In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln
Land of Lincoln Itinerary at a Glance
Explore Effingham, Casey, Charleston, Arthur, Champaign, Springfield and other towns in East-Central Illinois. Learn about Abraham Lincoln’s life in his home state, enjoy the slow-paced pleasures of Amish Country and pose in front of quirky attractions like the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.
You’ll experience these great activities and more:
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
- Cross at the Crossroads
- Lincoln Douglas Debate Museum
- Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site
- Amish-style home cooking at Yoder’s Kitchen
- Corn dogs at Cozy Dog Drive-In on Route 66
- The World’s Largest Mailbox and other record-setters
- Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch
- Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery
Details and Tips
Region: East-Central Illinois
Category: History and Heritage
Length: 3 Nights
Best Time of Year: Spring through Fall
Suitable for: Adult groups that enjoy history and seek out photo-worthy sites
Land of Lincoln Day-To-Day Itinerary
Day One – Highlights of Effingham and Casey
Start your East-Central Illinois adventure at a peaceful spot in Effingham, a city conveniently situated at the crossroads of Interstates 57 and 70. The Cross at the Crossroads, an engineering wonder of white steel soaring 20 stories into the sky, welcomes those of all faiths and backgrounds. Its base is ringed by polished granite tablets representing the Ten Commandments, with audio messages at each station. The visitor center shows a short video on the Cross’s construction and dedication in 2001. Then hop over to Mid America Motorworks’ MY Garage Museum, which houses vintage Corvettes and Volkswagens, plus all kinds of automobile memorabilia, from neon signs to antique gas pumps.
Head east on I-70 and get off at the town of Casey (pronounced “KZ”). Lunch is at Richards Farm Restaurant, housed in a 1930s barn and home to the 60-foot-long World’s Largest Pitchfork. Downtown, devote at least an hour to taking pictures of more of the monumental installations that have put Casey on the map. You’ll find out why its motto is “Big Things Small Town” as you witness supersized roadside attractions like the World’s Largest Barber Pole, World’s Largest Teeter Totter and magnificent, 56-foot-tall World’s Largest Rocking Chair…you get the idea. Climb up into the World’s Largest Mailbox or ring the World’s Largest Wind Chime. You’ll also find lots of other Big Things—the Big Pencil, Big Birdcage, Big Taco, for example—that are not record holders. All but two of the oversized items were made by local businessman Jim Bolin and his crew from Bolin Enterprises Inc.
Day Two – Touring Lincoln Heritage Sites
Begin the day at the Lincoln Douglas Debate Museum in Charleston. Through film, audio, artifacts and interactive displays, learn about the 1858 senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, a series of seven that brought Lincoln to national prominence. There’s time to shop, admire the seven murals and have lunch on and around Charleston’s Downtown Square, a historic retail district dominated by the Romanesque-style Coles County Courthouse, where a young Lincoln practiced law in a previous version of the building.
In nearby Lerna, go back in time at Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, the 1840s home of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, father and stepmother of the future president. The working, living history farmstead, developed around a replica of the family’s two-room cabin, offers an array of interpretive programs, as does the adjacent Stephen Sargent Farm, which has been moved to the site to broaden understanding of 19th century rural life in Illinois. Down the road are the Moore Home State Historic Site, the home of Lincoln’s stepsister, and Thomas Lincoln Cemetery, the burial site of his father and stepmother.
Day Three – Amish Country and More
Head north to Arcola and Arthur, the center of Amish life in Illinois. A step-on guide will take you down backroads populated by Amish farm families who travel in horse-drawn buggies and eschew modern ways. Some groups may wish to tour the collection of historical buildings at the Illinois Amish Heritage Center. Stock up on bakery goods, candy, nuts, spices, noodles, salad toppings, and homemade jams, jellies and pie fillings at Beachy’s Bulk Foods, a favorite with groups touring Amish Country. Shops in downtown Arthur purvey crafts and antiques.
For lunch in Arthur, arrange a meal in an Amish home or indulge in Amish- and Mennonite-style home cooking at the buffet stations of Yoder’s Kitchen. Next, travel north to Champaign for an educational tour of Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. In addition to meeting with the goats that produce milk for the farmstead’s cheeses and gelato, your travelers will walk through the vegetable garden and orchard, and taste some of the products. At Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in nearby Rantoul, take a tractor-driven tour that focuses on the resident Alaskan reindeer and Christmas tree farm. Have your picture taken kissing a reindeer.
For dinner at Hardy’s, schedule a chuckwagon BBQ dinner with entertainment in the Western-style banquet facility.
Day Four – Touring Springfield and Lincoln
Next up is Springfield, the capital of Illinois and the city where America’s 16th president spent so much of his life. The must-visit Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum blends scholarship with showmanship and 21st technology to immerse visitors in the 19th century. Not far away is the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his famous House Divided speech and where his body lay in state after his assassination. Present-day history buffs will remember that this building served as the backdrop of the launch of Barack Obama’s 2007 presidential campaign.
For lunch in Springfield, a good choice is Cozy Dog Drive-In, home to the original hot dog on a stick. Enjoy hearty helpings of nostalgia at this shrine to Route 66, the iconic highway that passed through town. Then head to the Lincoln Memorial Garden Nature Center. Dedicated to preserving the Midwestern landscapes Abe knew and loved, this 100-acre garden features hiking trails amid the woods and prairie. Tear yourself away from the serene scenery and head to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site for a ranger-led tour of the only home Lincoln ever owned.
Head northeast on I-55 for the aptly named town of Lincoln. There you’ll find Railsplitter Covered Wagon, a roadside attraction that bears a familiar face. Designated the world’s largest covered wagon by the Guinness Book of World Records, it features a seated fiberglass Lincoln reading a law book and is a perfect spot to start making some notes for your next Illinois visit.