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Illinois Presidents Feature Image

Illinois has a history as rich as its food – and if you don’t believe us, just take a trip to Springfield and grab a horseshoe sandwich! Illinois is home to some of the United States’ most famous presidents, and history buffs can find information about these American leaders in all corners of the state.

But, if quirky facts are more your style, take a look below at a few little known details about these great American leaders.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, 1861-1865

Likely the mostly widely recognized Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln is more than just a former president: he is a state icon. But, Honest Abe is not just known for his policy. With his large frame and long limbs, the tallest president of the U.S. is also enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. According to history.com, Lincoln has an impressive track record of only being defeated once in nearly 300 matches.

Learn more about Lincoln at one of these exciting Springfield attractions:

MiniAbe Big Ten

Mini Abe knows he’s number one!

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, 1869-1877

Think you know what to call the 18th Commander in Chief of the United States? Guess again. Due to a mistake by a benefactor on his application for West Point, Ulysses S. Grant is widely known under the wrong name. Born Hiram Ulysses Grant, the “S” in this president’s name actually stands for nothing.

Take a walk through Galena and get a glimpse at a day in the life of this American leader:

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, 1981-1989

Ronald Reagan has left a lasting impression in American history books and on the silver screen, but among former peers and colleagues, President Reagan is known for his sweet tooth. This former Commander in Chief began eating jelly beans to help him quit smoking during his run for Governor of California. This continued into his presidency, and a crystal jar of jelly beans was always available during his Cabinet meetings.

Get off the beaten path and take a look at Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon.

Ronald Reagan boyhood home

Stop by to learn more about Reagan’s transition from this white house to one in Washington, D.C. and everything in between.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, 2008-2016

Too much of a good thing can sometimes be just that: way too much. Our nation’s current president reportedly worked for Baskin Robbins during his youth, and it’s left quite the impression. He now jokes that he still can’t eat ice cream to this day after spending one too many summers scooping ice cream in Honolulu.

Be sure to stop by the Obama Family Home in Hyde Park on your next trip to Chicago to learn more about the life of President Obama, and stay tuned for the Obama Presidential Library coming to Chicago!

For more trip ideas, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Land of Lincoln Feature Image

The Land of Lincoln is not just one of the most history-rich regions in Illinois, but in the entire country. Springfield alone is home to more Abraham Lincoln historical sites than any other place in the world, and beyond that, there are even more attractions where history buffs can soak up knowledge in Central Illinois. 

Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center

Celebrating the rich history of Litchfield, this museum gives visitors a look at the evolution of the culture, lifestyle and economy of America’s Heartland across several generations through the prism of one Midwestern town. Early agriculture, the growth of railroads, industrialization and Route 66 are all covered by this fascinating museum that just opened in 2012.

The Litchfield Museum highlights several eras of Illinois history.

The Litchfield Museum highlights several eras of Illinois history.

Route 66 Arcade Museum

 For a different kind of museum experience, head to Atlanta to see classic video games that date back to the 1930s, many of which are still playable! The interactive museum features more than 40 vintage pinball and arcade games, including the original PacMan game, and cost only a quarter for visitors to play.

MiniAbe tries his hand at a vintage game at the Route 66 Arcade Museum.

MiniAbe tries his hand at a vintage game at the Route 66 Arcade Museum.

Carlinville Historic District

 This historic downtown district features the “Million Dollar Courthouse,” a destination for artists and architects from all over the world, as well as the Macoupin County Jail, a medieval-looking fortress that has been open since 1869. The Macoupin County Historical Museum also houses exhibits and artifacts reflecting the history of the area in a beautiful two-story Victorian mansion.

The “Million Dollar” Courthouse in historic downtown Carlinville. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) rmasters78)

The “Million Dollar” Courthouse in historic downtown Carlinville. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) rmasters78)

The Original Steak’n’Shake

 Brush up on your diner history with a stop at the original Steak ‘n’ Shake at 1219 South Main Street in Normal. It still resembles a 50s-style diner and serves all the quintessential American fast food favorites: burgers, fries and milkshakes.

For more historical attractions across the state, check out EnjoyIllinois.com for more trip ideas.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Historical Adventure Feature Image

Home to Abraham Lincoln, Americana and the birthplace of the corndog. History comes alive around every corner in Springfield, home to more Lincoln sites than anywhere else in the nation. Explore everything from Abe’s house and law offices to his must-see presidential museum. Route 66 makes its way through Springfield leaving behind plenty of Americana in the form of classic diners and kitschy roadside attractions.

Throughout Springfield there are historical sites with ties to Lincoln – enough to fill a multiple-day itinerary. Here are a few of our top recommendations.

The Lincoln Home

Get an intimate look at Lincoln during a tour of the Lincoln Home, the only house he ever owned. The Lincoln family lived here from 1844 until they left for Washington. The Lincoln Home is located in a historic four-block neighborhood that looks much as it did in the mid-1800s, complete with wooden sidewalks. A visitor center and restored neighboring homes display exhibits that tell the story of Lincoln’s time spent with his wife, children and friends in Springfield.

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Re-enactors at the Lincoln Home in Springfield.

