Springfield, Illinois has long been on our wish list and finally for spring break we made it happen. My kids and I have a deep respect for Abraham Lincoln and since they are finally learning about this great president, I thought it was about time to schedule a trip. Our goal? To walk in Lincoln’s footsteps and check out a few fun Route 66 stops. Not only did we accomplish that but we also discovered so much more to do!
Things to do with the Family in Springfield Illinois
Look for Lincoln
There is no shortage of Lincoln sites in Springfield. Here are a few that we found:
While a bit of a somber experience, we paid our respects to where Lincoln was buried. His family including his wife and 3 of their sons are buried here too.
Make sure to rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck (and sanitize after!)
Note: Reservations required for interior tour. Free.
Wow. What an amazing museum! The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is quite honestly one of the best museums that we’ve ever been to. Using technology, sound effects, music, and more you’re completely immersed in Lincoln’s life from his humble beginnings to his days at the White House. Read all about our museum visit here.
Tip: Don’t miss the two shows at the theater to give you a great primer into why we study history as well as more about Lincoln’s history.
Want to see the only home the Lincolns ever owned? Head to the corner of 8th and Jackson where the Lincoln home has been restored to its 1860 appearance. Normally you’d be able to tour the house, but during these tricky times you can still peruse the neighborhood and take a virtual tour of the home.
Tip: Make sure to download the Junior Ranger book and turn it in to get a Junior Ranger badge.
Lincoln-Herndon Law Office
Stop by to see where Lincoln once practiced law from 1843 to 1852. Plus, you can also see how a post office might have looked from Lincoln’s time.
Tip: This is also the home to the Springfield Visitor Center. Make sure to say hi to friendly staff. They’re ready to help you!
While you’re here, say hello to the Lincoln family right out front.
Located next to the Springfield Visitors Center, the Old State Capital is another great stop. The words, ““A house divided against itself cannot stand…” were spoken by Abraham Lincoln in the days leading up to the Civil War. This is also where President Obama announced his candidacy in February 2007 and again in August 2008 to announce his Vice Presidential running mate, Joe Biden. Unfortunately, on our visit it was undergoing renovations.
Want to see how Lincoln lived before he came to Springfield? Located about 20 minutes away from Springfield, you’ll find the state historic site of New Salem. Visitors can walk through a recreated village with log buildings that showcase life back as it was back in Lincoln’s day. Maybe even see a store Lincoln once worked at as well as where he was a post master. Pre-COVID, I heard there was costumed interpreters walking around as typical villagers did back in the day. Despite their missing presence, we still had a fun time imagining how life was back then. Admission is FREE!
Tip: Stop by the Visitor’s Center to use bathrooms as well as a map. it gives you a bit of insight about each building.
Route 66 Stops
Another great reason to visit Springfield? All the fun Route 66 stops! (Stay tuned for a full run down of place to Route 66 stops in Illinois.)
Seeing Muffler Men on our Route 66 trip is always a highlight. In Springfield, we met the Lauterbach Man.
Head to this Route 66 institution where Ed Waldmire invented the corn dog during WWII. Lots of fun memorabilia inside include Bob Waldmire postcards.
Since we were on a mission to visit as many Route 66 attractions, a visit to Route 66 Motorheads Bar & Grill in Springfield was a no brainer! Originally built as a Stuckey’s gas station in 1971, Motorheads’ ties to Route 66 goes way back. While here, you need to try the food. Everything we tried from the Philly cheese steak to fish and chips were so dang good. Plus, they have a great beer selection! Whatever you do, don’t forget to get the giant pretzel. (Psst. I heard the horseshoes were great here too! Make sure to look up, you’ll find tons of interesting artifacts and even cars up above!
Historic Route 66 Brick Road
Located just south of Springfield is a 1.4 mile long restored brick road of Route 66. Definitely worth it to drive over a piece of the Mother Road.
Originally called the Green Meadows Drive-in Theater when it first opened in 1978, this twin drive-in offer good old-fashioned fun featuring double features. The same family that brought back the theater also provides fun at Knights Action Park, water park filled with plenty of slides, splashes, and swirls for people of all ages. Open seasonally.
Other things to do in Springfield
Murals….and a green elephant
Did you know that you can see murals in Downtown Springfield? I absolutely loved them! Across the street from the Frank Lloyd Wright mural you can even find a green elephant (by Dumb Records.)
The sporting goods store has lots of fun in store. Arcade games (Jurassic World and a large Galage/Pac-Man), old fashion shooting gallery, 2 lane roller ball, an aquarium, and a Ferris wheel. Yes, a Ferris wheel! When hunger strikes, make sure to grab food, soft serve ice cream, gelato, or even fudge!
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Tip: Ferris wheel rides are only $1!
You all know we love our fairies so when I saw a fairy event at Washington Park happening the same exact weekend as our visit, I just needed to make it happen. We admired the glass-domed conservatory and a kind stranger had offered fairy wings to my daughter. It made our visit even more magical as she traipsed around the conservatory like a little fairy. Had we more time, we would loved to explore more of the park. But we had fun in the short time that we had including spotting this unique tree and seeing the 6th largest carillon around.
Where to Eat
Located in Downtown Springfield, Café Moxo was the perfect spot to recharge from our downtown exploration. Ordering was pretty convenient – we found a spot to sit, scanned a QR code, and ordered from our phone, then they brought the food to us. The mac and cheese was a big hit as was the salad and chicken pot pie.
For over 80 years Mel-O-Cream Donuts has been dishing out donuts in Springfield. Our 10 a.m. visit only left us with only a few choices, but we still found yummy creme filled donuts. We went to the Grand location located a couple minutes away from the Lincoln Tomb. Huge plus? They have a drive thru.
I’m always on the hunt for independent coffee shops and heard great things about Custom Coffee Cup in Downtown Springfield. Plus, gotta give props to coffee shops that roast their own coffee. My Garden Gnome, a lavender and honey latte, totally hit the spot.
I love coffee so couldn’t resist a second stop. We had to do a double take since we weren’t sure we were in the right area. The coffee shop was IN the BBQ place. And believe me it took all of our might not to get any BBQ. But we resisted and stuck with getting coffee. I totally downed my ice lavender latte (it was that good!)
Where to Stay in Springfield Illinois
Located about 10 minutes away from downtown, we really enjoyed our stay at the SpringHill Suites. The newer hotel was clean, modern, and perfect for our family of five. The West Elm trundle bed was a big hit with my son (and a huge upgrade from sofa beds!) Plus, we loved the location next to Scheels and Engrained Brewery.
Covid precautions: I loved that reservations were needed for the pool for one hour increments. Hot breakfast still served but their staff will serve it to you.
3921 MacArthur Boulevard, Springfield