Springfield, Illinois, is located in the center of the state between the bustling Midwest metropolises of St. Louis and Chicago. Not to be mistaken with the more-than-30 other American cities with Springfield’s name, this is the one where President Abraham Lincoln once lived. While that is quite a distinction, we’re sorry to report that this isn’t the Springfield that “The Simpsons” television series takes place in.
There are several reasons to visit Springfield and not all of them have to do with the Civil War or the man who once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Don’t let the cities of Peoria or Champaign know we said this. Still, statewide, Springfield is probably the number one reason to visit Illinois.
Whether you’re one of the many visitors driving into Illinois from neighboring states like Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana, or a jetsetter flying from far off places such as New York and Washington D.C., we hope the following guide helps you enjoy your stay in the heart of the Prairie State.
What is the Capital of Illinois?
The capital city of the state of Illinois is none other than Springfield. In addition to this honorable distinction, the state capital is also the seat of Sangamon County. As the capital, Springfield is where most Illinois state government business is conducted. If you were thinking Chicago, don’t worry. It could very well be the new capital one day, considering the state’s history of moving the capital around.
7 Reasons to Visit Springfield, Illinois
1. Illinois State Capitol Building
Illinois has had several statehouses since the founding of its first capital. Its first state capital was located in Southern Illinois, where the Mississippi River and Kaskaskia River converge. A few years later, the capital was moved to Vandalia, where the second, third, and fourth capitol buildings were erected.
The current capital is the sixth Illinois has built since it gained statehood. In addition to housing the chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, the capitol is open for tours and sometimes hosts special events.
2. Old State Capitol State Historic Site
Constructed in the first half of the 19th century, Illinois’ fifth capitol building still stands today. Just like the current statehouse, it’s open for tours; only you won’t run the risk of running into state legislators, the Illinois senate, and other crusty politicians. In addition to the Old State Capitol, you might also want to check out these historical sites:
- Central Springfield Historic District
- Illinois Governor’s Mansion
- Edwards Place Historic Home
- Vachel Lindsay Home
- Dana Thomas House
3. All That Lincoln Stuff
Although President Lincoln didn’t move to Illinois until he was the ripe old age of 21, some of the essential parts of his life unfolded in the state. Few people realize it wasn’t until he was over the age of 25 that he moved to Springfield to study law. However, in the end, he came to consider Springfield his true home and was later laid to rest there. Here are a few sites you should consider visiting if you want to experience Lincoln’s legacy:
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
- Lincoln Home National Historic Site
- Lincoln Tomb & War Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial Garden
- Lincoln-Herndon Law Office State Historical Site
4. Illinois State Museum
Once you’ve had about as much Lincoln as you can stand in one lifetime, head on over to the state museum to explore other facets of American and Illinois history. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibits. Hence, it’s an excellent destination for both new and returning visitors. Other museums you might consider visiting include:
- Illinois State Military Museum
- Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum
- Air Combat Museum
- Kidzeum of Health and Science
- Illinois State Fire Museum
5. Enjoy the Outdoors
The Springfield area of Central Illinois is close to a lot of outdoor recreation. An excellent example of this is Sangchris Lake State Park, which is just a little under 20 miles southeast of town. But you don’t even need to leave the capital to enjoy the outdoors, as there’s plenty to experience within the city limits. Rivers filled with parks surround Springfield. The whole southeastern edge of the city is dominated by Lake Springfield, which you can enjoy in many ways.
6. The Henson Robinson Zoo
While the outdoors are great, sometimes squirrels, possums, and pigeons aren’t enough to quench your animal viewing thirst. Enter the Henson Robinson Zoo. Located on the shores of Lake Springfield, the zoo is home to over 50 types of animals, including just enough big cats to recharge your soul if you have to see more Lincoln-oriented stuff.
7. Illinois State Fair
We saved this one for the end because it’s all about timing. Like most state fairs, Illinois’ is full of delicious food, fabulous entertainment, a range of competitions, and of course, a ton of fun games and rides. However, just like all other stair fairs, the Prairie State’s is only around for a limited time. As such, make sure to check dates and times before you head down to the fairgrounds.
What’s your favorite reason to visit Springfield, Illinois? Let the good people know what to do on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!