Presidential Roots

Lincoln's Legacy

The 16th President of the United States started his life and career here in Illinois. Discover the roots of this outsized historical figure in Illinois' beautiful capital region.

Day 1: History in Springfield

Explore the state capital, home to one of the country's largest presidential museums.

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Start your tour of all things Lincoln in Springfield at the amazing Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. This 200,000-sq.-ft. complex is the largest presidential museum in the nation.

Nearby, enter the hallowed halls of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln gave his famed “House Divided” speech and would later lie in state after his assassination. Stop for a sandwich and slice of homemade pie at nearby Robbie's Restaurant.

Afterwards, visit the Lincoln Home, where the family lived before heading to the White House. Then pay your respects at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. The monumental site is the final resting place of the president and his family. Have dinner at Fritz's Wagon Wheel, a Springfield staple that's been serving up American favorites for 60 years.

Day 2: Lincoln's New Salem

Travel Back in Time

Relive pioneer days with a historical trip to Illinois as it was in the 1800s.

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Head out to Lincoln's New Salem, near Petersburg. Interpreters dressed in frontier garb portray pioneers in this re-created 1800s village of timber shops and houses where a young Lincoln once lived. New Salem's Theatre in the Park features outdoor plays from mid-June through late August. Next stop is Lincoln, Abe's namesake town. Visit the Postville Courthouse, a replica of the county courthouse where Lincoln argued cases as an attorney, complete with a courtroom and offices furnished as they might have been in the mid-1800s.

At the Lincoln Heritage Museum, located on the Lincoln College campus, you'll find a remarkable collection of Lincoln artifacts. Have lunch seated in an authentic 1940s dining car at McCarty's at The Depot in Lincoln.

The Macon County History Museum and Prairie Village in Decatur is the next stop. This five-acre site features an original log courthouse in which Lincoln actually tried cases, an 1880s railroad depot, a blacksmith's shop and a video presentation that traces Lincoln's history in Macon County.

Enjoy dinner in one of the lovely dining rooms or on the seasonal outdoor deck of The Beach House. This upscale restaurant is located in a former 1930s stone beach house in Nelson Park, overlooking Lake Decatur.

Day 3: Illinois' Original Capital

Explore Vandalia and More

Get a glimpse of Lincoln's early days with a trip to Illinois' original capital.

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Begin your day in Vandalia, Illinois' state capitol from 1819-1839. Tour the imposing Federal-style Vandalia Statehouse where Lincoln spent his first years as a legislator. The building, which once contained all three branches of the state government, has been completely restored and features period furnishings. Stop for lunch in Strasburg (north of Effingham) at The Timbers Restaurant and Lodge, located on 30 acres of woodlands adjacent to scenic Hidden Springs State Park.

After lunch, make your way to Lerna (southeast of Mattoon), where you'll discover the Lincoln Log Cabin, former home of the president's father and stepmother. Today the 86-acre historic site includes a working living history farm with a replica of the Lincolns' two-room cabin, costumed interpreters who portray the Lincolns and their neighbors, and a visitor center with exhibit galleries.

In nearby Charleston is the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum, the only museum in Illinois that retraces the senatorial debates of 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas (one of the debates actually took place on the spot where the museum now stands). Move on to Danville for more Lincoln history. Tour the Dr. William H. Fithian Home, featuring the second-floor balcony where Lincoln made an impromptu speech in 1858 during his senate campaign, along with the bed he actually slept in that night. Next door is the Vermilion County Museum, a reproduction of an early Danville courthouse where Lincoln tried more than 200 cases. The museum includes a recreation of Lincoln's Danville law office, with a desk that he actually used.