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There’s no better place to learn about the nation’s 16th President than Illinois, the Land of Lincoln! There are many ‘Honest Abe’ stories to be uncovered along the Looking for Lincoln Story Trail that runs through the 42-county area of Central Illinois designated by Congress as The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Lincoln spent almost 30 years of his life in Central Illinois and through a series of more than 200 sites and wayside exhibits in more than 50 communities, visitors will find the stories of Lincoln’s life and times in Illinois.

To commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the Illinois Office of Tourism has teamed up with the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition to give visitors a taste of how they can travel Illinois to go “Looking for Lincoln,” starting with a three-day trip through Bloomington and Springfield:

Day 1 – Bloomington

The David Davis Mansion in Bloomington was owned by Lincoln’s close friend, Judge David Davis. (Photo courtesy of David Davis Mansion)

Morning

Start your day at the magnificent David Davis Mansion, once owned by Lincoln confidante and close friend, Judge David Davis. Tour this stately 19th century mansion and its beautiful grounds to get a glimpse of artifacts and technologies from the 1800s and to learn more about the social and political life Lincoln knew.

Next, stop at the McLean County Historical Museum, located inside a beautiful old courthouse on the town square. Here you will find many stories of the rich history of McLean County, including the many stories of the local residents who were Lincoln’s contemporaries as he rose from prairie lawyer to the man who would be president. Don’t miss the Visitor Center on the first floor where you’ll find more information on the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, as well as the Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway.

Afternoon

Time to hit the road for a short trip south to Lincoln, Illinois; the only city named for Abraham Lincoln while he was still living. Here you will discover a remarkable collection of Lincoln-related artifacts and documents at the Lincoln Heritage Museum, on the campus of Lincoln College. Treasures include rare artifacts from the Lincoln’s home, including dishware, books and mourning clothing that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln. The museum also has an original correspondence from President Lincoln and information on every member of his cabinet as well as Civil War military leaders.

For a look into the life of Lincoln the lawyer, visit the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site. Step back in time as you imagine yourself arguing a point of law in this rugged, brown-frame building – a replica of the building that served as the seat for Logan County government from 1840-48. Visitors will see exhibits that tell the story of the 8th Judicial Circuit, where Lincoln honed his skills as a successful prairie lawyer.

A visit to Mt. Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site will take you to one of only two remaining 8th Judicial Circuit Courthouses standing on their original site. A frequent stop along the circuit traveled by Lincoln, the courthouse is restored, furnished and interpreted as a 1850s courthouse to give visitors a feel for how Lincoln truly knew it.

As you head toward Springfield, in the heart of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, consider a stop at the Palms Grill Café in Atlanta. Not only is this an iconic stop along Illinois Route 66, but visitors will also find a great Lincoln exhibit upstairs that tells the story of Lincoln’s influence on this charming community.

Evening

Journey on until you arrive in Illinois’ capital city of Springfield. This is the city Lincoln and his family called home for more than 25 years and is the final resting place for Lincoln, Mary and three of their children. Check into your hotel and enjoy a relaxing dinner at any one of the 200 restaurants in the historic downtown area.

Day 2 – Springfield

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in downtown Springfield.

Morning

A perfect first stop on your Lincoln journey in Springfield is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. From the humble beginnings of a young pioneer to the halls of the White House, the story of Lincoln’s life is captured through original artifacts, special effects theaters with high action and ghostly images, and so much more. After exploring all the museum has to offer, step outside to look for Lincoln in the many authentic historic sites and stories told throughout the city.

Just a short walk from the museum is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Here, visitors step into the daily life of the Lincoln family as you enter the only home the Lincolns ever owned. A stroll through the lovely historic neighborhood surrounding the home will give you a rare glimpse of Mr. Lincoln as a husband, father, neighbor and friend.

After your visit, choose from a variety of downtown restaurants offering everything from a quick soup and sandwich to a full midday meal. A walk through the historic streets will also take you to a number of unique boutique stores, antique shops and galleries.

