20 Best Things to do in Springfield, IL

Springfield, IL
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While Chicago is undeniably Illinois' major tourist destination, its capital city, Springfield, deserves just as much attention.

Springfield is known to have been Abraham Lincoln’s hometown until he was appointed as the President of the United States.

Many attractions in Springfield are dedicated to him.

However, that's not all you'll find around this city.

Springfield offers some excellent sights for adventure seekers and nature lovers.

Interested in finding out what they are?

Check out this list of the best things to do in Springfield, Illinois:

Relive the Old Days in the House of Abraham Lincoln

Side view of House of Abraham Lincoln's exterior
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When you're in Springfield, you have to visit the city's most important tourist attraction: the house of none other than Abraham Lincoln.

He lived in this two-story house with his wife until he became the president of the United States.

The house was built in 1839.

Interior of House of Abraham Lincoln
Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lincoln family lived here from 1844 until he won the presidential election in 1861.

Every day, crowds of people wait to explore the house.

There are tours operated by rangers who guide you around the house with 12 rooms.

Front view of House of Abraham Lincoln's exterior
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Go Back in Time at the Old State Capitol

Exterior of Illinois Old State Capital
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The Illinois government had its main center at the Old State Capitol.

A building of great historical significance, it was constructed in 1837 with a completely different Greek architectural style.

Lincoln played the role of the state legislator here.

Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln had some of the most critical heated political arguments in this very building.

House of representatives chamber in Old State Capitol
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It served the government right after its construction until 1876 when the need for a new State Capitol was seen.

The building was reconstructed in the 1960s and is open for the public to visit and learn about the important things that happened here.

It was right in the Old State Capital that Abraham Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech took place.

Winter aerial view of Old State Capitol
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Admire the Interior of the New State Capitol

Interior of State capitol in Springfield
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As Illinois grew and flourished rapidly, a time eventually came when the Old State Capitol was no longer enough to accommodate all its activities.

Because of this, a new building was constructed.

The first session of the new Illinois State Capitol was held in 1877.

The new building happens to be one of the tallest structures in Springfield.

It is now open for the public to come and view it.

You can book many tours that will guide you through the building.


Learn about the Hero Himself at the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site

Name sign of Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices
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Opposite the Old State Capitol, there are a lot of historic buildings and structures that hold memories of Abraham Lincoln.

Among the most significant sites are the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices.

Abraham was a lawyer who worked in this very office.

Statues in front of Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site
I, Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

It also happens to be important because it is the only former workplace of Lincoln's that tourists can still visit.

There are tour guides who will show you the floor where he worked and what cases he worked on.

It is said that he worked in the office on the third floor from 1843 to 1852.

Exterior of Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site
Teemu008 from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Look at the Beautiful City from the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon

Daytime view of the tall Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon
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Located in the middle of Washington Park, the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon stands tall.

Comprising 12 stories, the tower provides excellent lookout points.

Three decks are situated at three different levels.

The tower boasts 67 beautiful bells.

You can take a good look at them while you go up the tower.

The lush green scenery that surrounds the tower is a visual treat.

It hosts many events and festivals.

The annual International Carillon Festival is celebrated here.

Tourists flock to this area during that time every year.


Learn about the War at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Wax figure of Lincoln and his family in Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the museum
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The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum are two separate buildings joined by a skywalk.

The library has every document on history that you'd want to see: papers passed and signed by Lincoln himself, documentaries on the Civil War, old newspaper cuttings, old American maps, and documents on Native American history.

Exterior of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
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The museum, located opposite the library, showcases a wide variety of fascinating items.

It beautifully exhibits various important moments of Lincoln’s life.

White house replica in Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Pay Your Respects at the Lincoln Tomb

Daytime view of Lincoln’s Tomb
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The Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery is the place where the president and his wife rest.

The 117-foot-tall tomb also happens to be the resting place of his three children: Edward, William, and Thomas.

Lincoln Tomb at Oak ridge cemetery
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It was designed by Lark Mead and is made out of Quincy granite.

The Lincoln Tomb was designated as a National Historic Landmark and is found on the National Register of Historic Places.

Closer view of Lincoln Tomb's landmark
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Look Back On Moments in History at The Lincoln Depot

During the early morning hours of February 11, 1861, Springfield, Illinois' Great Western Depot, welcomed its most renowned visitor yet.

Before he boarded the train to Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln delivered an impromptu address that would go down in history as the most famous impromptu speech ever given.

Thousands of Springfielders had gathered at the railway station to bid Mr. Lincoln farewell after he had spent more than a quarter of his life in the city.

He spoke to them before he boarded his train.

While the Great Western Depot still welcomes visitors, it no longer functions as a transit facility.

Admire the Architecture of the Illinois Governor's Mansion

Placard of Illinois Governor's Mansion
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It has been the residence of the governors of Illinois since 1855.

Located on the United States National Register of Historic Places, this site has a rich history.

Furthermore, it has a grand architectural design, décor, and stunning features, such as the spiral staircase.

Take shots of the mansion's Instagram-worthy façade.

The museum's interior is also open to the public for free tours.


Visit the Dana-Thomas House

Exterior of Dana-Thomas House
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The Dana-Thomas House is a piece of majestic work of art.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a famous architect who built many houses with an exclusive Prairie-style design, and this house happens to be one of his first.

Glass windows of Dana-Thomas House
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The place is spacious and has an area of 12,000 square feet, with 35 rooms and more than 250 glass doors with intricate detailing.

The architecture is something that you can gaze at for hours.

You have to book your tour before your visit.

