30 Things You Need To Know About Springfield Before You Move ThereThis capital city's state government and historic beginnings draw the tourists, but they stay for the horseshoe sandwich - if only Abe Lincoln could've tasted one.
1. Two Words: Abraham Lincoln
Source: Denise Krebs
Home to one of the country's favorite presidents, Springfield is a history buff's dream. Illinois even calls itself the Land of Lincoln, so when visiting or moving to the place the sixteenth president called home, popular sites to check out are the New Salem Historic Village, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, the Old State Capitol, the Lincoln Tomb, Lincoln Depot, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the "Here I Have Lived" exhibits dotting the downtown area. And, not only can you visit all of these places, you can also meet (and pose with) actors playing Lincoln, or even statues of the whole Lincoln family.
2. It's The State Capital
Source: Matt Turner
If you're moving to Springfield, there's a good chance you'll be working for the State of Illinois, the area's largest employer. If you are, good luck; it worked out pretty well for Barack Obama. Just don't pull a Rod Blagojevich. Or a George Ryan. Or a Dan Walker. Or an Otto Kerner. On second thought, it's probably safer to just avoid becoming governor.
3. You Can Drive-Thru
Source: Wikimedia user Rklawton
Do you love to grab a bite to eat without having to get out of your car? This very American concept has its roots in Springfield, where the Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop still operates what it says is the first drive-thru window in the country. Maid-Rite, America salutes you.
4. It's On A Stick
Source: Flickr user Bob B. Brown
Speaking of fast food, this city is also home to one of the world's greatest foods on a stick, the corn dog. State fairs and snack stands everywhere are forever indebted to the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the first place to ever serve the corn dog, which it calls the "Cozy Dog."
5. It's Prairie Style
Source: Flickr user Katherine Johnson
The Dana-Thomas House is the 72nd building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and because it was his first "blank check" commission, he went all out. The house is 12,000 square feet, has 35 rooms, and is home to the largest collection of site-specific original Wright furniture and art glass. It is also the best-preserved and most complete example of Wright's early Prairie style houses.
6. Bread + Meat + Fries + Cheese Sauce = Love On A Plate
Source: Horseshoe Sandwich - Signature Dish of Springfield, Illinois via Facebook
It's not technically a sandwich; it's so much more. A basic horseshoe sandwich is two pieces of white toast, covered with sliced ham, topped by a heaping portion of French fries, and then topped with generous amount of cheese sauce. A smaller portion is usually called a ponyshoe. Hamburger horseshoes replace the ham with a hamburger, and have grown just as (or more) popular than the original. This Springfield original is served in restaurants across the area, including The Barrel Head, D'Arcy's Pint, Delaney's Bar & Grill, Dublin Pub, Jungle Jim's Café, Ritz's Lil Fryer, Sportsman's Lounge and Westwoods Lodge.
7. You Can Get To Where You're Going
Source: Flickr user Katherine Johnson
Outside of the country's largest cities, public transportation can be hard to come by. But, in Springfield, you can catch a bus, jump aboard a trolley tour or hail a taxi. Getting to Springfield isn't difficult either, thanks to Amtrak, various bus lines and Interstates 55 and 72.
8. Row, Swim Or Bike
Source: Flickr user Howard Kang
This 4,260 acre reservoir is located within the city, and boasts 57 miles of shoreline. That means miles of hiking and biking trails, boating, fishing and swimming; all just southeast of downtown.
9. Bike To Work
Source: Flickr user flavius217
Don't love driving everywhere? No problem - the Illinois Department of Transportation built and manages bike trails that stretch for miles in and out of the city. These trails continue to evolve into a more connected network that mimics a roadway system designated only for bikes and pedestrians and they also make use of abandoned stretches of railroad line. These trails are the Interurban Trail, the Lost Bridge Trail, the Bunn to Lost Bridge Trail, the Wabash Trail and the Sangamon Valley Trail.
10. Go Play Outside!
Source: Flickr user Trint Williams
Springfield is home to 41 parks. These include everything from playgrounds, to stretches of lake shore, to a zoo, to golf courses, to a stadium, to skate parks, to athletic fields, to riverside parks and more.
11. It's Close To Large Cities (But Not Too Close)
Source: Flickr user edward stojakovic
If you need a little getaway or like being relatively close to large cities (without being too close), then Springfield is in a great location. St. Louis is just an hour and a half on I-55 southwest, Chicago is three hours northeast on I-55, and Indianapolis is three hours east on I-72.
12. Cool Off Or Play All Day
Source: Knights Action Park via Facebook
Illinois summers are hot and humid but The Knights Action and Water Park is a top destination for cooling off.
13. It's the "Chilli Capital of the Civilized World"
Source: Dew Chilli Parlor via Facebook
Yes, that's "chilli" with an extra "l." In 1993, the state legislature proclaimed Springfield the "Chilli Capital of the Civilized World." It's not clear how an additional "l" was added; some say it started with the Dew Chilli Parlor in 1909, which had a spelling error on its sign, while others believe the extra "l" represents the "Ill" in "Illinois." Either way, this is the place for chilli, and it's now served on wheels, thanks to the Dew Chilli Parlor adding a food truck.
14. Its Cemetery Is Historic
Source: Flickr user Denise Krebs
Established in the late 1850s, Oakridge Cemetery is the largest municipal cemetery in the state. A million people visit each year, most of which are there to visit Lincoln's tomb, the final resting place of President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four sons, Edward, William and Thomas (their eldest son, Robert, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery). The Tomb is a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the state's World War II Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial and Korean War Memorial are also located in the cemetery.
15. It Has Antique Treasures
Source: Flickr user anyjazz65
Because this is the state capital, shoppers searching for antiques and historical items have hit the jackpot. Springfield Antique Mall, Sangamon Antique Mall, Widow At Windsor Antiques, Barrel Antique Mall, Abe's Old Hat Antiques and Abe's Tradin' Post are top antiquing destinations.
16. Its Nightlife Is Laid Back, But Never Boring
Source: Norb Andy's via Facebook
The city's nightlife mirrors its attitudes and tastes, meaning top drinking establishments tend to include more pubs, taverns and bars, and not as many clubs blaring techno music. Top spots include the Celtic Mist Pub, Norb Andy's, the Brewhaus, Floyd's Thirst Parlor, Freebirds Tavern, Capital City Bar & Grill and DH Brown.
17. Neighborhood Associations Bring Communities Together
Source: Flickr user Max Wolfe
Whether you move into a more suburban neighborhood or a trendier downtown location, many of the neighborhoods in Springfield have associations and hold meetings, aiming to bring the community together and watch out for the interests of residents.
18. It's Music To Your Ears
Source: Illinois Symphony Orchestra via Facebook
The Illinois Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1993, when the Springfield Symphony Orchestra Association and the Bloomington Normal Symphony Society were combined. The orchestra travels all over the state, but most of its performances take place in Springfield and Bloomington.
19. A Small Town Feel With Big City Benefits
Source: Katherine Johnson
With a population of just under 120,000, the city offers a sense of community enjoyed by small towns, while having the benefits of a larger city.
20. It Celebrates America's Main Street
Source: Flickr Anne Hornyak
The famous Route 66 runs through Springfield, bringing in visitors and offering fun for locals as well. To celebrate America's Main Street, Springfield hosts the Route 66 Mother Road Festival each year in late September. Famous Route 66 landmarks are Shea's Gas Station Museum, the Cozy Drive In, Die Cast Auto Sales, the Pig Hip Restaurant, the RailSplitter and the Route 66 Twin Drive In Theater.
21. It's A College Town
Source: Benedictine University at Springfield via Facebook
Thanks to the presence of the University of Illinois Springfield, Benedictine University at Springfield, Robert Morris University, Southern Illinois University, St. John's College and Lincoln Land Community College, continuing education has a strong foothold in the city. These colleges also add to the area's arts, culture and nightlife scenes.
22. It Has Theater And Monster Trucks, With Everything In Between
Source: Hoogland Center for the Arts via Facebook
Theatre companies, ballet, wrestling, performing arts, monster trucks, concerts, rodeos and ice shows are all at home in this capital city. Top venues and companies include Hoogland Center for the Arts, New Salem Visitor Center Theatre, Prairie Capitol Convention Center, Springfield Theatre Centre, The Legacy Theatre, The Springfield Ballet Company, The Springfield Muni Opera, Theatre in the Park at New Salem and U. of Illinois Sangamon Auditorium.
23. You Can Be A Farmer For A Day
Source: Flickr user Ron Frazier
You don't have to be a farmer to visit a farm. Prairies Edge Farm and The Farm welcome visitors and offer tours, a chance to feed and pet farm animals, visit gardens and more.
24. Just Drive Right In
Source: Flickr user monkeywing
Because drive-in movie theaters are a relic from the past, the ones still in operation are beloved and tend to have fierce loyalists. The Route 66 Twin Drive-In Theater is no different. It closes during the winter and reopens in April.
25. Pet A Goat, Ride The Ferris Wheel And Eat Something Fried
Source: Flickr user Katherine Johnson
The Illinois State Fair has been held every year since 1853 and it made Springfield its permanent home in 1894. Close to a million people visit the fair each year in mid-August, enjoying concerts, rides, exhibits, competitions and more. The fairgrounds are also on the National Register of Historic Places.
26. Springfield Area Arts Council
Source: Springfield Area Arts Council via Facebook
Supporting the arts is important to this capital city, and the city council does this by holding an annual celebration of the arts and the New Year each Dec. 31 that the city calls "First Night", as well as partnering with the Illinois Arts Council; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Poetry Foundation to present the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. It also holds visual arts exhibits, free public performances and more - even an "Adult Prom."
27. It's Presidential
Source: Flickr user Pablo Manriquez
If you want a chance at the presidency, Springfield seems to be a good place to start. Both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama started in state government here, and eventually landed spots in Congress, which led to the presidency.
28. Its Diner Food Is (Literally) Big
Source: Charlie Parkers Diner via Facebook
Sometimes you just need a pancake. A really, really big one. Charlie Parker's Diner is a favorite for breakfast and lunch, and you have to order the 16-inch pancake at least once, just to see if you can eat the whole thing. Challenge extended.
29. The Capitol Buildings Will Make You Want To Run For President
Source: Flickr user Teemu008
The current capitol building is the sixth, and it was built over 20 years beginning in 1869. The French Renaissance building is pretty impressive; at 361 feet, it's the tallest non-skyscraper capitol, and is even taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The previous (5th) state capitol is now known as the Old State Capitol, built in 1837 and serving as the state house until 1876. Both Abraham Lincoln, in 1858, and Barack Obama, in 2007, announced their candidacy for president here.
30. It's A Refuge For Plants And Animals
Source: Adams Wildlife Sanctuary via Facebook
The Margery Adams Wildlife Sanctuary is a peaceful place right in the middle of the city. The 40-acre sanctuary is run by the Illinois Audubon Society, and is home to forest, tall grass prairie, the restored historic Adams family home, trails and more.
The Washington Park Botanical Garden is another oasis of nature, tucked in an urban environment. The 20 acre garden is home to more than 1,200 species of plants in 10 different garden areas and a conservatory.