(Editor’s Note: Features writer Sally Rummel traveled with her husband, Mark, and friends by Amtrak train to Springfield, Illinois, mostly to visit Abraham Lincoln historic sites, and found so much more.)
No one stands taller than Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois.
This city of 114,867 residents and the state capital of Illinois was Lincoln’s home from 1844 to 1861, before he moved to Washington, D.C as the 16th President of the United States.
Springfield also is where Lincoln married Kentucky native Mary Todd and with her, raised their family of four sons, three of whom died in childhood.
History has proven Lincoln to be one of the greatest presidents of all time, leading this country through the cruelest, most divisive era in our history, the Civil War, as well as abolishing slavery and preserving the union.
Today, Springfield wears its Lincoln legacy proudly and has become a tourism hot spot with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Local residents still take pride in their famous native son, and have preserved the dignity of President Lincoln, fully elevating him far beyond his real-life 6-foot 4-inch stature.
Lincoln sites you can visit include the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library, the Lincoln Tomb, the Old Capital State Historic Site, New Salem State Historic Site and more.
As a visitor to Lincoln’s hometown, your first stop should be the Official Springfield Visitor’s Center which also houses the historic Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, all located across the street from the Old State Capitol building. This is where Lincoln practiced law, served as a legislator and gave his famous House Divided speech on slavery in 1858.
History buffs and “foodies” also will enjoy traveling on the iconic Route 66, which starts in Chicago and spans more than 2,400 miles to the Pacific Coast in Santa Monica, California.
Make sure to stop at the historic Cozy Dog Drive-in, the pioneers of the corn dog, and the Ariston Café, dating from 1924, in Litchfield, Illinois, for fine dining and huge, homemade desserts.
Don’t miss the Charlie Parker Diner, featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” for platter-sized pancakes, or anywhere that serves the Horseshoe or Ponyshoe (smaller version) — Springfield’s culinary specialty. A Horseshoe is a slice of Texas toast, meat of your choice, covered in French fries and smothered in cheese sauce.
Finally, be sure to stop at the Dana-Thomas House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for Susan Lawrence Dana, a progressive socialite living in Springfield. Tours are available throughout the day and last about an hour.
Travel tips: AMTRACK leaves Durand daily at 8:04 a.m., on its way west to Chicago, then catch the Texas Eagle for the three-hour train trip to Springfield. You can rent a car in Springfield to maximize your time in this state capital city.