Details of Dana-Thomas House's exterior
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Enjoy Your Time at the Margery Adams Wildlife Sanctuary

Margery Adams gave away her entire plot and the gardens around it to the Illinois Audubon Society.

Now, it is maintained as a non-profit organization.

The Margery Adams Wildlife Sanctuary is home to wetlands as well as woodlands.

The entire land spans 40 acres and has lots of trails where visitors can hike.

You can often find a lot of migratory birds flying around the sanctuary.


Relax Amid the Greenery of Washington Park Botanical Garden

Situated in the prime location of Central Illinois, Washington Park Botanical Garden serves many purposes.

It acts as an educational center and a well-known tourist attraction.

The park is built on land that stretches for more than 20 acres.

More than 1,800 species of known and unknown plants are found in this horticulture garden.

The most important attractions include a rose garden with almost 5,000 rose plants, an outdoor cactus garden, and an iris garden.

There is also something especially for the visually impaired: a garden with different scents and textures.

Washington Park Botanical Garden offers several educational tours and walking tours throughout the year.


Witness the Diversity at the Illinois State Museum

The headquarters of the Illinois State Museum is located in Springfield.

The museum also happens to be a museum of natural history.

It proudly displays a wide variety of paintings and sculptures.

Its foundation dates back to 1877, and it has only grown since then.

Right now, it has a space of almost 100,000 square feet, showcasing famous artworks, historical items, and anthropological artifacts.

You can also learn a great deal about the heritage of Native America.

It's a family-friendly spot to visit, as they have various interactive sessions suited for children, including science and history lessons.


Remember Fallen Heroes at Camp Butler

Headstones at Camp Butler cemetery
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Camp Butler used to serve as the training grounds, prison, and even a hospital during the Civil War.

All of that was ruined after the war.

Now, all that remains is a cemetery that serves as a resting place for the soldiers who lost their lives in the war.

A gravestone at Camp Butler
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It serves as a resting ground for other American war veterans, too.

There are a lot of special ceremonies that are observed on these grounds on important days.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are among the most notable occasions commemorated here.

Take Photos with Vintage Fighter Planes at Air Combat Museum

Are you or your kids a fan of aircraft?

Over ten antique air combat planes are on display at the Air Combat Museum of Springfield, making it an absolute must-see for any vintage warplane aficionado.

In addition to the 1929 Stinson SM2AA Detroiter Junior and the 1928 Stearman C3B, visitors may expect to witness the Beech AT-11 Kansan and the Vought F4U-5N Corsair, both of which are displayed in immaculate condition.

Admission to the museum is free, although donations are accepted upon arrival.

Military vehicles, such as the M3 Half-Track troop transport vehicle from WWII and the UN Saladin (FV601) vehicle, are also featured in the museum.

Dine and Chill at Engrained Brewing Company

After a day of touring historical sites, it pays to visit a place such as Engrained Brewing Company, where you can release your stresses away.

This locally owned farm-to-table restaurant and microbrewery have served the Springfield region since its grand launch in 2013.

Fresh ingredients from local family farms are used in their seasonally rotating menu.

The brewmaster at this neighborhood brewery always comes up with new recipes for the beers available on tap.

As a result of their efforts to be environmentally friendly, Engrained Brewery has put together a list of more than 30 ways in which they try to decrease their carbon footprint.


Witness the Oldest House in Springfield

Exterior of House of Elijah Iles
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Want to see the oldest house in Springfield?

Yes, it is still there, standing tall and proud.

The house of Elijah Iles is said to be the oldest one in the city.

Built in 1832, it is a place that tourists and history buffs love to explore.

Exterior of Elijah Iles' house
Teemu08, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

William Vigal completely designed and structured this house for Elijah Iles, who is said to have been one of Springfield's first settlers.

He also had a store that is acclaimed to be the first store in Springfield.

Of course, the home is not exactly as it was in its heyday.

A couple of remodelings needed to be done to the roof and the walls.

Now, it serves as an aesthetic tourist site.


Have a Picnic at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden

Map sign of Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden
Boscophotos, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden is a 100-acre garden entirely maintained by volunteers.

American boy and girl scouts initiated the building of this beautiful park by planting many acorns.

The little acorns planted back in 1936 have now grown to be gorgeous oak trees.

Walking trails and wooden benches decorate this massive park, and it is home to thousands of native plants.

Some of the plants found here actually belong to Indiana and Kentucky.

This is a perfect place to sit down, relax, and have a picnic with your family.

There are wooden benches carved with quotes by Abraham Lincoln.


Honor the African-American History of Illinois

The Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum was founded to acknowledge the two locations' significant African-American history and culture.

You can find a lot of historical pieces that depict various stories, tales, and documents of the African-Americans.

The museum also tells stories about how much they struggled.

Visit a Poet's Life at Vachel Lindsay Home

Exterior of Vachel Lindsay Home
Teemu008 from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located just south of the Executive Mansion, the Vachel Lindsay Home is the longtime residence and birthplace of noted poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay.

It is a two-story home erected before the Civil War.

Two of Lindsay's works stand out above the others in popularity: The Congo, published in 1914, and Collected Poems, released in 1938.

Lindsay was well-known in the early 20th century for his unusual poetry, the accompanying art, and energetic performances.

The Vachel Lindsay Home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 after being purchased by Lindsay's father in 1878.

Final Thoughts

Springfield is a great place to learn about American history and culture in a fun way.

Seeing the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is reason enough to travel there.

However, the city of Springfield, Illinois, also includes a variety of additional attractions, no matter what your interests may be.