The top 4 tourist attractions in Springfield focus on Abraham Lincoln. #1 is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum at 112 North 6th Street that will celebrate its 10th birthday next year. It has generally received acclaim. If you like theatrical, Disney-style presentations, you’ll probably love it. Almost 1,200 visitors have reviewed it on TripAdvisor and rated it Excellent. Only 8 call it terrible. Some of those 8 likely include the cranky historians who have called it inaccurate, theme-park-like, etc. I haven’t been yet so can’t judge.
I have been, however, to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and found it moving and a real glimpse into Lincoln’s private life. Abraham, Mary, and family lived at 413 South 8th Street from 1844 until he became the 1st Republican President in 1861. Entry to their 12 room home is free, but tickets are issued on a first-come, first-get basis and only 15 people are allowed inside per tour so many are turned away on busy days. Tours last less than 1/2 hour.
Lincoln’s Tomb is in Oak Ridge Cemetery. It’s ornately impressive but only a must for those who feel it’s critical to show respect to a fallen leader by seeing where he’s buried.
#4 is the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices at 6th and Adams. Compared with the Library & Museum, TripAdvisor reviews of it are far more mixed. Comments include words like sparse and disappointing, and many say your guide makes or breaks the experience. I haven’t been.
Not Lincoln related but, to me, the best thing to see in Springfield is the Dana-Thomas house. Built between 1902 and 1904, it’s my favoriteof Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School homes. Hostess & heiress Susan Lawrence Dana had a Molly-Brown-like personality and worked well with Wright. She became increasingly reclusive and weird as she aged, and the house and it contents were sadly auctioned off. Miraculously, a lot of what’s seen inside now is original to the house. This is a 5 Compass experience for Wright fans, but be warned that tours are not given on Monday or Tuesday.
Another Springfield attraction I love is the Illinois State Museum that has a bit of everything with Illinois connections–art, anthropology, history, paperweights, etc. It’s one of those well-curated museums that’s never the same twice.
Evanston is a Chicago suburb of elm shaded streets dotted with hipped roofed homes and generations old, brick apartment complexes. It was incorporated in 1863 only 30 years after The Windy City. Evanston was Chicago’s most populated suburb by the turn of the 20th century when it hosted the first auto race in the United States.
Evanston’s 1873 Grosse Point Lighthouse overlooks what Travel & Leisure once called one of the “best beaches in the world.” This is 1 of 2 American lighthouses on the Great Lakes with National Landmark status, awarded 1999, that really impresses me. The other is Split Rock on Lake Superior, awarded 2011.
The 1874 Charles Gates Dawes Home and Museum at 225 Greenwood Avenue is a 28-room Romanesque chateau-style mansion in a neighborhood of equally impressive Victorian and Queen Anne houses. Dawes, who served as Vice President under Calvin Coolidge, was as fascinating as the house he moved into in 1909. He volunteered for military service at the age of 51 and became a Brigadier-General. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.
Among Evanston’s many local museums of worth are The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, which is a particularly beautiful, lakeside campus, and the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.
This is just 4 of the many attractions in Evanston as the sun sets on Illinois. Go. Explore.