Springfield, Illinois is a fantastic combination of history and culture.
The capital of Illinois, it’s best known for being Abraham Lincoln’s home for the 17 years leading up to his election as the 16th president of the United States and for its strong connection to historic Route 66, which runs right through town. It's the perfect stop for history buffs and families.
Abraham Lincoln Attractions
Start by taking a free tour of Lincoln's home, led by knowledgeable park rangers. The Lincoln Home Visitor Center includes a model of Springfield as it looked in 1860. Next stop: the law offices where Lincoln worked with his colleague, charging just $5 for some cases. The offices are opposite the Old State Capital Building, where today some local residents hold re-enactments of Civil War scenes.
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, see the world’s largest collection of Lincoln-related documents. Watch the 1860 presidential election as if it were happening today. Up in the attic, there are spaces for children to play with clothing and toys of the era. Eerily realistic holographic presentations and other interactive exhibits keep visitors engaged. After leaving the library, head to the Lincoln Depot, where Lincoln offered his farewell speech before boarding the train for Washington, D.C. to be inaugurated.
The Popular Lincoln Tomb
Situated in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Lincoln’s tomb is the second most-visited grave in the country, behind Arlington National Cemetery. Outside, there’s a gold bust of Lincoln. Many visitors rub his nose – it’s supposed to bring good luck. Finish off your history tour of Springfield with a visit to the Lincoln Presidential Museum and the Illinois State Capitol. This is where Lincoln spoke his famous words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Good Eating on Route 66
The two most famous places to eat on Route 66 in Springfield are the Cozy Dog Drive-In and The Chili Parlor. You can’t miss the iconic “FOOD” sign outside the Cozy Dog Drive-In, which claims to be the first place to have served corn dogs. Open since the 1940s, this is a traditional Route 66 diner, souvenir shop and mini-museum. Enjoy a classic “hot dog on a stick” while browsing through the great collection of Route 66 souvenirs and posing next to the old gas pump. Next, be sure to visit The Chili Parlor. The owner, Rose, is delightful, and you can get their famous chili just the way you like it: mild, medium or super-hot, and with or without meat.
A Real Route 66 Drive-In Theater
In Springfield you’ll also find the Route 66 Drive-In. Open from the end of May until the beginning of September as well as weekends in October, this twin drive-in plays two movies every night. This is the old style of watching a movie – pull your car in, park, fill up on snacks from the concession stand and watch a movie on a large screen while sitting in your car. Nothing is more classically American than this.
From Springfield, it’s a short drive to the “Brick 66,” a beautiful 2.5-kilometer-long stretch of restored, hand-laid brick road from 1931 – Old Route 66 at its best. Lined by fields of grass on both sides and stretching seemingly forever over a hill, this idyllic and historic attraction is best experienced in person.
A Car Show Like You’ve Never Seen
Fans of antique cars, cool custom cars and other show vehicles should attend the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield. Every September, the state capital cranks up its engines and attracts fans from every corner of the globe. This car festival and show pays homage to the cars that drive (or once drove) the world-famous road that runs through town. Thousands of shiny vintage vehicles, nearly 80,000 spectators, stages with live music and scores of commercial vendors catering to classic car dealers, collectors and spectators line the streets of Springfield’s historic center.
Staying in Downtown Springfield
While you’re in town for the car festival, enjoy the welcoming ambiance of downtown Springfield. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to enjoy, as well as several hotels to choose from. Walk around downtown’s streets and enjoy window shopping at unique stores that promote the city’s fascinating history.