Travel Illinois: Springfield
If Springfield isn’t already on your list of American cities to visit in your lifetime, it should be. Not only does the city play a significant role in U.S. history as the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, it’s also jam-packed with attractions that run the gamut from fairs and theater productions to historic sites, world-class museums and family entertainment.
As if it wasn’t already, Springfield will be overflowing with all things Lincoln in 2009 as the city celebrates The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial in honor of our 16th president’s 200th birthday. What better time to visit?
Land of Lincoln
Marvel at the evening gloves that were in President Lincoln’s pocket the night he was assassinated, view an original handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address and try on dress-up clothes from Lincoln’s era at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. Dedicated to Lincoln’s life and legacy, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is educational entertainment at its best, with enchanting holographic and special effects in the Union Theatre, interactive displays and high-tech exhibits.
See where Lincoln lived during the 17 years he called Springfield home by visiting the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which has been restored to its 1860 appearance and is open for free, guided tours. While there, watch a film about Lincoln’s life and browse the Museum Shop in the Visitor Center. Then, take a leisurely stroll through the surrounding four-block historic neighborhood to catch a glimpse of the homes of Lincoln’s former neighbors.
Stop in the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices in downtown Springfield to get an inside peek at where Lincoln practiced law from 1843 to 1852. The brick Greek revival building on the south side of the square is the only building still standing in which Lincoln had a law office.
Awash in the Arts
Take the family to a dance, theater or musical performance at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, a jewel in Springfield’s thriving arts scene. Located in a historic 1909 building originally built as a Scottish Rite Masonic Cathedral, the Hoogland Center for the Arts serves as the cultural hub for the city and is home to 14 local organizations, including the Springfield Ballet Company, the Springfield Theatre Centre and the Springfield Muni Opera. A former wheat field, the Muni was converted into an outdoor amphitheater in 1950.
Meander through the streets of historic downtown Springfield and you’ll find roughly 80 one-of-a-kind art galleries and specialty shops just beckoning you to step inside.
Plan your visit around New Year’s Eve, and you’ll get to ring in the New Year at the city’s annual First Night Springfield celebration. The family-oriented arts event presents music, theater, comedy and dance productions at 20 different downtown locations.
There’s no better time than the holiday season to tour Springfield’s Dana-Thomas House, a 12,000-square-foot home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902. In December, the gorgeous, 35-room home becomes even more spectacular as the entire house is decked out for the holidays with Victorian decorations, including 15 beautifully decorated Christmas trees.
The Dana-Thomas House is named for former owners Susan Lawrence Dana, a forward-thinking socialite, and Charles C. Thomas, who owned a publishing company. The home is the 72nd building designed by Wright and contains the largest collection of his site-specific, original art glass and furniture.
Brush elbows with state senators and representatives and watch Illinois politics in action at the Illinois State Capitol, which was built over 20 years beginning in 1869 in the architectural style of the French Renaissance. With its 361-foot-tall dome, the Illinois State Capitol is the tallest non-skyscraper capitol in the nation.