Last weekend I helped with a pet rescue freedom ride and turned it into a day trip to Springfield, IL.
A group of 45 dogs from kill shelters in Oklahoma were being sent to rescues in other states. I signed up to keep 2 of the dogs overnight and then drive them from St. Louis to Springfield, IL the next morning. I’ll share more about the dogs and their freedom ride on next week’s pet-themed Wordless Wednesday.
Today, I want to share how me and my friend Cathy spent our 6 hour day in Springfield.
I was really excited when Cathy agreed to join me for the ride to Springfield. Not only was she a huge help with the dogs on the drive, but it meant I could check off another city for my travel bucket list goal of visiting every medium to large city within a 6 hour drive of St. Louis.
Yes, I could have gone by myself…but traveling is so much more fun with friends.
The 1 1/2 hour drive from St. Louis definitely qualifies Springfield, IL for the bucket list road trip goal. Technically, I’ve been to Springfield before. One of my high school friends got married there about 20 years ago. Since all I saw was the bride’s childhood home and a church, I really needed to go back again before I could say I had seen Springfield.
To plan our day, I checked out Trip Advisor for attractions in Springfield and asked my Facebook friends if they had an suggestions. We didn’t get to everything recommended by friends, but I’m pleased with what we accomplished in a half day.
Everyone I know who has been to Springfield, IL said we had to go to the Dana-Thomas house.
They were right.
We got there just in time for the guided tour through the house. Our group had about 20 people, which was big for their tours, but it didn’t hamper the interaction at all with the guide. Photography isn’t allowed inside the house and it was raining while we were there, so my pictures are limited.
Our tour guide took us through each room of the home, explaining how Susan Lawrence Thomas, the owner, used each room and why Frank Lloyd Wright chose each element of the design. I was really impressed with the astounding condition of the original furniture artifacts. It seriously looked like no one every sat in a chair.
While the house was the architect’s 72nd building project, it was his first “blank check” commission. He designed the house with 35 rooms, 12,000 square feet, 3 main levels and 16 levels throughout the house. When he was finished, there was only 1 room left that resembled the Victorian home that was converted into this grand structure.
The tour was engaging for everyone including the families that had older children with them. I would highly recommend taking the tour for everyone except those with young children.
We weren’t planning to go to the State Capital Building, but it was still a pleasant surprise when we looked down the street and got this view.
One of the things we did plan to do was to see Abraham Lincoln’s home. His home, located in Downtown Springfield, is the only home that the President ever owned, and was his last residence prior to moving to the White House.
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a 4 block pedestrian-only gravel area lined with historic homes and descriptive plaques about Abraham Lincoln and his neighbors.
I’m not a big history buff, but I had a great time.
Walking from house to house and reading about who owned the homes was fascinating.
I don’t have kids, but I saw a number of families with school-age kids and they seemed to be having a great time.
The two wagons on the street drew a lot of attention from all of the visitors, young and old alike.
We weren’t really sure what this wagon was for, but we think it was part of the election campaign based on some of the photos from the time and the banners on the side.
This home housed a visitor center. Walking through the house on a self-guided tour, you can learn much about the Lincoln’s and neighborhood. While I wish we had planned in advance and taken a tour of the Lincoln house (the tour is free), we both left feeling that we had a good understanding of what life was like for the Lincoln family and their neighbors.
I was really drawn to the information about the diversity on the street. These maps help visitors understand how Lincoln’s own neighborhood reflected the equality that he wanted for the entire country.
This map shows the racial diversity of residents.
Another map shows which households supported the Union vs Confederate in the Civil War. For border cities like Springfield, the Civil War truly meant neighbors were fighting neighbors.
Everyone visiting or even passing through Springfield, IL should stop and experience the Lincoln Home National Site. It’s well worth the time and totally free.
When I was exploring the attractions in Springfield, IL on Trip Advisor, one of the things that caught my attention was the Apple Barn store. Located in Chatham, IL just south of Springfield, it wasn’t out of our way for the drive home so we decided to stop and check it out.
We actually had a little trouble finding it because the iPhone maps on Cathy’s phone didn’t have an address for the Apple Barn. I have Google Maps on my phone, which did know about the Apple Barn, so we got there after driving around in circles for a few minutes. No complaints…we got the chance to see all of Chatham in the process!
I love the colorful pots that are for sale at Apple Barn. I’ve been to many stores that sell large garden pots, but I was really impressed with the variety the Apple Barn offered.
Inside the store, Apple Barn shelves are lined with local products, both food and non-food items. Much of the merchandise is from nearby Amish communities that I recognized from my trip to an Amish town last fall (future post on that coming soon!).
I couldn’t resist buying some of the Creamed Honey produced locally in Chatham. The jar states the honey is crystallized to give it a creamy spread texture, but that it is indeed 100% honey and tastes the same.
I agree. I tested it out on some toast as soon as I got home. The creamed honey spread like butter and then immediately returned to it’s normal liquid state. I have a feeling I may have to drive back to Chatham to pick up another jar when this one runs out!
You can also buy donuts, cookies. fudge and pies, all home-made and priced right.
We didn’t see a single apple since April is not apple season. According to the website, you can purchase 15 varieties of apples at Apple Barn in September and October.
Image Credit: Apple Barn
I’ve never known which type of apple to use for what. The Apple Barn’s apple variety list will come in handy the next time I go shopping.
Our final stop before heading back to St. Louis was for lunch.
We had tried to find someplace to get lunch in Downtown Springfield, but everything we found on Yelp that looked independently owned was closed on Sundays. After exploring the deserted downtown area a bit trying to find a restaurant, we decided we would stop for a late lunch after the Apple Barn visit.
We asked the ladies who worked in the store at Apple Barn for a suggestion, and they both told us we should go to The Creek Pub & Grill. They recommended the pizzas and horseshoes. I’ve never heard of horseshoes as a menu item before, but we quickly learned they are a local tradition in Springfield.
Horseshoes consist of a plate with bread on the bottom (our plates had texas toast), topped with your choice of meat, a heaping pile of french fries and a light cheese sauce.
Always up for something new, we both decided to order the pulled pork shoes.
The food was definitely filling and perfect as a bar food menu.
I’m glad I ordered it and can happily cross it off the list as something new I’ve tried…but next time I’ll go for the pulled pork sandwich with fries on the side. I thought the flavor of the meat was overwhelmed by the mound of fries and sauce. That said, I imagine that it would be a big hit with a lot of people so if you like cheese sauce smothered food, definitely give it a try when you are in Springfield.
To plan your own trip to Springfield, IL, visit the official Springfield Illinois Area information website.