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Before becoming the nation’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln spent nearly 25 years practicing law in Illinois. Lincoln worked on cases both big and small which took him to a number of different cities and small towns across the state. Today, many of these sites are open to the public as historical attractions for visitors to gain a deeper understanding of Lincoln’s journey to becoming the leader of the United States.

 To commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the Illinois Office of Tourism has teamed up with the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition to help visitors explore Lincoln’s life as a lawyer, with this two-day trip itinerary through Eastern Illinois:

Day 1 – Charleston

Experience life on a 1840s farm at Lincoln Log Cabin in Charleston.

Morning

Start your day near the city of Charleston, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln’s father and stepmother, Thomas and Sara Bush Lincoln, were among the very early settlers in the Charleston Area. Just a short drive from Charleston, you can step back in time to the rural life of 1840s Illinois at the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, where Lincoln would often come back to visit his parents while he was working as a young lawyer in Springfield. Today, you will find a living history farm developed around the two-room cabin owned by the Lincoln family, as well as a Visitors Center full of exhibit galleries to help you learn more about farm life and the Lincoln family.

After soaking in all there is to see at the Lincoln Log Cabin, hit the road and head for beautiful Champaign-Urbana. A first stop as you look for Lincoln the Lawyer is the Champaign County Historical Archives, located at the Urbana Free Library.  Here you will find an extensive historical collection of records from Champaign County, Illinois and the states east of the Mississippi.

From there, head to the Champaign County History Museum. Housed in the historic Cattle Bank, you will be able to look through over 10,000 artifacts related to the people, businesses and organizations important to the County’s history. Just a few blocks from the History Museum you will find the Champaign County Courthouse. While the current courthouse was built in 1901, it sits on the site of the courthouse where Lincoln appeared as a lawyer in his 8th Judicial days. Head inside to explore the special exhibit Abraham Lincoln: A Large Presence in a Small Town, which highlights Lincoln’s lasting legacy within the Champaign-Urbana community.

Afternoon    

Start off your afternoon with a stop at Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet. This spot will give you a glimpse into prairie life in East-Central Illinois in 19th and early 20th centuries through an extensive collection that includes a full exhibit on the story of Abraham Lincoln, the prairie lawyer.

A short drive down the road will bring you to the Piatt County Museum featuring artifacts from throughout the county’s history. Nearby, you’ll find Historic State Street of Monticello which was once a major business hub for central Illinois, including the incorporation of the Monticello Railroad Company.

Monticello is known for its strong, historic ties to the railroad industry and there is no better place to explore that important role than the Monticello Railway Museum.  While Lincoln later became known for expanding the railroads during the Civil War, he often rode the rails through Illinois as he traveled along the 8th Judicial Circuit.  For the true Lincoln experience, you can hop aboard the Museum’s 7-mile ride on a vintage railroad train.

Monticello is also home to Bryant Cottage, a must-visit site for the true Lincoln historians.  According to family lore, on July 29, 1858, Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas met at Bryant Cottage to discuss their upcoming “Lincoln-Douglas Debates” which would go down in history as some of the most important of the Civil War Era. In addition to its Lincoln ties, the cottage is a great place to tour to get a feel for middle-class life in mid-19th century Central Illinois.

Day 2- Danville

Lincoln gave one of his early speeches from the second story balcony of the historic Fithian House in Danville.

Morning

Begin day two of your journey through Lincoln’s time as a lawyer in historic Danville. The Vermilion County Museum is located in the reconstructed early Danville Courthouse where Lincoln tried over 200 cases. Inside, you can make a visit to the Museum’s special reproduction of the law office of Danville attorney, Ward Hill Lamon, who shared the office with Lincoln during his time with the 8th Judicial Circuit.

Also in Danville, The Fithian House was the home of prominent 19th century Danville physician, Dr. William Fithian, and a place visited often by Lincoln. Tour the home to stand at the second story balcony, the very spot where Lincoln was known to have given a speech back in 1858. If you are looking to learn even more about the families that Lincoln came across in his day, plan to stop by the Illiana Genealogical & Historical Society to see local records and access hundreds of thousands of area family histories

Another historical Danville home is The Lamon House, the oldest framed residence in Danville. The original owners were related to Lincoln’s area law partner, Ward Hill Lamon, who also went on to serve as Lincoln’s bodyguard during the Civil War.

Lincoln frequented the Alexander family home in Paris during his time as their lawyer.

Afternoon    

Head to Paris, Illinois to check out the history of the town, starting with the Edgar County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The courthouse is surrounded by a number of markers telling the stories of Edgar County history and even has the Statue of Justice sitting atop the “wedding cake tower” high above the courthouse.

