a map of the U.S. shift and change shape to show territories held, battles won and terrain claimed, along with the tally of lives lost for each force.
3. Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site (Petersburg, IL)
Lincoln began his early adulthood in a tiny Illinois town called New Salem. Although New Salem was gradually abandoned when the county seat went to a neighboring town, a replica was constructed based on the original foundations and historical documents, as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps projects in the 1930s.
The New Salem historic site allows visitors to experience life on the frontier as Lincoln did. With blacksmith demonstrations, wool spinning, a schoolhouse, and the general store owned by Lincoln, you can see all of the day-to-day activities that were necessary for survival in a tiny frontier town.
4. Lincoln’s Tomb
Located in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb is a brief excursion, but worth the visit. Guides are available to answer questions you may have about the history of our 16th President. A smaller version of Daniel Chester French’s sculpture for the Lincoln Memorial is located in the tomb, as well as a bronze version of the marble Lincoln bust that is located at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. All of my family agreed that it felt strangely calming to pay our respects to this President who accomplished so much for our country.
Where to Stay: President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, Springfield
While we were touring, we appropriately stayed at President Abraham Lincoln Springfield – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. We were welcomed at the end of our busy day to yummy fresh baked cookies and a great pool for the kids to swim. It is within walking distance of the Presidential Library and Museum and the Old State Capitol, as well as many local restaurants and microbreweries.
You may also enjoy:
- Exploring Historic St. Louis with Kids
- A Day at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO
- 5 Fun Things to do in Chicago with Young Kids
- Hail to the Chiefs: Tips for Visiting Presidential Libraries with Kids
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Rachel is from Peoria, Illinois. She works full-time as a software implementation consultant in the healthcare field. Her family includes her husband Justin, also an IT professional,…