Illinois is proud of its ties to Abraham Lincoln, which explains why their state slogan is Land of Lincoln. This is obvious when you pay a visit to the capital city, Springfield. With so many Lincoln related activities, you won’t have a problem keeping busy.
Explore the many sites dedicated to the 16th President and use this family guide to the Land of Lincoln to help you make the best of your visit to Springfield, Illinois. We have included many free sites, as well as some that are well worth paying for. There are also several things to do that aren’t Lincoln related, but we’ll get to those later.
This article may contain #ads or affiliate links and we could possibly earn money from your clicks even though it costs you nothing!
New Salem State Historic Site
New Salem State Historic Site reminded us of a smaller version of Colonial Williamsburg. This is a great place to start your exploration of the Land of Lincoln sites because it’s the first place that he lived in Illinois. It is a replica of the small town where Lincoln first resided as a young adult.
He worked here doing many different jobs including postmaster, boatman, and eventually even owned a general store in town. In addition, this is also the location where he began practicing law. As you probably know, he went on to practice law in the state of Illinois before eventually becoming the president of the United States.
You can explore the reconstructed buildings throughout New Salem. There are volunteers stationed in many of them throughout the park. You’ll find them dressed in period clothing and acting out the part of townspeople. View the places where Lincoln worked, lived, and visited friends during his early years.
There is also a small museum with many artifacts from the time he spent in New Salem and beyond. Learn the story of Ann Rutledge, Lincoln’s first love (or so they say). This is the place where the 16th president’s life really began. It is well worth the short 20-30 minute drive from Springfield to see. There is no admission fee to tour the park, but if you enjoy your time, make a donation so they can continue to provide this experience in the future.
Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
Our family guide to the Land of Lincoln would not be complete without including the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. This is another must-see site in Springfield, Illinois. Even though it’s not free, it is definitely worth the admission price. Not only are there some great photo ops, but you’ll definitely learn something new.
The museum is extremely well executed and includes exhibits about both his early life and that of his life as president. There is a wonderful children’s section where kids can read (like Lincoln loved to do), play old-fashioned games, and dress-up in period clothing. They even have a kid sized Lincoln dollhouse where they can play with figures of him and his family.
You’ll enjoy watching the two shows that are played several times throughout the day. Our favorite was one in which a holographic image of Lincoln appears in the library. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is very realistic and quite entertaining. We would probably have watched it twice if we hadn’t needed to leave so we could eat something.
Get a great photo with the entire Lincoln family standing in front of the White House. They are made of wax of course, but they look very realistic. Other display’s we really enjoyed include the gallery of dresses worn by Mary Todd Lincoln, the gallery of soldiers, and the podium in which the kids practiced giving their presidential speech from a teleprompter.
The Old State Capitol: A Must-See in the Land of Lincoln
In Springfield, Lincoln did very well. He was successful as a lawyer, but also as a politician. Take the opportunity to visit the building where his political career began. He gave many speeches here and even announced his presidential candidacy from this location. There are many original items on display within the Old State Capitol building of Springfield, Illinois.
Touring the building that Abraham Lincoln himself spent so much time working in is incredible all in itself. Add to this all the history packed into the historic building and you’re sure to learn something new. Kids will enjoy looking into the rooms that are set up to appear as they did in the time of Lincoln. If you have questions about anything you see, there is a tour guide on-site to help answer them.
The building is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is free to tour. It is centrally located near both the new capitol building and the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. Free parking is available if you are willing to walk a block or two. Otherwise, metered street parking is located all along the area. This is definitely a must-see site in the Land of Lincoln.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Make sure you take a tour of the only home that Lincoln ever owned. It is set in a historic area of Springfield, Illinois, where walking down the street will take you back in time. Many of the buildings are original and have been restored to appear as they did when Lincoln himself walked the streets.
Walking through the halls that the 16th President walked is a pretty amazing thing to say you have done. Because the Lincoln’s sold or got rid of many of their belongings when they moved to the White House, not much inside is original. However, the National Park Service has done a great job of displaying the few items they do have and replicating others to help you get the feel of what it was like back then.
There are a few other buildings open to tour during operating hours as well. Stop in the visitors center to watch a short video and learn even more about Abraham Lincoln. You can also pick up Junior Ranger books for the kids. The home is free to tour, but does require tickets which you can obtain on a first-come, first-served basis in the visitors center. The tour lasts 20-30 minutes and is the only way to see this historic landmark.
It was a shock to the country when Lincoln’s life was taken so suddenly. Perhaps no one was more affected though, than the people of Springfield, Illinois. The state that now refers to itself as, Land of Lincoln. These were the people that knew and loved him best. It makes sense that this would be his final resting place.
