My partner, Dave, is incredibly nerdy when it comes to all things history. Especially if it involves the Civil War. Even more so if it involves his favorite U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln.
So naturally, whenever we plan out our random road trips and adventures, I do a quick search to see if there’s anything that he would love to see along the way. (I’m nice like that.) When we decide to randomly drive from Atlanta to Milwaukee and back again in 4 days, the little town of Springfield, Illinois was on the route.
Springfield, for those of you who don’t know, is the hometown of Abraham Lincoln. I assumed that there had to be something set up for his childhood home—a historical marker or sign, at the very least—so we added it to our travel agenda. A quick Google search later and I realized that there wasn’t just a little ol’ historical marker…there was so. much. more.
Apparently a huge portion of the town is dedicated to honoring Lincoln (which makes total and complete sense). This includes a Presidential Museum and Library.
First of all…I had no idea that there was an Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. We’ve seen quite a few Presidential libraries in our travels: Reagan, Carter, LBJ, Nixon, etc. For some reason I assumed that the concept of presidential museums and libraries was something that only existed for more modern presidents. I was wrong.
So we made the decision to check it out. Obviously. But here’s the thing. Visiting a presidential library is one thing. Visiting one with young kids is something else entirely.
Here are a few tips for visiting the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library with young kids:
1. Park in the garage across the street from the Lincoln Museum and Library
The official parking for the museum is located on 6th Street between Madison and Mason streets (you’ll see signs on the outside of the structure).
Price is reasonable ($0.75/half hour), and it saves you the headache of driving around and looking for street parking.
2. Photo it up with the stuff outside
There is a great little park/square right across the street from the Lincoln Museum. Don’t skip over it!
This is a great place to take some photos with a statue of Abraham Lincoln, or to safely get a good shot of your kids with the museum in the background.
If you’re not planning on going inside the museum or library itself, this makes a great free Lincoln-y Springfield photo op.
3. Use a stroller!!
Look, I’m all for wearing my kids, letting them walk on their own, etc. We do that the majority of the time with our little ones. But don’t be a hero, here. This museum is busy, and the inside is full of lots of stuff that kids will want to touch…
and little roped-off areas that they’ll want to venture into…
If your kids are young…use a stroller.
If you don’t have one with you, you can borrow one for free in the guest services/coat check area. They even had a double stroller so both of our little ones could be secure while we explored. If you need to borrow a stroller, just ask one of the employees when you walk in.
4. Be aware of gift shop distractions
So the Lincoln Museum isn’t Disney-World-bad about forcing you to go through a kid themed gift shop when you exit the museum, which I so appreciate. The gift shop is separate from the museum and completely optional. (You can also visit the gift shop without buying admission to the museum or library, so if you want to just pop in and get a souvenir, you can!)
However, there are plenty of ridiculously overpriced items for the little ones to get distracted by (which is how we ended up leaving with the creepy-looking porcelain doll pictured above that my oldest daughter just HAD to have), so be aware when you venture in.
5. Skip going inside the library; just do the museum
This is super important.
While most presidential libraries and museums are rolled into one building, that’s not the case with the Lincoln museum and library in Springfield. They are two separate buildings. And the only one that you’ll want to go into, dear traveler with children, is the Lincoln Museum.
The Lincoln Presidential Library is just a place to do research. Do not spend time going here with your kids. There are no exhibits, and absolutely nothing for kids to do. I repeat: do not go inside the library with your young kids unless you want to get stressed out by going into a not-so-kid-friendly environment.
Go over to the library for one reason and one reason alone: to take pictures out front.
The outside of the museum looks like this:
Way more crowded, closer to the street if you’re trying to get a picture in front of the signs, which, as a mom traveling with young, super active kids, made me very nervous.
Instead, snap your sign pictures here:
If you’ve read through my tips on how to take great travel photos with kids, you’ll know that the outside of the Lincoln Presidential Library makes a great spot to take photos with your little loves.
Giant wall. Ledge to sit/stand on. Way less crowded. Further from the street. Less chance of me having a heart attack when my kids start darting somewhere. Wins all around.