Midwest Travels: Springfield, Illinois

By Janet Wight, Commentary

Springfield, Illinois, was the home of President Abraham Lincoln. It was the city where he married and where his children were born. The only house he ever owned was in Springfield, and he was offered the Presidential nomination while he lived there.

Springfield is certainly a destination for all things Lincoln. But it also provides many other attractions for the curious traveler.

Located 200 miles southwest of Chicago in central Illinois, Springfield, the capital of the state, is an easy drive from St. Paul. It is a medium-sized city, yet despite its population of only 115,000 it has just about everything an urbanite might desire.

Cultural and recreational opportunities abound in Springfield.

Washington Park, which is reminiscent of Como Park, contains a conservatory and botanical garden along with numerous walking trails. Additionally, the impressive Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon is located in the park with free concerts available year-round.

Exhibits, lectures, plays and a gift shop filled with unique collectibles are offered at the Springfield Art Association. Its main campus, the striking Italianate Edwards Place mansion, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Guided tours are available.

Museums in Springfield are plentiful. If you would like to explore eclectic art, authentic Route 66 memorabilia, antique firefighting equipment and much more, local museums will satisfy your desire to delve deeply into Illinois history.

For visitors interested in outdoor experiences, Lincoln Park is a favorite spot due to its varied sports facilities and picturesque setting.

Additionally, Lake Springfield, a 4,200-acre reservoir flanking the southeastern section of the city, is a prime destination for swimming, fishing and boating.

Lincoln enthusiasts will surely not be disappointed with the bounty of attractions dedicated to the 16th president, and even casual admirers of this singular Renaissance man will undoubtedly be drawn to his remarkable story.

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is open daily for guided tours. After reserving free tickets in the visitor center, small groups of tourists walk one block to the trim home filled with original furnishings. Two city blocks have been restored and preserved allowing visitors to see how the neighborhood looked when the Lincolns were in residence.

Many enlightening insights into Lincoln’s family life are shared during the tour. Although he was a doting father, Lincoln was frequently absent for months at a time as he traveled on horseback to tend to his legal cases on the Eighth Judicial Circuit, leaving many of the parental duties to his wife Mary.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is located downtown. Artifacts, photographs and documents are displayed in the museum, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the numerous aspects of Lincoln’s rich legacy. Multimedia exhibits, presentations and special events are suitable for the entire family, while researchers will appreciate the library’s significant collection.

The sprawling Oak Ridge Cemetery is the site of the imposing Lincoln Tomb. Dramatically set atop a knoll, the marble interior contains brass plaques showcasing three of Lincoln’s legendary speeches. President Lincoln, his wife and three of his sons are buried there.

In addition to these compelling attractions, Springfield also has several memorials, heritage architecture and a vintage downtown. Despite its compact size, this capital city has something for everyone. It is a terrific destination for several days exploration and discovery. 

Janet Wight, a resident of Como Park where she lives with her husband and daughters, is a new freelance writer to the Bugle.

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