Just one block from the courthouse, make a stop at Paris Arts Center. Located in the historic Alexander home, Lincoln visited this exact spot many times in his day, as he served as the family’s attorney. The final stop on your trip along Lincoln’s time on the 8th Judicial Circuit, is the Edgar County Historical Complex. This complex includes the historic Arthur house, built by Henry Clay Moss. Here you will find a variety of genealogical resources, including many related to Mr. Lincoln.

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

Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln are both iconic pieces of Illinois history. Although the “Mother Road” wasn’t established until decades after Lincoln’s lifetime, the route travels through a number of important Lincoln destinations from Bloomington to Alton and many places in between. 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 road trip itinerary to go “Looking for Lincoln” that includes the perfect mix of classic Route 66 stops and amazing Lincoln sites:

Day 1 – Springfield

View artifacts and stories from Lincoln’s life at the Lincoln Heritage Museum.

Morning

After breakfast, start your day at the world-class Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. Located on historic Route 66 in Springfield, the presidential museum is a gem along the “living museum” that is Illinois Route 66. Here you will travel from the humble beginnings of a young pioneer to the halls of the White House, as the story of Lincoln comes to life as captured through original artifacts, special effects theaters with high action and ghostly images, and so much more. Afterward, step outside where you can 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 you’ll step into the daily life of the Lincoln family as you enter the only home the Lincoln’s 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.

Lunchtime means a stop at the iconic Cozy Dog Drive In – one of the most famous stops along the entire stretch of Route 66. This classic Route 66 drive-in diner is named for the famous hot-dog-on-a-stick, or ‘Cozy dog,’ found at state and county fairs around the country – but invented here. Established in 1949, Cozy Dog is also home to a smorgasbord of Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs.

A final stop as you head north toward more of Route 66 in Lincoln country must be Oak Ridge Cemetery and the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. The second most visited cemetery in the U.S., behind only Arlington Cemetery in our nation’s capital, Oak Ridge is home to a majestic monument that is the final resting place for our 16th president, his wife and three of their four children.

Grab a bite and learn about Lincoln at the Palms Grille Café in Atlanta.

Afternoon    

Time to hit the open road! Next stop is Lincoln, the only city in the United States that was named for Abraham Lincoln before he became president. It’s not a surprise that it contains a perfect mix of Lincoln history and Route 66 nostalgia. Here you will find a great Lincoln/Route 66 photo op at the giant Railsplitter Covered Wagon – a tribute to the city’s favorite son and the iconic kitsch that is Route 66.

Down the road, step back in time to Lincoln’s day for a glimpse into the life of Lincoln the lawyer, with a visit to the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site. Imagine yourself arguing a point of law in this rugged, brown-frame building – a replica of the building that served as the Logan County government from 1840-48. You will find exhibits that tell the story of the 8th Judicial Circuit, where Lincoln honed his skills as a successful prairie lawyer.

You won’t want to miss a remarkable collection of Lincoln-related artifacts and documents at the Lincoln Heritage Museum, on the campus of Lincoln College. Treasures include dishware, books and mourning clothing that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln, as well as original letters from President Lincoln and information about every member of his cabinet and Civil War military leaders.

Just as we preserve the legacy that is Abraham Lincoln, communities all along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles are trying to preserve that iconic legacy of America’s Main Street, and the city of Lincoln is no exception. Before you head out of town, check out The Mill on Route 66, a recently saved and restored original Route 66 restaurant now featuring a museum that tells the story of the county’s ties to the legendary road.

As you head to Bloomington for your overnight stay, be sure to make a stop in Atlanta – Illinois, of course! – for pie and coffee or a late afternoon bite at the famous Route 66 diner, the Palms Grille Café. While you’re there, check out the Lincoln exhibits upstairs for a glimpse into his influence on this small, rural town. Across the street from the Palm’s, be sure to get your photo taken by the giant Paul Bunyon Hot Dog Statue. If there’s time, a stop a few miles north at Funks Grove Maple Sirup will be well worth it for some delicious homemade Maple syrup and candy.

Day 2- Bloomington

Explore the impact Lincoln had on McLean County at the ‘Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66’ exhibit.

Morning

For your first stop, visit the McLean County Historical Museum, located inside a beautiful old courthouse on the town square. In the first floor visitor center, you will find out all about the rich Route 66 history in McLean County as well as all the information you need for discovering the Lincoln story along Illinois Route 66. Upstairs in the Museum, you will find many stories of the people and landscapes of McLean County through the years, including many local residents who were Lincoln’s contemporaries as he rose from prairie lawyer to the man who would be president.

