Historic Old Route 66 is right going through Springfield, the capital city of Illinois, 207 miles south of Chicago. There are so much to do and see in that you need at least two days to really get the most out of the city. Springfield is rich in history, particularly in relation to Abraham Lincoln, who lived here before becoming the 16th President of the USA. We strongly suggest you visit the Lincoln Tomb, Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Home, and the historic State Capitol Building.
If you visit Springfield at the end of September, you’ll get to experience the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival. The three-day event is so much fun with live bands, great food and about a thousand hot rods to admire. Don’t forget to check out the Mother Road Collection watches produced by Sangamon Watch Company, and come to pick up a 2021 edition Mother Road Route 66 passport!
What to See
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (212 N. 6th St., 217/557-4588, 9am-5pm daily, last admission 4pm, $15) is one of the most popular presidential libraries. It’s a 200,000-square-foot complex with 40,000 square feet of galleries, theater presentations, historical artifacts, and interactive exhibits.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site (426 S. 7th St., 217/492-4241, 8:30am-5pm daily, free) is the two-story Greek Revival home that Lincoln lived in from 1844 to 1861. Built in 1839, the property has been restored to look as it did when Lincoln lived here, and several pieces of furniture on display are originals. Summer is the busy season, so it’s best to arrive as early as possible.
Lincoln’s Tomb is north of downtown at the Oak Ridge Cemetery (1500 Monument Ave., 217/782-2717, 9am-5pm daily Apr.-Aug., 9am-4:30pm Wed. Sept.-Mar.), the second-most popular cemetery in America after Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. After Lincoln was assassinated, his body was interred here in 1874. His three youngest sons and Mrs. Lincoln are also buried here. The granite tomb sits on a rectangular base located on a 12.5-acre plot in a semicircular entranceway with a 117-foot tall obelisk. A bronze reproduction of Lincoln’s head sits on a pedestal at the entrance.
Old State Capitol (1 Old State Capitol Plaza, 217/785-9363, 9am-5pm Wed.-Sat., free) is where Lincoln’s body lay in state after his assassination in 1865. It is also where Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech. In the speech Lincoln said he believed “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” The speech was a major turning point in Lincoln’s career and inspired senatorial debates regarding the moral issue of slavery, whether slavery should be legal in the North, and if slaves are human beings.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House (301 E. Lawrence Ave., 217/782-6776, 9am-4pm Thurs.-Sun., suggested donation $10). Take a one-hour tour to explore one of the best examples of Wright’s famed Prairie architecture. The Dana-Thomas House was built in 1902; the home is 12,000-square feet with 35 rooms, 100 pieces of furniture, 250 art-glass windows, 3 main levels, and 16 varying levels.
For a fun night out retro-style, check out the Route 66 Twin Drive-In (1700 Recreation Dr., 217/698-0066, movies start at dusk Apr.-Oct., $8), a restored drive-in that screens double features.
Where to Eat and Drink
Cozy Dog Drive In (2935 S. 6th St., 217/525-1922, 8am-8pm daily, $5-10) lies south of Springfield, after Route 66 merges with 6th Street. Ed and Virginia Waldmire (parents of Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire) opened the Cozy Dog in 1949. It’s still run by the Waldmire family and the place is packed with souvenirs, Route 66 memorabilia, and throngs of travelers eating cornbread-coated wieners on a stick. The drive in is located on a busy highway, but you can’t miss it. Just keep an eye out for a huge yellow sign with two giant red hotdogs in a sweet, warm embrace
Route 66 Motorheads Bar, Grill and Museum is one of the coolest restaurants & bars you have ever seen, it is also home to a Route 66 museum showcasing some of Springfield’s historic past. A great place for lovers of Route 66, Old Cars and Vintage Signs.
Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery is a local favorite for great food, fun and friends. Make sure to try the delicious flatbread pizzas made from grains left over from the brewing process. If it’s a warm, sunny day, stay and enjoy an afternoon in the Bocce Ball court. Try a flight of microbrewed beers, brewed on-site, then stay for lunch or dinner at this Italianate mansion in downtown SpringfieldThis is a treat you won’t want to miss!
Hunan Restaurant is the home of the area’s best Chinese and sushi for last 40 years! Awarded Readers’ Choice Chinese and Sushi by the State Journal Register in Springfield, the local family-owned restaurant offers a full bar when you dine in and delivery is available. The newly remodeled restaurant offers very relaxing and comfortable dining experience.
Where to Shop Souvenirs
Sangamon Watch Company is a locally owned wristwatch company that designs and produces history inspired American heritage watches. Make an appointment in advance to visit their showroom and watch collections such as “Mother Road Collection.“
Lincoln’s Souvenir and Gift Shop (1407 Monument Ave, 217/523-1106) is the largest and oldest Lincoln, Springfield and Route 66 souvenir shop. The shop is local family owned & run since 1938! Bus groups are welcome.
Where to Stay
Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center is Route 66-themed hotel with largest Route 66 museum on site. Mother Road Diner is open now serving breakfast and Lunch.It has a full service restaurant and bar on site serve daily lunch and dinner. Cozy Dog Drive In is only one black away.
The Inn at 835 in downtown area is Springfield’s only nationally land-marked boutique hotel. The property offers 13 guest rooms plus six extended stay suites, all with attached private baths, internet, voicemail, and individual thermostat controls. The Inn offers many amenities to enjoy during your stay: a full Midwestern breakfast, local and national newspapers and free off-street parking. During your visit you will be within walking distance to most historic sites, all of the downtown area and the city’s public transportation system.
Things to Do
Route 66 Twin Drive-In (1700 Recreation Dr., 217/698-0066, movies start at dusk Apr.-Oct., $8), a restored drive-in that screens double features. Originally opened March 8, 1974 as the Green Meadows Drive-In, when many drive-ins were starting to go out of business, this twin screener had a brief first life, closing on August 16, 1980. After sitting vacant for almost two decades, the Knight family, who own and operate a nearby theme park, renovated and reopened the theater, as the Route 66 Drive-In. The Route 66 screens first-run features from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The Annual Springfield Oyster and Beer Festival (S.O.B. Fest) is held at the Inn at 835 in Downtown Springfield on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend from 12-5pm. Over 40 brands of craft beers will be represented from across the Midwest and nationally. Musical acts will keep you moving as you enjoy new and unique fine craft libations. Gourmet oyster dishes as well as food trucks to keep your belly happy while your taste buds are entertained by delicious brews.
The Annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival takes place in September on the street of downtown Springfield, IL. A logical place for a car show, but this is no ordinary street, as it comes to life with Hot Rods celebrating the Historic Route 66 and the culture of show cars. Featuring a night car cruise, vendors, live music, pro-judged car shows – there is plenty to get your kicks on Route 66!
If you are traveling through Springfield IL on old Route 66, please contact us at Sangamon Watch Company and we’d like to show you around or answer any questions about Springfield! Email: brian@SangamonWatches.com