Visit to state capital a worthwhile trip

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z Visit to state capital a worthwhile tripJennifer Pallay Times Columnist nwitimes.com
April 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

“We are now traveling at a speed of 100 miles per hour,” the conductor announced as our Amtrak train sailed toward Springfield, Ill.

Out the windows, we saw small towns and farmland zip by while inside, my little guy was busily bouncing back and forth between grandpa, grandma, mom and dad. His first train ride was definitely a success and the adults also enjoyed the day trip to our state Capitol.

After boarding a 7:57 a.m. train in Joliet, Ill., we took the two hour-plus trip to our destination. The Abraham Lincoln Museum and all our stops for the day were within walking distance from the Springfield Amtrak station. The little guy rode in his stroller most of the time, waving to cars with all the enthusiasm of a future politician.

Abe’s museum (alplm.org/) is an impressive mix of technology and old school storytelling, which leaves you feeling like you know the 16th president by lunchtime.

The little guy enjoyed walking in the main atrium and visiting Mrs. Lincoln’s attic, an area designed just for kids, while the grown-ups took turns viewing the two movies and walking through the three main exhibits.

For lunch, we walked to the Feed Store, a local hot spot for sandwiches and soups, which happened to be across the street from the Old State Capitol Historic site, our next stop.

This building (illinoishistory.gov/hs/old_capitol.htm) is a reconstruction of Illinois’ fifth statehouse. Lincoln visited here frequently as a lawyer and politician. You can feel the history when you see a stovetop hat marking the desk where he sat and when you learn this is where the assassinated president’s final laying-in-state took place in 1865.

With history behind us, we walked to the current Illinois state Capitol, a beautiful building with domes and columns that could impress anyone, except a sleeping 14-month-old. He woke up just in time to see the governor’s office and to smile at legislators as they passed him in the corridor.

Our final stop was the Illinois State Museum (museum.state.il.us/) where most of our time was spent in the play museum, specially tailored for the kiddos. The little guy spent most of his time in a red safari jeep where he enjoyed holding the steering wheel and turning the lights on and off.

“A lot of kids don’t ever make it past the jeep,” the staff member told us. There were lots of fun activities for those who do, like crawling through a pint-sized cave, building a giant dinosaur and checking out artifacts under the telescope.

Admission to the museum and play museum was free so it made a nice final stop before heading back to catch our train. We climbed back aboard our fancy ride and departed for our hometown of Chicago.

For more information or to plan your own trip, visit springfield.il.us/. The Lincoln tomb and Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site are just a few of the other stops you can make if you have more time.

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