Afternoon

In the center of downtown, you’ll find the Old State Capitol State Historic Site. Here, you can stand in the very spot where Lincoln made his famous “House Divided” speech, as well as where he argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and spent countless hours discussing the issues of the day with his colleagues. It was also at this site that Lincoln served as an Illinois state legislator and was laid in state before his burial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Close to downtown is the Edwards Place Historic Home, the 1850s home of Lincoln’s friends, the Edwards Family. Within the home you can find the famous “Lincoln courting couch,” on which Lincoln and Mary had many conversations while courting, and where a number of their wedding guests sat as they watched the future President and First Lady exchange their vows.

For a step forward in time, be sure to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House. Originally planned as a remodel project of a Lincoln-era Victorian mansion, this home is one of the finest Wright-designed homes anywhere in the United States. While Wright grudgingly preserved one room of the original Victorian home, the house is known as one of the most complete examples of Wright’s prairie-style design and includes virtually all of the original furniture, light fixtures and stained glass.

Day 3 – Springfield to Bloomington

The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site in Springfield is where Lincoln, Mary and three of their children are buried.

Morning

As you head back toward Bloomington, on the edge of Springfield, visit Oak Ridge Cemetery, home to the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. Visitors feel the majesty as you gaze upon the stunning granite monument where Lincoln, his wife and three of their four children are laid to rest. Surpassed only by Arlington National Cemetery, Oak Ridge is the second most visited cemetery in the United States.

A short trip off the main highway along the shores of the Sangamon River is New Salem State Historic Site. Explore the reconstructed pioneer village where Lincoln lived and worked as a young man. Immerse yourself in the daily lives of the villagers as living history interpreters bring the stories of Lincoln the store clerk, postmaster and citizen soldier to life. Beautiful in any season, New Salem will take you back to the days of Illinois’ earliest pioneers. A quick drive north will take you to Petersburg, the quaint small town where ancestors of many of the original New Salem families still make their home today. It’s worth a stop to visit the delightful shops, restaurants and Victorian-era homes.

Along the way back to Bloomington, consider making a quick stop in Athens at the Long Nine Museum, or pick up delicious homemade Maple syrup or Maple candy at the famous Funks Grove Maple Sirup, located just off Illinois Route 66, to complete your journey.

To learn more about more than 200 Illinois sites that make up the Looking for Lincoln Story Trail and begin planning your trip, visit LookingForLincoln.com and EnjoyIllinois.com.

 – Illinois Office of Tourism

It’s that time of year again—time to wish one of this country’s most well-loved presidents a happy birthday! There’s no better time to plan a trip around Illinois and the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area than to celebrate Abe Lincoln’s 208th birthday. From storytelling to free museum tours to special annual celebrations, there is no shortage of festivities happening around the state. Gather the family and plan your trip to celebrate Illinois’ incredible Lincoln heritage!

Head to Lincoln Log Cabin in Charleston to enjoy a birthday party hosted by Lincoln’s family members. Historical actors will be on-site to share personal anecdotes and stories about life with Lincoln on Saturday, February 11. Bring the whole family to tour this 19th century living history farm and take part in story time and other activities to learn more about the former president’s life.

Children listened to stories about Lincoln at last year’s birthday celebration at the Lincoln Log Cabin in Charleston.

The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington is also hosting a special celebration for Honest Abe on February 11. Stop by the home of Lincoln’s close friend and former campaign manager to hear tales from costumed characters as they recall their encounters with Lincoln during his time in Bloomington. Be sure to stay and enjoy a special birthday cake and punch to celebrate. You may even catch a glimpse of President Lincoln himself!

Make a trip to Danville on February 12 for a special open at the Vermilion County Museum, built as a replica of the courthouse where Lincoln practiced law. Spend the afternoon exploring the Museum complex, which includes a replica of Lincoln’s law office as it looked in the 1850s and view hundreds of birthday cards for the president from Danville-area fourth- and fifth-graders.

Visitors of all ages will enjoy Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration at Mt. Pulaski Courthouse.

Not only is Lincoln’s family hosting a party, but his friends are celebrating his birthday, too! Visit Mount Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site on February 11 to hear from Lincoln’s former teacher Mentor Graham and sample Abe’s favorite dessert—apple pie with rum sauce! Bring the whole family and let the kids meet Lincoln himself and reenact what it was like to be a student during Lincoln’s childhood.

Enjoy free admission at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield on February 12.

