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Your Complete Fox Valley Internet Guide.

 
  By Richard C. Ross
 

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Kentucky State Capitol Building - photo courtesy Kentucky Dept of Tourism
Read about an excursion to another state capitol: Frankfort, Kentucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset from the 30th floor of the Springfield HiltonMy parents were always of the opinion that our family should see our own country before we traveled outside of it to see the wonders of say, the Eiffel Tower in Paris or perhaps the Pyramids of Egypt.  On numerous occasions, they (well, my father anyway) tried in vain to get my sister and I to pile in the car and go to places right here in Illinois... places like Springfield, for instance.  Fools that we were, we usually got pretty stubborn and took our chances that we might be sent to our rooms without dinner... but we flat refused to accommodate our parents' "requests".  All these years later, I finally agreed to go when my wife asked me to accompany her to check out an example of what she considers to be to be one of the Seven Wonders of the world -- a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright -- in Springfield.  I had heard that the newly-constructed Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum were pretty awesome, so I reluctantly agreed.  I have to tell you that my reluctance was ungrounded and that the trip was well worth the time and effort.

Springfield is listed as only about 175 miles from Chicago, so I am certain that is is even closer to the western suburbs.  We left at about 9:00 in the morning and (we did not take the direct route there), after a couple of stops along the way -- including one for breakfast -- we were cruising into the parking garage a block away from the Lincoln Museum at about 2:30 in the afternoon.  It is, by the way, a very easy drive.  When driving, Spring Break never seems to be a really great time to go anywhere, since everyone seems to be driving somewhere at that particular time.  Having said that though, when choosing a destination like Springfield, it probably doesn't make a whole lot of difference, since there are many things to see there, and the recently completed Lincoln Museum makes Springfield an even better destination.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum 4The tickets for the Museum are only $7.50 for adults (16 - 61 years of age),$5.50 for seniors (62 years of age and up) and $3.50 for children (5 - 15 years of age); entry to the Lincoln Presidential Library is free.  While there is not much to see in the Library -- it is used mainly for research -- there are frequent exhibitions that are worth the visit.  The main "attraction" as it were, is the Lincoln Museum.  We spent approximately an hour and a half touring and viewing the two main sections titled "Journey I" and "Journey II", chronicling respectively Mr. Lincoln's childhood and rise to office, and his presidency - with much attention paid to the Civil War.  There are also two theaters with short presentations to watch, and the obligatory gift shop... through which one must pass in order to exit the museum.

I will leave descriptions and editorial comments out of the article, except for one thing.  Make certain that you take the time necessary to view the video -- in the Journey II exhibit -- "Four Years in Four Minutes".  Detailing, at he rate of 1 week per 1 second, the loss of life during the Civil War, it is perhaps the most moving and emotionally draining piece of video that I have yet seen.  If you can leave that room without at least a few tears in your eyes, you have ice water instead of blood running through your veins.  The re-created figures in the other exhibits are incredibly life-like and the exhibits themselves are extremely well done.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum 1We could have spent longer in the museum, but chose instead to leave after the two "Journeys", since we had other things to attend to, and the museum was closing at 5:00pm.  Had we visited on a Wednesday, we would have found that the museum is open until 8:30pm and could have taken a more leisurely tour.  We left the museum parking lot and headed to our Hotel (the Hampton Inn & Suites ), which was located on the southwest side of the city and only about ten minutes form the center of town.  Had we taken a bit more time to plan, we probably would have chosen to stay at the Hilton Springfield right in the heart of downtown, to avoid the extra driving.  As it was, the drive to our hotel was a quick one.  It gave us plenty of time to check in, shower, and head back to the downtown Hilton -- our chosen location for dinner.  I have been to Springfield previously on business, but for some reason had never been to the top of the Hilton, from which the view is incredible.  There is also a very fine restaurant there called Capiche?.  (No, it is not a typo... the question mark is purposely placed at the end of the restaurant's name.)  We watched the setting sun and enjoyed an excellent dinner there.

Dana-Thomas House - East elevationThe following morning, our selected destination was the Dana-Thomas House, an incredibly well preserved and exquisite example of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture.  Located on the corner of 4th and Lawrence Streets, the house is just blocks from the capitol and minutes from downtown -- easily within walking distance of the museum in good weather.  The building itself is over 12,00 square feet and nothing short of remarkable in every way.  The tour requests a mere $3 donation and typically lasts about an hour.  Our small group consisted of only eight people, and I was delighted that our tour lasted almost an hour and a half.  This is a must-see venue if you are planning a trip to Springfield... with one small codicil: it is probably best not to bring those who are under high school age along, unless they are really into architecture and/or Frank Lloyd Wright.  Click here for additional information about this and other Wright houses.

The Capitol Building in Springfield, IL from the observation carThere are numerous other places to visit while in Springfield, such as the State Capitol building, the Lincoln Home, Lincoln's Tomb, the Executive Mansion, the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon and the Lincoln Depot, just to mention a few.  Plan on staying a couple of nights to ensure enough time to take in all the sights.  Springfield is a great destination for the whole family; there is plenty of affordable lodging and dining and much to do and see.  Take some time to experience a bit of history... just don't wait as long as I did!  

Read about another excursion in which we take the Amtrak train from Chicago to Springfield on our way to St Louis, MO.

 

 

 

 

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