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices

This is the only remaining structure where Abraham Lincoln maintained working law offices. Lincoln and his final law partner, William Herndon, operated from the top floor of the building from 1843 to 1852. Filled with clutter and makeshift furniture, the offices draw a vivid picture of what a normal day was like for Lincoln and Herndon. Today the building includes a visitor center, federal courtrooms and attorney offices.

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The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices in Springfield.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

This museum is one of the most-visited presidential museums in the nation where visitors can experience the entire Lincoln story under one roof, from Abe’s humble beginnings in an Indiana log cabin to his days as president in the White House. Be dazzled by two special effects theaters featuring historical ghosts and a Civil War battlefield, life-like vignettes that depict important moments in the president’s life, and artifacts that range from Lincoln’s stovepipe hat to an original copy of the Gettysburg Address.

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The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

The Lincoln Tomb

The Tomb is the final resting place of President Lincoln, his wife and three of their four children. It was constructed between 1869-1874 in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Be sure to rub the nose of the bronze Lincoln bust at the entrance, which is said to bring good luck. Dogs are allowed on the site; they are not allowed inside the monument.

Lincoln Tomb

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is where Abe Lincoln was laid to rest.

Abraham Lincoln’s legacy extends far beyond Springfield with plenty of museums and historic sites throughout the state. See more of the Lincoln attractions in Illinois here.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

FEATURE IMAGE_Illinois Railway Museum

Taking a train ride, or “riding the rails,” is a classic American experience. At one time, rail travel was the height of transportation technology, moving the nation from point A to point B. While major interstate highways and air travel are today’s prevalent modes of transportation, there are still enthusiasts and historians that have preserved the history of train travel. In fact, just an hour outside of Chicago, the Illinois Railway Museum in Union has more preserved and restored train history than you’re likely to find anywhere else.

The Illinois Railway Museum in Union isn’t your average museum experience. Here you can get up close and personal with the exhibits!

The Illinois Railway Museum in Union isn’t your average museum experience. Here you can get up close and personal with the exhibits!

It all started decades ago, when a dedicated group of volunteers began assembling historic buildings, track, locomotives and cars right on site in Union. They bonded over their common love and nostalgia with railway history, and over time their endeavor grew from preserving one piece of rolling stock to an educational and historic preservation organization recreating possibly the largest operating railroad demonstration in North America!

This museum is unlike others you may have visited. Here, you’ll hear, “All aboard!” and step onto a steam train, diesel train, electric car or trolley bus to experience a piece of history for yourself. You can “ride the rails,” reminiscing back to a distant memory, or incite wonder and awe in your child’s mind as they gaze at a larger-than-life piece of engineering.

Special exhibits and trains are always coming in, so make sure to check their schedule online!

Special exhibits and trains are always coming in, so make sure to check their schedule online!

This June, the museum celebrates Chicago Day, when the museum will be commemorating the last day of streetcar service in Chicago 56 years ago. The past lives on as you ride Chicago streetcars, trolley coaches, “L” trains, and interurban and commuter trains that served the city long ago.

Fathers are in for a special treat Sunday, June 21, as they’ll get free admission when accompanied by at least one fare-paying child or adult to celebrate Father’s Day.

Children of all ages can enjoy stepping onto these historic trains.

Children of all ages can enjoy stepping onto these historic trains.

The museum welcomes all to join in and experience the fun learning environment they’ve created. As they say, “only one prerequisite is recommended, a sincere interest in railroading.”

For more information about things to do with your family in Illinois, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

UK FAM Trip Feature Image

This March, three travel writers from the United Kingdom hopped across the pond and landed in Illinois. They spent an entire week in the Land of Lincoln and had a blast exploring Chicago, Utica, Galena and Rockford. Check out a few photos these international writers took of their Illinois adventures below!

Chicago

 

travelsofadam Skydeck Chicago 3-27

U.K. blogger Adam Groffman of “Travels of Adam” loved the view from The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago! (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

travelsofadam Odyssey Cruises Chicago 3-29

International visitors ate a phenomenal dinner aboard the Odyssey Cruise in Chicago. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

Kira Agass_Lou Mitchell's

Writer Kira Agass loved the classic American diner breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago. (Photo: (at) KiraAgass via Twitter)

Utica

storyofagirl89 Starved Rock 3-29

Blogger Sophie Warner of “Story of a Girl Who Lives Above Her Means” loved discovering the canyons and waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park in Utica. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

Galena

travelsofadam Farmer's Guest House 3-30

The Farmer’s Guest House was home for the group during their stay in Galena. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

travelsofadam Horseshoe Mound 3-30

These U.K. bloggers were impressed by Galena’s natural beauty at Horseshoe Mound. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

travelsofadam Mississippi River 3-30.ong

Adam was blown away by the view of the Mississippi River from Goldmoor Inn. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

storyofagirl89 Galena Historic District 3-31

Sophie snapped this picture of the shops in historic downtown Galena. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

Rockford

storyofagirl89 Midway Village 4-1

These international journalists went back to grade school at Midway Village Museum in Rockford. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

storyofagirl89 Corondo Theatre 4-2

Sophie enjoyed touring Rockford’s Coronado Theatre. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism