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The state capital of Illinois, Springfield owes its prominence and position to its most famous citizen, beloved former American president Abraham Lincoln. The city started out as a little pioneer settlement in 1820, called Calhoun after a South Carolina senator of that name.
The senator fell out of favour and in 1832 the town was renamed Springfield, just before a young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, decided to make the frontier town his home. No sooner had he settled in than Lincoln decided to up the town's status to state capital, a legislative effort that he seemed to accomplish without too much trouble. To this day, Springfield retains its status as state capital, despite the powerhouse of Chicago in northern Illinois.
The civil war brought some economic benefits to the town with new industries opening. Springfield also became an important link in the state railway system. Today the city has a thriving economy and tourist trade thanks to having been Lincoln's home town.
It is also well located midway between Chicago and St Louis on historic Route 66. The city has retained its small-town charm and is an interesting tourist destination, with a number of worthy museums and galleries.
The pretty two-storey home of Abraham and Mary Lincoln in Springfield was the only home the lawyer/president ever owned. He and his wife lived in the house between 1844 and 1861 when he was elected President. The home has been restored and stands as it was in 1860 in the midst of a four-block historic neighbourhood, which the National Park Service is restoring. The neighbourhood, like the house, will also soon appear much as Lincoln would have remembered it. The house can only be explored on a guided tour and a time slot is assigned with each ticket - there is no admission cost. You can explore the neighbourhood with the help of an audio cell phone tour: just dial 217-213-3003 and follow the prompts.
Abraham Lincoln was buried in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery after his assassination in 1865. Today it is the second most visited cemetery in the United States, being the resting place not only of Lincoln but several other notable historic figures, including famous poet Vachel Lindsay. Lincoln's tomb monument was designed by Larkin Mead and is one of the highlights of the Historic Monument Tour by guided audio cassette, obtainable from the Oak Ridge Cemetery office. A Civil War Retreat Ceremony is held at Lincoln's tomb each Tuesday evening during the summer. The cemetery is surrounded by rolling prairie landscapes and thousands of old trees.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library opened in October 2004, with the Museum opening the following year. They are part of a $115 million complex dedicated to the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln and form the largest presidential library complex in the nation. The library houses the world's largest collection of Lincoln material, with more than 46,000 items. Included in this collection are nearly 1,500 documents written or signed by Lincoln, including handwritten copies of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. The collection also contains important family documents and artefacts, such as the Lincoln's marriage license, a tablecloth from their wedding reception, the nameplate from their front door, and Mr Lincoln's shaving mirror. The museum has been designed to be an immersive experience, using creative exhibits which take visitors through phases of the president's life from his boyhood cabin in Indiana to his funeral in Springfield.
Knights Action Park is a family entertainment centre outside of Springfield. Featuring an arcade, driving range, batting cages, go-karts, mini golf, kiddie rides, and a Ferris wheel, the park is a great place to let children run around after touring historic Springfield. The water park is where the whole family can enjoy bumper boats, water slides, a wave pool, pedal boats, and a lazy river. Added attractions at Knights Action Park are the Route 66 Twin Drive-In Theater, offering nightly double features, and Trade Winds Pub & Eatery. All these can be visited in one day and the variety of activities and amusements ensures people of all ages will find something to enjoy. Visitors should note, however, that opening times and days vary for different attractions: check the official website below for details.
Springfield is a city in which it is possible to step back in history to the lofty days of Abraham Lincoln. Visitors can explore Lincoln's home and the neighbourhood which has been carefully preserved and restored to be as the famous president would have remembered it.
The Lincoln Library and Museum holds famous documents hand-written by Lincoln, and the Oak Ridge Cemetery holds his tomb. Apart from the slew of historic sites and landmarks named for Lincoln, Springfield offers many museums, galleries and parks, and shopping destinations.
Springfield's status as the state capital ensures that the city boasts a number of worthy Illinois establishments, like the Illinois State Museum, the Illinois State Capitol, and the Illinois State Military Museum.
Springfield makes visitor's welcome, with tourist centres and information kiosks sprinkled throughout the city, and a number of first-class guided tours on offer. There are also some well-organised self-guided tours available in Springfield tourist hubs, accessible by phone.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination
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