In Springfield, the city Lincoln called home for many years, a number of important attractions will be hosting special birthday events. Enjoy free admission to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on February 12 to see special artifacts and items from Lincoln’s life, including his stovepipe hat and Mary Todd Lincoln’s 28-diamond necklace. Both artifacts will be on display during the month of February. Historical actors from the Civil War period will also be on-site to chat with visitors and answer any questions.

For an in-depth look at Lincoln’s life and times, both the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site will be hosting a special lecture series on February 11 and 12. The George L. Painter Looking for Lincoln Lecture Series at the Lincoln Home covers a range of topics, from Lincoln’s childhood and upbringing to all of his accomplishments throughout his career and presidency. The Abraham Lincoln Association will also hold its annual symposium at the Old State Capitol on February 11 and 12, featuring special presentations from notable authors on Lincoln literature.

The Vandalia Statehouse Historic Site has been helping visitors celebrate Lincoln’s birthday since 1973.

Continue your trip with a journey back to Lincoln’s time at Illinois’ oldest surviving capitol building—the Vandalia Statehouse State Historic Site. The site where Lincoln started his political career has been hosting a Lincoln Birthday celebration since 1973. This year’s events include musical entertainment and refreshments as well as a presentation and stories from the Bond County Historical Society about Lincoln’s in-laws who sided with the South during the Civil War.

Wind down from an exciting weekend of birthday celebrations with a visit the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington for a special viewing of the 1939 classic film “Young Mr. Lincoln” on February 14. Arrive early to view a display of rarely seen historical artifacts and stay during the movie’s intermission to hear  local Lincoln scholar Guy Fraker speak about Lincoln’s connection to McLean County and the lasting impact its residents had on him.

Illinois is full of Abraham Lincoln history, events and ways to honor him. If you are eager to delve even further into the history, visit EnjoyIllinois.com for more places to go.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

From the Lincoln Era to current day, Illinois has played an important role in African American history. There’s no better time to celebrate this rich culture than Black History Month. Festivals, special celebrations, and museums all throughout the state offer visitors a chance to learn from and admire the culture and heritage of the African American community.  Read on for a deeper look into all there is to experience during Black History Month and beyond!

There is no better place to begin your celebration of Black History than the DuSable Museum of African American History, the first of its type in the country. This month, the museum will serve as the backdrop for HEART & SOUL, the Emmy Award-winning series that taps into the essence of the African American community. A special Black History Month edition of the show will air on ABC7, Sunday, February 5 featuring special news reports, programs and stories honoring African American figures throughout history. If you can’t tune into the special event, not to worry, the museum is open to visitors year round.

DuSable Museum of African American History is the first of its type in the country. (Photo by DuSable Museum)

Also in Chicago, the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum celebrates the men that made history by forming the first successful African American labor union in the U.S. The museum is located within the Historic Pullman District which was named a National Monument by President Obama in 2015 and later incorporated into the National Park Service.  Book a tour to view artifacts from the train cars and porter strike and learn more about this important movement.

Explore the storied history of the Pullman Porters at the Pullman Porter Museum. (Photo by the Pullman Porter Museum)

The Pullman Porters were just one of many groups to make strides toward equality. Travel to Peoria to learn about a number of important individuals and events that made a significant impact on the lives of African Americans at the African American Hall of Fame (AAHF). Founded by a small group of civil leaders, the museum works to preserve important African American art and historical documents so that they can be shared with future generations. Another museum looking to further Black History education is the African American Museum of Southern Illinois. Located in Carbondale, the museum’s permanent exhibits feature African American art and slave artifacts, including features of the Underground Railroad in Illinois.

Learn more about the evolution of African American art at the African American Museum of Southern Illinois.

It’s never too early to start learning about the importance of Black History. Bring your young ones to the Bronzeville Children’s Museum  for a variety of unique and interesting interactive exhibits and activities. Located in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, the Children’s Museum is the first and only African American Children’s Museum in the country. Stop by for the special exhibit “Preserving Our Children’s Futures” for an afternoon of crafts, face painting, music and storytelling.

Bronzeville Children’s Museum offers Black History Month activities for the whole family.

Black History Month isn’t just about celebrating famous figures; it’s about connecting African Americans as they recognize and embrace their own culture.  If you’ve ever wondered if you have a personal connection to Black History, the African American Cultural and Genealogical Society Museum of Illinois in Decatur is the place to go. Pastors, teachers and clerical workers come together to voluntarily devote their time and skills to helping people research their family history through the organization’s large database. Don’t miss out on a chance to discover some movers and shakers in your family lineage!

