Spring Vacation Destination Part Two: Presidential location

Rte 66 sign across from the Art Institute of Chicago at Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. ( J Jacobs photo)
Rte 66 sign across from the Art Institute of Chicago at Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. ( J Jacobs photo)

With COVID cases down and more people having received vaccines, travel has picked up. However, health officials still considered driving as a better alternative to flying.

In the Midwest a drive to Springfield, IL means following Route 66 for road buffs and finding that the Lincoln Museum is way better than a family may expect. It is something to experience.


Springfield, IL

Driving RTE 66 west to LA sounds awesome but if you’re a Midwesterner with only a long weekend or a Spring Break week,  look closer to home. Think Springfield, Illinois’ state capital on historic US Rte. 66.

Getting Started – if you call Chicago ‘home’ your city marks the beginning or ending (however you see it) of Rte. 66. Just don’t try to find the number on current maps. Today’s interstates connect the road’s big cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, Los Angeles (remember the song) and such smaller, interesting towns as Litchfield, IL and Kingman, AZ.

To start out historically, begin near the Art Institute of Chicago (supposedly it started at Jackson Bvd. The sign is on Adams across Michigan Avenue from the museum so take Adams Street west to Joliet Road and onto Interstate 55. Or take your easiest way to the I-294 Tri-State Tollway where you can connect with I-55 (known in Chicago as the Stevenson Expressway). In Illinois, I-55 basically follows historic Rte 66. Illinois has posted Route 66 signs along the popular old road west.

Tip: Chicago to Springfield is about 197 miles so plan about 3 ½ hours. The police do patrol the highway so enjoy the scenery. Remember, you are on vacation.

Visitors join the Lincoln family at the museum in Springfield. 9J Jacobs photo)
Visitors join the Lincoln family at the museum in Springfield. 9J Jacobs photo)

Go – Springfield is about Lincoln, about state government, about historic homes.

Lincoln – Renew your acquaintance with the 16th President at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. You will be in for a remarkable two hours. Yes plan to spend that amount of time to see the movies and exhibits that peel away the myths from the man and the times.

The Old Capitol building is normally open to visitors but It is supposed to be closed for updating in 2021 so you might only get pictures outside.

Go across from it to the Springfield Visitors Center in the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office at 1 S. Old State Capitol Plaza. It may still be closed for renovations but see the building from the outside.

Yes it's OK to touch Lincoln's nose at his tomb. ( Jacobs photo)
Yes it’s OK to touch Lincoln’s nose at his tomb. ( Jacobs photo)

Lincoln’s home, operated by the National Park Service, is currently available virtually but the neighborhood can be toured.

Drive north of downtown to the Lincoln Tomb where he, his wife and three of their four children are buried.

Back to downtown, the dome of the Illinois State Capitol, 361 feet above ground, can be seen from miles away. Go inside to see where legislation has been argued and passed from 1888 to today in the House and Senate chambers on the third floor. Some of the building may be closed to the public due to COVID restrictions.

Springfield is home to a fine example of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture. (J Jacobs photo)s
Springfield is home to a fine example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. (J Jacobs photo)

Historic homes include a Frank Lloyd Wright. One of the best examples of his work is the Dana Thomas House in Springfield. It still has all of its original art glass and much of its original furnishings. Also put the Vachel Lindsay Home on the itinerary. Built in the late 1840’s, the house was home to Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister Ann. Vachel Lindsay’s parents bought the house in 1878. It was the poet’s home until his death in 1931.

Route 66 – Springfield loves historic Route 66. Some of the old places are gone but newly renovated stops have added to the fun.  Visitors can go back in time by taking in a double feature at the Route 66 Drive In or stop for a bite at the Cozy Dog Drive In, a diner at 2935 S. Sixth St. where the Waldmire family make the famed hot dog on a stick served since 1946.  More place can be found on Legendary Route 66.

Lincoln's New Salem. (J Jacobs photo)
Lincoln’s New Salem. (J Jacobs photo)

Save time to see Lincoln’s New Salem.  It is a terrific reconstructed village about 20 minutes northwest of Springfield on IL Hwy 97.  Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site has been recreated with the timbered homes and stores that existed when a young Abe Lincoln worked there.

Where to stayVisit Springfield is a great resource for places to stay. If you like historic inns and B&B’s consider The Inn at 835. An early 1900’s former apartment house, the Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If retro 1950’s is more your style check out The State House Inn which recently underwent a redo. Both places feature complimentary breakfasts and free parking. The last is a plus in Springfield where visitors have to feed the meters.

Tip – Wear comfortable shoes and bring the sunscreen. This is a walking town.

For more information see Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau and  State Historic Sites Springfield.

 

 

 

Visit historical ghosts for a haunted Halloween

Springfield, Ill. is the former, and supposedly current home, of Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary.

In Springfield, a ghostly tour stops at the home of Abraham and Mary Lincoln.
In Springfield, a ghostly tour stops at the home of Abraham and Mary Lincoln.

Haunted places and history go together like peanut butter and jelly so this October combine the two with a visit to a town rife with haunting figures from Illinois’ and the country’s past.

Think Springfield, Ill., former home and, if rumors are correct, still current home of the 16th President of the United States and his wife.

Unaccountable footsteps and voices have been reported at Lincoln’s Tomb, an Illinois historic site in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Sightings of Lincoln have also been reported there.

In addition, Lincoln has supposedly been seen at his home and at the Old State Capitol. The Lincoln home, part of a four-block National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service, is said to also be haunted by Mary Todd Lincoln.

Another wife reluctant to leave home is said to be Catherine Yates, wife of Richard Yates, governor of Illinois during the Civil War. She is supposedly behind otherwise unexplainable hi- jinks at the Executive Mansion.

These places can be checked out by individuals during a Springfield visit.

However author and Springfield expert Garret Moffett does two haunted tours. “Lincoln’s Ghost Walk: Legends & Lore,” a 1.5 hour tour, and “Haunted Dead Walk,” a 2.5 hour tour, are every October Friday and Saturday night.

For more October haunts visit ghostly ideas. Have a Happy Halloween, or a happy haunting happening.

Photo by Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.