I was in the eighth grade when we had to memorize “The Gettysburg Address” and I quickly fell in love with learning about President Abraham Lincoln. We visited Gettysburg several years ago on a larger road trip with the kids and wished we had planned more time there.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
In recent years, due to my health, longer road trips are a bit tough on me (we still do them but it takes a long time to recover), so this spring, I wanted to plan a quick road trip not too far from where we reside.
Springfield, IL, and all things Lincoln had been on my list … and just under four hours from our home, it seemed like the perfect destination.
I found a great Airbnb in nearby Petersburg (about a 15 minute drive from Springfield). “A beautifully renovated second story loft (Loft on the Square) located on the square. The space offers an abundance of natural light with large windows that overlook the historic 1896 Menard County Courthouse and town square.”
After driving to Springfield, Day 1 included a stop at the Lincoln Memorial Garden for a picnic lunch (this was mainly walking trails and not much of what I would call “garden” but it was pretty and worked for our lunch stop).
We then headed to Lincoln’s tomb. A fun tradition there is touching Lincoln’s nose for good luck. It’s been touched so many times, it had to be replaced several years ago. Also, next to the cemetery are several veterans memorials.
Then we headed to Petersburg to the Airbnb and found it exceeded our expectations. We especially enjoyed the many Lincoln books and movie Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis which added to our educational stay. We appreciated the modern appliances that contrasted with the historic-feeling loft and decor.
On Day 2, we headed to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum (and Library … although we learned the library isn’t really open to visitors but more just for research). We are a BIG proponent of national parks and historic sites and presidential museums.
It included the early life of Lincoln, a play room for children with toys, dress-up clothes and games, his White House years, the special effects Holavision Ghosts of the Library and more. A couple of notable exhibits were the Civil War in four minutes which illustrated the scale, scope and tragedy of the Civil War as well as the end of the tour where they ask you to take a moment as Lincoln “lies in state.”
Road trip tip: if you have someone in your group who loves museums a little more than everyone else (this is my husband who would love to read every word and see every artifact in the entire museum), encourage them to take photos of some of the displays so they can read more later and not slow the rest of the group down.
Another family road trip tradition is to eat at a place featured on Diners, Drive-in and Dives. Luckily, Springfield has one – Charlie Parker’s, a busy diner housed in an old Quonset hut and features a longtime central Illinois favorite, the Horseshoe, which originated in Springfield. It’s basically an open-faced sandwich with two pieces of toast, meat on it (hamburger, chicken fried steak, bacon, fish, really anything), topped with fries and a special cheese sauce. Not for the faint of heart. And not for those watching their caloric intake. It was good and a fun experience, I’m glad we went, but not something I couldn’t live without again.
There are several murals around town and other random must-see stops like the pink elephant with glasses holding a martini glass (just kidding … but we do always like to happen upon things you don’t see anywhere else).
We also visited the Lincoln Home National Historic Site to see where Lincoln lived with his family while in Springfield, drove by the current state capitol building and stopped in to see the old one which Lincoln spent time as a lawyer and delivered his famous “House Divided” speech.
Day 3 was more of the non-Lincoln portion of the trip, however, we started with a stop at Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site just down the road a few miles from Petersburg where we stayed. He lived there for just a few years and did a variety of jobs.
We visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana–Thomas House in downtown Springfield. It was really extraordinary, although we were not allowed to take photos inside the home. She loved to host parties and events and the house allowed for it beautifully.
We also made a stop on historic Route 66 at the Cozy Drive-In, the “possible” birthplace of the corn dog, or cozy dog, as they call it.
With that, we headed back home. Our Land of Lincoln road trip was educational, and best of all, a great time spent with our kids.
Have you been to Springfield? What did you enjoy most? And any advice?