Springfield (Illinois)

Travel Guide North America USA Midwestern United States Illinois Springfield

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Introduction

Springfield is the capital of Illinois. Springfield is best known for its most famous resident, Abraham Lincoln, and the several historic sites related to him.
Present-day Springfield was settled by European Americans in the late 1810s, around the time Illinois became a state. The most famous historic resident was Abraham Lincoln, who lived in Springfield from 1837 until 1861, when he went to the White House as President. Major tourist attractions include multiple sites connected with Lincoln including his presidential library and museum, his home, and his tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

The capital is centrally located within the state. The city lies in a valley and plain near the Sangamon River. Lake Springfield, a large artificial lake owned by the City Water, Light & Power company (CWLP), supplies the city with recreation and drinking water. Weather is fairly typical for middle latitude locations, with hot summers and cold winters. Spring and summer weather is like that of most midwestern cities; severe thunderstorms may occur. Tornadoes hit the Springfield area in 1957 and 2006.

The city has a mayor–council form of government and governs the Capital Township. The government of the state of Illinois is based in Springfield. State government entities include the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Supreme Court and the Office of the Governor of Illinois. There are three public and three private high schools in Springfield. Public schools in Springfield are operated by District No. 186. Springfield's economy is dominated by government jobs, plus the related lobbyists and firms that deal with the state and county governments and justice system, and health care and medicine.

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Sights and Activities

  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, 112 N 6th St, ☎ +1 217 558-8844, toll-free: +1-800-610-2094. Daily 9AM-5PM. This stunning museum features extremely rare artifacts to Lincoln & others around him. Completely 21st Century (in a good way), this has to be a must see. The museum features an orientational Fourth-dimensional theater which is stunning. $7.50/5.50/3.50/Free (Adults/Seniors 62+ & Military (with ID) & Students (with ID)/Children 5-15/Children under 5).
  • Lincoln Home National Historic Site, 426 S Seventh St, ☎ +1 217 492-4241 ext 266. Daily 8:30AM-5PM except 1 Jan 1st, 4th Th of Nov, and 25 Dec. The site features Abraham Lincoln's residence of 17 years, beautifully restored to its 1860 appearance. Entry to the home itself is only by ranger guided tour, but tickets can be obtained at the Visitor Center desk, and admission is free. The Visitor Center also offers an orientation film, along with other exhibits that change periodically. In addition to the home itself, a four block area has been preserved to look as it would in Lincoln's time period. Several of the other homes feature exhibits as well. Free tour tickets. Parking $2.
  • Lincoln-Herndon Law Office (Sixth and Adams Sts), ☎ +1 217 785-7960. Closed for renovations. Featured here is the only surviving structure where Lincoln maintained working law offices. It has been restored and features an historical exhibit on the first floor. Guided tours are available, with a suggested donation. The building is located just a stones throw away from the old state capitol, a great convenience for both Lincoln and the modern traveler.
  • Old State Capitol, 1 Old Capitol Plaza, ☎ +1 217 785-7960. Daily 9AM- 5PM, closed most holidays. This building served as the seat of the Illinois state government from 1839-1876. It was here that Mr. Lincoln served his final term in the Illinois House of Representatives, and where he gave his famous "House Divided" speech. He used some rooms in the capitol as his presidential campaign headquarters. On 3–4 May 1865, an estimated 75,000 mourners filed past Lincoln's body as it lay in state in Representatives Hall, located in the capitol building. Guided tours are available, the last one will begin 45 minutes before closing. The tour takes about 30 minutes, and a 15-minute orientation video is also available. The entire building is handicap accessible.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Springfield has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa) and experiences typical mid-latitude weather. Hot, humid summers and cold, rather snowy winters are the norm. Springfield is located in Tornado Alley and experiences large numbers of tornadoes. From 1961 to 1990 the city of Springfield averaged 895 mm of precipitation per year. During that same period the average yearly temperature was 11.3 °C, with a summer maximum of 24.7 °C in July and a winter minimum of -4.3 °C in January.

From 1971 to 2000, NOAA data showed that Springfield's annual mean temperature increased slightly to 11.5 °C. During that period, July averaged 24.6 °C, while January averaged -3.8 °C.

