Springfield, Illinois: A Family Guide to the Land of Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois: A Family Guide to the Land of Lincoln

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.

A Family Guide to the Land of Lincoln, Springfield Illinois

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Trip pointing to the Land of Lincoln on our map

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.

  • Boy pointing down path in the land of Lincoln
  • An old building is along side the path.
  • The kids were happy to explore the old buildings.
  • Three kids peering into a building.
  • A boy holding the handle of an old wheelbarrow.
  • A woman standing at the head of an old school house with three kids looking on.
  • A family in front of a historic store.
  • Three kids petting a horse.
  • A woman petting a horse.
  • Old furniture and sewing impliments.
  • A family on an old bench and porch.
  • An old log cabin.
  • Two kids watching a gun smith at work.
  • Two kids next to Lincoln's store in the land of Lincoln.

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 front of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library  in the land of Lincoln.
  • A family posing with Lincoln's family done very realistically in wax.
  • Three kids next to a wax sculpture of Lincoln.
  • Wax statues of Lincoln reading a paper and his two sons playing ball on the table.
  • Three kids playing with a doll house.
  • Still playing with the doll house.
  • A little girl dressed up in old period clothes.
  • A little boy dressed up.
  • A little boy dressed as a soldier.
  • A girl next to cutouts of the Lincoln family.
  • A little girl dressed up.
  • A historic scene showing the debate about plunging the country into civil war.
  • A woman standing next to a display with the pen that signed the Emancipation Proclimation.
  • Two kids using computers to learn about historic pictures.
  • An epic battle scene painting with a family sitting in wonder before it.
  • A kid saluting.

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.

  • The old Capitol building
  • Three kids in the chambers with a picture of Washington behind them.
  • A table with historic objects.
  • A historic desk.
  • The old capitol with the new capitol in the background in the land of Lincoln.
  • A historic scene.
  • Another historic scene.
  • A family in front of a historic scene.
  • The house chambers with Washington overlooking the desks.
  • A girl next to a statue of a boy with the old capitol in the background.

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.

  • Lincolns home in the Land of Lincoln.
  • A plaque discribing Lincoln's home.
  • The inside of his home is set up like it used to be.
  • A view of Lincoln's home from the street still in the Land of Lincoln.
  • A boy and his mom in the museum.
  • A girl reading a museum display.
  • Kids posing in front of Lincoln's home.
  • An old camera in front of an old house.
  • A little girl looking through an old camera at Lincoln's house.
  • An old campaign wagon with Lincoln on it and three guys posing in the land of Lincoln.
  • A little girl holding an old bucket and yard tool.
  • Two boys using old yard tools.
  • Trip and Sarah working on his Junior Ranger book.

Lincoln Tomb

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.

  • A statue of Lincoln with his tomb monument in the back ground.
  • A statue of Lincoln
  • The hallway faced in marble inside of Lincoln's tomb.
  • A kid rubbing the nose of Lincoln on a statue.
  • A kid getting help from his brother to rub the nose of Lincoln on a statue.
  • A statue of Lincoln with his tomb monument in the back ground.
  • A statue of Lincoln with his tomb monument in the back ground.
  • The actual tomb of Lincoln.
  • Family posing by a statue of Lincoln with his tomb monument in the back ground.
  • A statue of Lincoln's head with the nose rubbed clean.
  • A statue of Lincoln with his tomb monument in the back ground in the land of Lincoln.

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 capitol building in the land of Lincoln.
  • Illinois capitol building with a statue of Lincoln in the foreground.
  • The dome in the building is beautiful.
  • A woman in front of a large oil painting.
  • Pretty stained glass in the ceiling.
  • Decortive art.
  • The dome was impressive.
  • The beautiful gold leafed top of a marble piller.
  • Another statue of Lincoln in the land of Lincoln.
  • Illinois capitol building with a family posing in front of the Lincoln statue.
  • Illinois capitol building in the land of Lincoln.
  • The capitol building with a great firefighters monument in the foreground.

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.