You may know however, that his body was taken all over the country so that the citizens could pay their final respects. He is now buried deep below the ground in the marble tomb. His wife and three of his sons are also buried at this site. Inside the tomb you can see several statues and read excerpts form some of his famous speeches, including the Gettysburg Address.
The tomb is free to enter and you will usually find an attendant inside ready to answer any questions you may have. For example, why aren’t all of his children buried here? There is also a large bronze statue in front of the tomb. His nose has been rubbed so often that it is shiny in comparison to the rest of his head. It may not take long to explore, but provides some interesting facts, and is a nice way to pay respects to a man who changed the country so dramatically in a short time.
More to a Family Guide to the Land of Lincoln
This family guide to the Land of Lincoln doesn’t just have to be all about the 16th President. If you want more to explore in Springfield, Illinois, check out some of these other cool things to do in the area. Each of them is free and well worth exploring if you have time or want something different to explore.
State Capitol Tour
Although the new state capitol building was never visited by Abraham Lincoln, it is an incredible place to visit. You may know, if you’ve followed our adventure, that we have toured many capitols in this great country. So, when I say that this capitol building in the Land of Lincoln is incredible, it should be taken seriously. I can honestly say, it is one of the best we have toured.
The detail, architecture, and dome are all beautiful. There are stained glass domes in both the House and Senate chambers, along with many other beautiful details. Many paintings and statues throughout the building give you an idea as to what is important to the state.
If you have time, walk around the exterior, you will find many monuments and statues around the grounds. Being that this is the Land of Lincoln, they have a great statue of the man himself in front of the building. It makes for a wonderful photo. They offer both guided and self-guided tours which are free.
Illinois State Military Museum
It’s hard to know where to begin with this small yet incredibly well done museum. The building itself is pretty awesome. This is due to the fact that it resembles a castle. It was constructed in 1903 and has housed many military related operations like a hospital, a barracks, and a quarter master commissary, among others, over the years. Of course, it’s now home to the Illinois State Military Museum and is well worth a visit.
Out front you will find several military vehicles including a tank and a helicopter. On the side of the building is a reconstruction of a trench. This was fun to explore and the kids got a pretty good idea of how unpleasant it must have been for the soldiers of WWI. There are plenty of great photo opportunities just outside the building alone.
Inside, you will find relics from most of the major wars fought by the U.S. It is amazing what they have packed inside their limited space. One of their claims to fame include the artificial leg of Mexican General Santa Anna. And of course, being that this is the Land of Lincoln, they have a board that was actually shot by Lincoln. He test fired a Spencer rifle and they display the rifle and board that he shot himself.
Something fun for the kids was the old dog tag making machine they have. It is still operational and for a small fee you can have tags printed with your child’s name (or your own if you like). This museum is free to visit and parking is also free. The hours are limited, so make sure you check before you go to make sure they will be open.
Washington Park Botanical Garden
We love the outdoors, so anytime there is a free botanical garden, we try to visit. In this family guide to the Land of Lincoln, we wanted to include this beautiful outdoor landscape. Not only is it free to visit, but it is also an amazing landscape to explore.
Featuring 20-acres of over 1800 plants, this place is sure to provide you with a relaxing environment. There are several gardens which are beautifully arranged. Even if you aren’t able to make it when things are in full bloom, you are sure to see something you like. Just strolling along the paths among nature, is both peaceful and relaxing.
Within the park is a carillon bell tower. They hold concerts in the summer months on Sunday and Wednesday and tours are available daily. There are also fountains and an Angel of Hope statue found within the garden. It is a great place for kids to learn about plants and to run off some energy. Our kids loved touching and smelling all the different plants.
Where We Stayed in the Land of Lincoln
I wanted to include a little about the campground we stayed in while visiting the Land of Lincoln. I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to bring their home with them when they travel, but if you are the Riverside Campground in Springfield, Illinois, is a great place to park.
There are 87 sites which include both primitive and sites with hook-ups for RV’s. The camping fee is very reasonable for the location. You are just minutes from anywhere you want to go in the city. They also have a BMX bike track that our kids had a blast riding their bikes on. As long as there’s not a race going on, kids are free to ride their bikes here.
Whether you want to learn more about the 16th President, enjoy some free things to do in Springfield, or walk in the footsteps of a great historical figure, use this family guide to the Land of Lincoln to help you make the most of your stay. With or without kids, these are some fun and education places to explore. What other sites have been to that honor our 16th president? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.