On June 14, 1957, a tornado hit Springfield, killing two people.[25] On March 12, 2006, the city was struck by two F2 tornadoes. The storm system which brought the two tornadoes hit the city around 8:30pm; no one died as a result of the weather. Springfield received a federal grant in February 2005 to help improve its tornado warning systems and new sirens were put in place in November 2006 after eight of the sirens failed during an April 2006 test, shortly after the tornadoes hit. The cost of the new sirens totaled $983,000. Although tornadoes are not uncommon in central Illinois, the March 12 tornadoes were the first to hit the actual city since the 1957 storm. The 2006 tornadoes followed nearly identical paths to that of the 1957 tornado

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Getting There

By Plane

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (SPI), 1200 Capital Airport Dr, ☎ +1 217 788-1060, fax: +1 217 788-8056. The airport is located on the northwest side of the city. There are regular flights to and from Chicago O'Hare International Airport into Springfield. From the airport, you will need to rent a car or take a taxi to get into the city. Many of the hotels also have courtesy shuttles. There is no bus service available.

By Train

Amtrak has five daily trains from Chicago via Bloomington-Normal and Joliet with its Lincoln Service. Additionally, the once-daily Texas Eagle between Chicago and San Antonio, Texas (with carriages continuing to Los Angeles three times a week) stops here. Springfield station is centrally located at 100 North 3rd St and is within walking distance of downtown and several local bus routes. Taxi service is usually available outside the station.

By Car

I-55 approaches from the north and south. US-36 and I-72 approach from the east and west. Downtown has readily available curbside metered parking as well as an underground garage beneath the Old State Capital. Most attractions have ample parking in adjacent lots or garages.

By Bus

Greyhound, 2815 N Dirksen Pkwy, ☎ +1 217 528-1569. M-F 9AM-6PM & 7:30PM-9PM, Sa 9AM-2PM & 7:30PM-9PM. The bus station is located on the northeast side of town, operating out of Shaner's Towing, which includes a bus ticket office that operates the same hours as the bus stop.; Local SMTD bus route 16 - Bergen Park / Sandhill services the bus stop in front of Shaner's and gets downtown in about 30 minutes, operating from 6:15AM to 5:45PM. The night service route 901 bus makes hourly trips from 7:15PM to 10:15PM but the closest stop is at the southwest corner of the Walmart building which is about a half-mile southeast from Shaner's. Something to keep in mind if you're getting into town late and have a lot of luggage to haul around. Other options would be a taxi or Uber.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

SMTD, 928 S Ninth St, ☎ +1 217 522-5531. M-F 6AM-11:15PM, Sa 6AM-6PM. The Sangamon Mass Transit District operates local mass transit as well as a paratransit service, Access Sangamon, six days per week, Monday-Saturday, except major holidays. 17 fixed routes cover the city in the daytime. After 6PM, night service routes 901-905 cover the city on an hourly basis but night service only operates Monday-Friday. Each bus is equipped with a bike rack that can hold up to 2 bikes. $1.25.

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Eat

One of the legendary food items that is part of the heritage of Springfield is the horseshoe sandwich. The horseshoe sandwich originated in Springfield, Illinois sometime in the early 20th century at the Leland Hotel. You can get horseshoe sandwiches at most Springfield restaurants, at some restaurants in central Illinois, and at a few restaurants in other parts of the state. Horseshoes are not generally served outside of Illinois.

A traditional horseshoe is two hamburgers each on a piece of toast with fries and cheese sauce over the top. Variations now include broiled(or deep fried) tenderloins, shaved ham, shaved chicken and even vegetarian variations. A pony shoe is half a horseshoe - a sufficient quantity for most people.

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Sleep

  • Comfort Inn, 3442 Freedom Dr (Located off Interstate 72/US 36 West), ☎ +1 217 787-2250.
  • Comfort Suites, 2620 S Dirksen Pkwy, ☎ +1 217 753-4000. Featuring 91 double and king suites each with distinct sleeping and work/leisure areas.
  • Microtel Inn & Suites, 2636 Sunrise Dr, ☎ +1 217 718-6842.
  • The State House Inn a Clarion Collection Hotel, 101 E Adams, ☎ +1 217 528-5100. A hotel rich in history as well as a signature style and modern technology.
  • Sleep Inn, 3470 Freedom Dr (off I-72), ☎ +1 217 787-6200.
  • Maple Crest Bed & Breakfast, ☎ +1 217 632-0128. In nearby Petersburg by Abraham Lincoln's New Salem Village.
  • Abraham Lincoln International Hostel, 421 E Jackson, ☎ +1 217 522-8828.
  • Wyndham Springfield City Centre, 700 E Adams St, ☎ +1 217 789-1530. Located in downtown Springfield, the hotel is thirty stories tall. The cylinder-shaped black and white building is the tallest in Springfield.
  • Crowne Plaza Hotel, 3000 S Dirksen Pkwy.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 10:15 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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