  • The Military Museum looks like a castle.
  • Miles next to a helicopter.
  • Two kids by an artilary with the museum in the background.
  • Three kids in front of a wax statue of Lincoln dressed as he did when he was a soldier in the  land of lincoln
  • A board filled with bullet holes.
  • The artificial leg of Santa Anna.
  • Three kids coming out of a building in the trench.
  • Three kids in a trench bunker.
  • A man and his son walking in the trench.
  • The museum.
  • A family next to a tank.
  • A family looking over military gear.
  • A machine gun and rocket launcher.
  • Wax statues operating a mortor.
  • A girl looking at Nazi gear.
  • Two kids reading museum displays.
  • Three kids in front of a jeep with a cannon on top.
  • A family next to a military humvee in front of the museum.
  • A family next to a tank.
  • A woman standing in front of a tank with her arms out, mimicing Tank Man.
  • The museum looks like a castle.

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.

  • A carilon bell tower.
  • Pretty pink flowers.
  • Three kids on a bench.
  • Purple flowers.
  • A boy next to a path.
  • Stopping to smell the flowers.
  • An angel statue.
  • A family in the garden.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Springfield, Illinois: A Family Guide to the Land of Lincoln”

  1. Growing up Lincoln was my favorite president and my family visited quite a few Lincoln sites, but I never got to this area in Illinois. Looks like I definitely missed out and would love to swing back by to check these out!

  2. Wow this great leader! I’m glad they preserved his legacy in his hometown. I’d love to marvel and stay at that library for hours and just read. I noticed his nose has been shining. People love a good luck from this legend.

  3. Lincoln was a great man, and I’m glad there are so many “attractions” that honor him and his life and make it possible to learn more about him. I’ve never been to Springfield, but would love to. I’m quite a history buff and love to learn new things and experience the places where historical events happened. I think Lincoln had a hard life, but he was a man of integrity.

  4. Even though I’ve lived in Chicago for over 20 years, I’ve never taken the trip down to Springfield to learn more about Abraham Lincoln. I really need to given how close I am 🙂 In fact, we were talking with friends who visited the Lincoln Library and Museum recently and talked very highly of it. Great to see the pictures and also read how accessible it is.Thanks also for including the other free things to do in the area. The botanical gardens sound like fun. I will definitively have to make it to Springfield soon!!

    • With all the great museums and fun things to do in Chicago, it’s understandable that you haven’t made it to Springfield. It’s worth the trip though and the traffic in Springfield is way nicer than Chicago!

  5. I am driving through Springfield next fall and had no idea it is Lincoln’s birthplace and there is so much to see and do. I love Colonial Williamsburg so you got my attention right away. I’d like to check out his home and burial spot too.

    • We really loved Colonial Williamsburg too and always enjoy immersing ourselves in history. If you are driving through Springfield, plan to spend a little time and you won’t be disappointed.

  6. When in Illinous, I visited only Chicago and totally missed out on this super-interesting place. I love visiting historic sites and buildings – and I would love to have a picture with that family like you do now 😉

  7. I think that Illinois is one of the few states we have never seen – not even transited through! How interesting to see it as the “Land of Lincoln”. He was such an influential president that I am sure the museum is a great spot to visit. Seeing the old capital and his family home would add more to understanding his background. Hubby would definitely want to visit the military museum. Springfield looks like an interesting spot to visit if we find ourselves in Illinois.

  8. Ahh, good ol’ Abe Lincoln. This is one trip I’d love to take on. Abe was an all around handy man eh? Wouldn’t have figured that out! This is site definitely a precious site for the U.S. of A!

  9. What a great educational trip for the family. I didn’t know Springfield was so important in the history of Abe Lincoln, so this article was illuminating. I like political and military history sites in the USA, it’s fascinating, and so recent (relatively) compared to European history. I’d love to get myself some dog tags!

  10. I find it a great idea to take kids to historic sites to learn more about their country’s past. It sounds like Illinois is really proud of the ties with Abraham Lincoln. I was surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln progressed from being postmaster, boatman, and general store owner, to practicing law.

    • He really did have an interesting life. I never knew he served in the military and fought against Native Americans. We always learn new things when we travel.

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