 Afterward, visit the magnificent David Davis Mansion, once owned by Lincoln confidante and close friend, Judge David Davis. This stately 19th century mansion and its beautiful grounds will give you a glimpse of the social and political life Lincoln knew. History credits the influence and support of Judge Davis as an important factor on Lincoln’s success in becoming the Republican nominee for the presidency. You’ll also want to make a stop at the Sprague Super Service Station for some iconic Route 66 photos in Bloomington.

Afternoon

Next stop: Pontiac, arguably one of the most famous towns along Route 66. In this charming slice of Americana, you’ll find the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, including the International Wall Dog Mural and Sign Art Museum, the Bob Waldmire Exhibit, as well as a tribute to Mr. Lincoln with the Music of the Civil War exhibit.

Stroll around the town square to take in all of the spectacular Murals on Main Street and be sure to stop by the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center to see some of the world’s finest, and rarest, examples of the former Pontiac autos.

These are just a few of the stops you can make along Route 66. For more trip ideas and places to explore Lincoln’s life right here in Illinois, visit LookingforLincoln.com and EnjoyIllinois.com

– Illinois Office of Tourism

The Land of Lincoln is no stranger to Civil War Era history. As the home of Abraham Lincoln until the time he left for Washington to take his place as president, Illinois was the site of the famed Lincoln-Douglas Debates and so much more. If you’re looking to explore all of these important historical locations, take a trip through the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, the 42 counties in Central Illinois that tell the story 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 travel itinerary to go “Looking for Lincoln” to discover the “can’t-miss” places  in  the Quincy area that tell the important story of Lincoln and the community during the Civil War Era:

Day 1 – Quincy

Visit the site of one of the famed Lincoln-Douglas Debates in Quincy.

Morning       

Nestled along the Mighty Mississippi River along the western edge of Illinois, Quincy was a frequent stop for Lincoln, and he counted some of its residents among his closest friends. As you begin your trip, a great first stop is The Quincy Museum. Here, visitors will find an interesting overview of the history surrounding the area and its Lincoln connections, as well as Quincy’s status as the “City of Refuge” for early Mormons on their trek west. The Museum is located in a beautiful stone building that served as Quincy’s original public library.

Across the street from the Museum, visit the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Memorial in Washington Park, created by famed sculptor Laredo Taft. Imagine yourself standing amongst thousands of people who had traveled by foot, horse and wagon to listen to Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debate the major issues of the day facing Illinois and the nation.

For an even greater understanding of the significance of the debate and the key players from in and around Quincy, stop by the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Interpretive Center, located just beyond the debate site.

Be sure to check out the Lincoln Gallery Collection as you explore the John Wood Mansion.

Afternoon

After lunch, head over to the John Wood Mansion, the beautifully restored Greek Revival home of Quincy’s founder and 12th Governor of Illinois. In the Carriage House next door, be sure to see the Lincoln Gallery Collection, featuring original artifacts surrounding Lincoln’s life and his assassination.

The Dr. Richard Eells House is a definite “must-see” as you continue your journey. The 1835 home was a stop for runaway slaves as they made their way north to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Quincy was the first “station stop” for slaves as they crossed the border from Missouri, then a slave state.

For more Civil War stories, plan to visit the All Wars Museum, featuring more than 5,000 military artifacts, beginning with the Revolutionary War through present day.

Day 2 – Pittsfield and Nauvoo

Get a front row seat to the battles during Lincoln Civil War Reenactments each June.

Morning

A brisk morning walk through the downtown will take you on the Lincoln Story Trail, with more than 18 Looking for Lincoln Wayside Exhibits that tell stories about the people and places that were an important part of the Abraham Lincoln legacy.

Afternoon

This is the perfect time to look for Lincoln in nearby areas of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Just a short drive from Quincy is the charming town of Nauvoo. Here, along the banks of the Mississippi, you can step back in time to experience the lives of the early members of the Mormon Church who settled here in 1839. The village of Old Nauvoo sets the stage for prairie life from 1839-1846 through more than 30 historic attractions and year-round living history interpretation.

Take a drive to Pittsfield for the Lincoln Talking House Tour – an audio driving tour that tells the stories of 14 buildings whose early owners played significant roles in the life and times of Lincoln. Many of the buildings are still homes occupied by modern residents of Pittsfield.

 If visiting in the summer, take part in one of the annual “Looking for Lincoln” Signature Events. Held each year on the first weekend of June, Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment gives you a front row seat as Civil War battles rage before your very eyes between Union and Confederate troops.

These are just a few of the amazing Lincoln attractions found all across the state. To start planning your trip through the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, visit LookingforLincoln.com and EnjoyIllinois.com.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

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

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