Another place to learn more about your roots is The Ethnic Heritage Museum of Rockford.  This museum focuses on the heritage of the numerous different ethnic groups that settled within the city. It emphasizes the old customs and traditions through artifacts, vintage clothing and photographs. The museum is also running a special exhibit for Black History Month, “Saluting Black Military Units” from Feb. 12 – March 19.

Head to Alton for guided tours through its many Underground Railroad sites.

The Land of Lincoln is no stranger to African American history. Alton played a key role in the movement of slaves through the Underground Railroad, acting as a safe haven for slaves escaping from Missouri. The tunnels of the Underground Railroad run deep beneath the streets along the “Alton Route.” Visitors can take guided tours to hear the slave’s tales and learn more about Alton’s remarkable past.

These are just a few of the many places to explore Black History throughout Illinois. For even more historical sites, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

Did you know that Chicago is home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the country, with roughly 65,000 residents? Year round, the neighborhood offers unique ways to learn about the culture and history of China. From the Chinatown Gate welcoming you into the neighborhood, to the educational Chinese American Museum of Chicago and even the Ping Tom Memorial Park, which offers visitors a pool, gym and kayak rentals; there is a lot to do in Chinatown for any traveler.

Find lots of authentic Chinese gifts and goodies at the two-level outdoor Chinatown Square Mall. (Instagram photo by @mightymiao87)

Of course, the biggest thing to do coming up is the celebration of the Chinese New Year which starts January 28 and runs through February 12. During that time, you can experience celebrations, parades and fun events to ring in the Year of the Rooster. The festivities don’t stop outside Chinatown though; there are things to see and do throughout the city of Chicago as well.

With strong roots tying back to the old country, the Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood continues to follow the history and culture of China in celebrating the Chinese New Year with a massive celebration; from colorful parades to preparing some of China’s most traditional – and tasty – meals. Not many cities celebrate the way Chicago does and it shows with the abundance of activities around the city.

The entrance to Chinatown, located on the west side of Chicago. (Instagram photo by @rachface.13)

Begin the Chinese New Year by learning how to make an authentic Chinese dish – dumplings! In its 13th year, the annual Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Dinner, hosted by the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, invites newcomers and veteran dumpling-makers to Hing Kee Restaurant on January 21 and February 4 to learn the art of the dumpling, or jiaozi. This traditional dish dates back more than 1,800 years and continues to live on in Chinese culture today.

Delicious dumplings from Hing Kee Restaurant. (Instagram photo by @smallgirlbigplates)

Chinatown isn’t the only neighborhood that gets in on the fun. The Garfield Park Conservatory and the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier also host celebrations that are entertaining for the whole family.

Enjoy an afternoon of activities and cultural learning at the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory on January 21 for its Chinese New Year Celebration. Visitors will make festive Chinese lanterns, learn about their zodiac sign, attend a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and participate in a dragon dance.

At Navy Pier, enjoy Neighborhoods of the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year. During this nine-week event, the Crystal Gardens are ornately decorated with colorful lanterns and feature a unique and intricate dragon dance.

Colorful dancing dragons at the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier. (Photo provided by Choose Chicago)

What’s a New Year celebration without a parade? End the Year of the Rooster festivities with two incredible spectacles; one parade in the heart Chinatown and the other on Argyle Street in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Light up the day at the Argyle Street Lunar New Year Parade on February 4 with an amazing kick off near the Argyle CTA Red Line station where firecrackers explode while Chinese culture-inspired floats and large dancing dragons pass by.

Local community groups near Argyle Street participate in the annual parade. (Photo provided by Uptown United)

The following day on February 5, make your way down to Chinatown for the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Each year, more than 30,000 people attend the parade to help start the New Year off with a bang. Make sure to be on the lookout for the 100-foot-long paper dragon and stunning fireworks show at the end.

Bring the whole family to see the beautiful dragons at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown. (Instagram photo by @jonfromchicago)

The list of fun-filled activities for Chinese New Year never ends! Here are some other educational and awesome events happening around the city to celebrate the Year of the Rooster:

The Citywide Chinese New Year Kick Off at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Photo by Choose Chicago)

There are so many ways to learn about Chinese culture in Chicago, especially during the Lunar New Year. For more information about Chinatown and what there is to see and do throughout the year, check out Things to Do – Chinatown on EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

The countdown to the New Year is on! Whether you’re looking for a night on the town with friends, a romantic fireworks cruise with your loved one or a family-friendly celebration, Illinois has a party for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Start planning this special night with these offerings for New Year’s Eve entertainment.

New Year’s Eve, Chicago Style

It’s no secret that there’s always something going on in Chicago, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. This is a time to celebrate, so why not go all out?

The Midwest’s largest New Year’s party is back for a second year in a row. Chi-Town Rising will be offering themed events throughout the downtown area all day, beginning with a Chi-Town Rise & Shine 5k, followed by a family countdown celebration at Millennium Park before the kickoff of the riverfront festivities. To really amp up the fun this year, the party includes musical performances by Sir the Baptist, DJ Sye Young, Saint Motel and Jim Cornelison.

The Fireworks from the 2016 celebration lit up the cityscape. (Photo credit: Chi-Town Rising)

The Fireworks from the 2016 celebration lit up the cityscape. (Photo credit: Chi-Town Rising)

Want to mix it up this year? Look no further than a New Year’s Eve Cruise at Navy Pier for your NYE celebration. Cruise celebrations have everything from a premium bar, decadent menus and buffets featuring filet mignon, lobster and more, live music and dancing, and a champagne toast at midnight.

Enjoy the fireworks celebration at Navy Pier.

 

If you’re looking for a special, yet relaxed, evening, head to one of the many local restaurants offering special dinner packages, like Momotaro, Spiaggia and Prime & Provisions Steakhouse among many others. Enjoy their prix fixe menus specializing in a variety of world cuisines, from classic steakhouse specials, to decadent sushi, to Italian favorites.

Suburban Celebrations

Around Chicagoland, there are many suburban celebrations perfect for families this New Year’s Eve. First up: Get wild at the Chicago Zoological Society’s annual “Zoo Year” celebration on December 31 at the Brookfield Zoo. Fun will include a live DJ, games, prizes and party favors in the Holly Jolly Theater and a noisemaker creation station at the Hamil Family Play Zoo. Both the Theater and Play Zoo will conduct an early countdown celebration at 8 p.m.

And north of the city, head to the North Shore for First Night Evanston, a community celebration of the arts. A wristband for the evening gets you access to dozens of shows in multiple venues, including live music, poetry readings, storytelling, dancing and even circus acts. Even better? Local food trucks will be scattered about for tasty bites throughout the night.

First Night in Evanston makes for a great family celebration.

Rock the Night Away in Rockford

The Discovery Center Museum in Rockford will be providing an awesome afternoon of artful fun to ring in the New Year during their Countdown to Fun and New Year around the World celebration. There will be music from Kantorei, The Singing Boys of Rockford and a chance to be showered with confetti at the stroke of every hour as you discover where in the world it’s midnight at that time. Next door at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, families can enjoy New Year traditions from across the globe during the hourly countdown.

Light up the Night in Springfield

Presented by the Springfield Area Arts Council, First Night Springfield is an Illinois tradition 30 years in the making. This New Year’s Eve, kick-off the celebration from 1:00-4:00 p.m. with free family-friendly activities ranging from face painting to harmonica lessons at Springfield High School. Then at 6:00 p.m. you’ll want to head downtown to take in the over 40+ performances – including jugglers, magicians, dancers and musicians – followed by a breathtaking fireworks display that will illuminate the city.

Wine and Dine in Southern Illinois

Since New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate with delicious food and drink – especially champagne and sparkling wine – why not spend the holiday along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois? Rustle Hill Winery, Blue Sky Vineyard and StarView Winery are all hosting special festivities this season.

Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton offers a New Year’s party package perfect for a rustic getaway for couples. Indulge in the extravagant buffet and open bar. Ring in the New Year with a champagne toast and dance the night away to live music by Accolade. The best part? At the end of the night, all you have to do is retreat into your cozy room, then wake up in 2017 to a marvelous breakfast before returning home.

For more information about where to spend your New Year’s Eve explore Things to Do on EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism