Illinois Itinerary: Country Life and Lincoln Lore
The Itinerary at a Glance
Rantoul, Champaign, Monticello, Arthur, Effingham, Springfield, Lincoln
4 Unique Experiences on This Trip
- Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch
- MY Garage Museum
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
- Lincoln’s Tomb
Duration: 4 Days
This Itinerary is Ideal For: All
Begin the day at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, open August through Christmas. On the reindeer tour, your group members get a chance to feed and even kiss an Alaskan reindeer. Hayrides, a pumpkin patch and the 10-acre Cornfusion maze also will keep the gang entertained. Stay for lunch and enjoy a Wild West BBQ or outdoor weenie roast at the Western-style banquet facility.
Then it’s off to Champaign’s Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, where visitors learn about goat cheesemaking, pet the goats, and sample cheeses and goatmilk gelato. Next is Allerton Park and Retreat Center, a European-inspired estate built in 1900 and today owned by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Tour the Georgian manor house and wander the formal gardens adorned with more than 100 ornaments and sculptures. A group dinner can be arranged in the mansion.
The simple charms of Illinois Amish Country await this morning in Arthur. With a step-on guide to explain the Amish lifestyle, you’ll see horse-drawn buggies, one-room schools with pony carts in the driveway, Belgian horse-pulled farm equipment and roadside stands with fresh produce. The Great Pumpkin Patch, open in September and October, has farm animals to visit and creative displays of dozens of varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds.
Lunch today is at an Amish home, where you’ll get a tour of the house and farmyard.
Travel south to Effingham, where MY Garage Museum houses vintage Corvettes and Volkswagens, plus all kinds of automotive memorabilia, from neon signs to antique gas pumps. Continue to Hodgson Mill Mercantile Store, which sells the complete line of whole-grain products—bread, pancake and muffins mixes, flours, pastas—made at the company’s Effingham plants. In the kitchen where cooking classes are held, sample treats made fresh for your group and learn the history of Hodgson Mill.
Dinner tonight might be at Niemerg’s Steak House, a local favorite, or Firefly Grill, a destination restaurant celebrated for its culinary innovations and foods from its own gardens and nearby farms.
In Springfield, the state capital, get in touch with Illinois’ most famous son at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, where history comes to life through high-tech exhibits and theater shows. Then explore the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which preserves the only home that Lincoln ever owned; it’s part of a four-block historic district that has been returned to its 19th century appearance.
For lunch in Springfield, a good choice is Cozy Dog Drive-In, home to the original hot dog on a stick. Also enjoy hearty helpings of nostalgia at this shrine to Route 66, the iconic highway that passed through town. Next, visit Lincoln, a Route 66 town north of Springfield, and see rare presidential artifacts at Lincoln College’s Lincoln Heritage Museum. Before leaving town for the drive back to Springfield, don’t miss a great photo op at Railsplitter Covered Wagon, a roadside attraction near old Route 66 that features a studious Abe Lincoln reading a book in the seat of a 24-foot-high covered wagon, the world’s largest.
Dinner tonight might be at one of the many restaurants serving the horseshoe, a filling Springfield specialty consisting of a slice of bread, choice of meat, fries and cheese sauce. Then consider taking Lincoln’s Ghost Walk, a spooky tour of haunted sites you didn’t see during the day.
In downtown Springfield, visit the Old State Capitol, the stage for Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech; after the assassination, his body lay in state in the House chamber. It was at this capitol, which served as Illinois’ fifth statehouse, where Barack Obama announced his run for the presidency in February 2007. At Oak Ridge Cemetery, pay respects at
Lincoln’s Tomb, an impressive monument in which the 16th president, his wife and three of their four children are buried. Then head northwest to Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstructed log village where Honest Abe spent his early adulthood. View an orientation film and poke into the gristmill, tavern, school and other buildings. Costumed characters demonstrate pioneer chores and crafts.