Abraham Lincoln is one of our most beloved Presidents and you can come to the Land of Lincoln to learn all about him. Plan a day or a couple and choose the sites most suited to your family. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President and his connections to the Springfield, Illinois area are numerous. Here he worked as a lawyer, married Mary Todd, lived in the only house he ever owned.
First stop visit that offers family fun is Lincoln’s New Salem, less than 40 minutes from Springfield. It was here in the streets of reconstructed New Salem, that Abraham Lincoln lived as a young man. In New Salem, you can see the store where Lincoln clerked and served as postmaster and about his presumed romance with young Ann Rutledge. You can also learn life through the costumed characters of the people who lived here more than 150 years ago. New Salem is tree lined and lovely and offers a great stop to stretch your legs and interact. This is a good stop for people of all ages. Open from April to October, learn more about it at http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com .
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
The second stop I recommend would be the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. This is the number one attraction in downtown Springfield and rightfully so. The museum as their website states, “documents the life of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, and the course of the American Civil War. Combining traditional scholarship with 21st-century showmanship techniques, the museum ranks as one of the most visited presidential libraries.”
While the library offers an extensive collection on Lincoln, it also houses the collection of the Illinois State Historical Library, founded by the state in 1889. The library is neat to stop and see, but for family fun, the museum is the place to go. Do note though that for children under seven, that some of the exhibits may be a bit too dramatic. Don’t miss this great stop you will come back again and again.
For a unique way to get to know more about the personal life of Abe and Mary Lincoln, think about joining in on one of the Abe & Mary: Quite Contrary Walking Tours that are offered on Tuesdays during the summer. Two tours are offered at both 10:00 am and 1:30 p.m through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The tour offers you a chance to get the low down on the Lincolns in a way that goes beyond the politics. The tour is a 1.5 mile, 60-minute tour that explores downtown Springfield and tells the story about the people and places that helped Abraham and Mary’s relationship blossom, and in some cases tear them apart. While free, you need to make reservations in advance for this neat walk.
For details about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum log onto http://www.alplm.org/.
Third on the Lincoln trail is Lincoln’s Home. This site is a National Historic site and while free, you get tickets to tour the Visitor’s Center. At the center, you will learn about Lincoln and get a ticket and scheduled time to visit. The home is quite interesting and shows insight into Lincoln’s home life. Lincoln was a push over where his children were concerned and it is fascinating to peek into how gentle this man who ruled the nation during our most difficult time dealt with him rambunctious boys. The Lincoln neighborhood is a nice walk and tour as well with some of the houses also open. I found that even if you went a few years back, this is a fun place to return to. The website is https://www.nps.gov/liho/index.htm to plan your visit.
Lincoln Pew at First Presbyterian Church
Fourth, while downtown, consider a stop at the Lincoln Pew at the lovely First Presbyterian Church. I have seen the pew, but never had the honor of joining in on one of the tours. On the website (http://www.lincolnschurch.org/history-arts/tours.cfm) it states, “During the summer, the docents offer weekday tours in June, July, and August. Hours are Monday thru Thursday 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The red doors on Seventh Street are open for these weekday tours…”
Number five should be Lincoln’s Tomb. While inside may be a bit daunting for kids, outside they would enjoy a chance to rub Lincoln’s nose. For some, this is supposed to be associated with good luck! Inside the tomb, it is a bit more somber and brings home the fact that Lincoln’s was cut short by an assassin’s bullet on April 15, 1865. It was Mary’s wishes that his remains were returned to Springfield. The tomb is located at Oak Ridge Cemetery and here there is also the story of the first site where Lincoln was buried and the attempt to steal his body from the temporary grave. Log onto http://lincolntomb.org/ for more information.
There are other stops as well you can make that have Lincoln associations as well when in the area, but these are my top five. Come to the Land of Lincoln, have a Springfield horseshoe* while you are here and visit some other iconic Springfield stops.
*The horseshoe is a wonderful artery closing dish of meat (hamburger or ham) served up on toast with French fries, then covered with cheese sauce!)