It’s not too late to go to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Think food, carnival rides, food, free entertainment, food, a twilight parade harness, tech exhibits, auto racing and food.
An easy three-hour drive south from Chicago, it’s about two miles in from Interstate 55 at the Sangamon Ave. exit 100 B.
Even though the 2021 fair started Aug. 12, it continues through Aug. 22 with daily special events and a new, must check-out, Tech Prairie STEAM Expo that opens Aug. 18 in the Orr Building.
The STEAM (like STEM) Expo features drone racing, interactive exhibits, Esport competitions and demonstrations. Go to the STEAM Expo website for drone racing and Esports competition registration links, exhibitors, livestreaming links and schedule of events at www.illinois.gov/steamexpo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where to stay – Visit 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.
The summer of 2018 is a great time to travel the Mother Road, or as songwriter Bobby Troup wrote in 1946, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.” The National Trust For Historic Preservation has a motorcade that, as Troup wrote, “winds from Chicago to LA, more than two thousand miles all the way.”
You can catch up with the group, join them at any date that suits your schedule or use their schedule of stops as a guide for your own trip. Their meetups are free and open to the public.
Since Springfield, IL is on the list, here are some recommendations of places to stay and things to do in the capital city of “The Land of Lincoln.” St.Louis is next with where to stay, eat and go.
But first, if coming from Chicago, go downtown to where it supposedly begins. The route historically starts in Grant Park near Jackson boulevard, east of Michigan Avenue.
However, the sign for it can be found across Michigan Avenue opposite the front entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago. In Illinois I-55 (known in Chicago as the Stevenson Expressway) basically follows historic Route 66. Illinois has posted Route 66 signs along the popular old road. Tip: Chicago to Springfield is about 197 miles so plan on it taking about 3 ½ hours. Police do patrol the highway.
The city has enough fascinating Lincoln spots from the Lincoln Museum and his home, to the Old State Capitol building and the current Capitol building, to fill two days so look for a place to stay that makes it a fun vacation.
An option for people who like a pool and sauna break after a day of sightseeing is to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a conference-style facility on the Dirksen Parkway at the edge of town near I-55.
Unpacked and ready to go – Springfield is about Lincoln, about state government, about historic homes and about Route 66.
Lincoln – Renew your acquaintance with the 16th President at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. You will be in for a remarkable two hours. Plan to spend at least that amount of time to see the movies and the exhibits that peel away the myths from the man and the times.
While downtown Springfield, walk over to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, where he worked above Seth Tinsley’s dry goods store, and to the Old Capitol across the road where he served as a representative and gave his “house divided” speech. Also visit his and Mary Todd Lincoln’s home.
Then drive north of downtown to the Lincoln Tomb where he, his wife and three of their four children are buried. If time allows, drive north 20 minutes on IL Hwy 97 to New Salem, a wonderful village recreated with the timbered homes and stores that existed when a young Abe Lincoln worked there.
State government – Tour the Old Capitol, Illinois’ fifth statehouse (but first in Springfield) to see where bills were debated and state laws passed from 1839 to 1876. The building was reconstructed in the 1960’s. The impressive dome of the State Capitol, 361 feet above ground can be seen from miles away. But 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.
Historic homes – Unless you are a Frank Lloyd Wright maven you might not know that 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.
However, car enthusiasts really into what is the Mother Road of historic routes come for the town’s annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in September. This year’s festival is Sept. 21-23. That is when hundreds of vintage vehicles from street rods to motorcycles will roll into town and live music fills Springfield’s downtown streets.
Springfield, Ill. is the former, and supposedly current home, of Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary.
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.
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.
Go back to Abraham Lincoln’s time for Spring vacation this year
Instead of heading to overcrowded beaches and boardwalks for Spring vacation, try something different this year – go back in time.
While the United States is still commemorating the people, their arguments and their actions during the American Civil War of 1861 to1865, visit Springfield, Illinois where an excellent museum on Abraham Lincoln features his life and difficult presidency.
Or go visit Western Tennessee and Corinth, Mississippi where you can picture the confrontations that took place on the strategic battlefields that make up the Shiloh National Military Park.
Shiloh marks its 150th Civil War anniversary March 29 through April 8 with special events but is an interesting destination throughout the year.
Plan to spend half a day or at least two hours to do everything.
The museum is across the street from the library and typically a destination for researchers. However, an “Illinois Answers the Call: The Boys in Blue” exhibit that includes the U.S. Colored Troop regiments and features the people, letters and music of the Illinois Civil War regiments are on exhibit.
What to expect downtown Springfield
The town is a mix of the Old State Capitol and historic buildings and the newer, in-use State Capitol Building with its governing and lobbying spinoffs and restaurants. If time allows, visit both beginning with the Old Capitol.
Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech here and tried cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. An original flag carried by the 95th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War is on display next to the Adjutant General’s office.
If up to walking, there is a reasonably priced 90-minute, 10 block evening tour beginning from Lincoln’s law office at 6th and Adams, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information call 217-502-8687.
Be sure to stop at the Lincoln home (1844-1861) and its Visitor’s Center operated by National Park Service Rangers.
Go over to the Capitol Building where the legislature meets. A mix of baroque and classic, the Capitol has an impressive rotunda and is worth a tour.
What is nearby
Drive about 20 minutes north to historic New Salem, a recreated village with costumed interpreters that looks like it did when Lincoln worked there.
A year after the Fort Sumter attack, Union forces beat the Confederacy at Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862.
The Union victory was a decisive battle on the Civil War’s Western Theater because of its river placement and location near Corinth, Miss. Which had an important rail junction.
Grant needed Corinth before he could move on Vicksburg and control the Mississippi Valley. Confederate General P.T.G. Beauregard was on record saying: “If defeated here we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.”
What to expect
Shiloh National Military Park is about 3,996 acres with marked and preserved strategic land forms and monuments to both sides. Its battle sites are in Hardin County, Tenn. and in Corinth, Miss. The main section is in the unincorporated town of Shiloh south of Savannah, Tenn. Iron plaques mark both sides’ advance and retreat positions. The rest is about 23 miles southwest of Shiloh in Corinth, Miss.
Take the 12.7 mile auto tour or a guided tour. You will learn that the Battle of Shiloh is also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing named for “Pitts” Tucker, a saloon owner and that Shiloh is named for the Shiloh Church on the battlefield.
If you go during the 2012 Sesquicentennial celebration, time the visit to see two reenactments by more than 6,000 re-enacters using more than 100 cannons, March 29-31.
Organized by The Armies of Tennessee and the Blue-Gray Alliance, the event features The Armies of Tennessee march to Shiloh from Mississippi and The Blue-Gray Alliance transport of soldiers to the battle by rail and river.
If in the area April 4-5, go to nearby Pickwick Landing State Park at Pickwick Dam, Tenn. for “Invasions by Rail and River: The Battle of Shiloh” The Story of Shiloh: Fiery Trial will premier at 7 p.m. April 4. A forum with historians will be held there at 9 a.m. April 5. In addition there will be an exhibit of Civil War artifacts from the Battle of Shiloh.
Or go to Shiloh for ranger led hikes at specific strategic sites 150 years after their particular confrontations, April 6-8. Also be on hand for the “Grand Illumination,” April 7 from dusk to 10 p.m. when luminaries are placed around the battlefield representing the 23,746 killed, wounded or missing at Shiloh. For more special event information visit Shiloh 150.
What to expect at Corinth
See the interpretive center movie and ask about auto and walking tours to see homes used by the generals and the Civil War fortifications and Corinth Battlefield. (http://corinth.net/)