When you get to your hotel, grab a downtown Lincoln sites map. You’ll need it. If you’re not staying overnight, e-mail me off-boards and I’ll snail-mail you one.
If you’re staying at a hotel downtown, walk to the Lincoln Museum. Otherwise drive to the Museum and park your car at the museum parking. It’s cheap - like $.50 per half-hour, I think.
Start your day at the Lincoln Museum, and get there as soon as it opens (especially if you’re there on a Saturday). Plan about 3-4 hours, more if your kids are REALLY into Lincoln. There’s an exhibit of political cartoons from the day that most visitors walk right past, but if you were to read them all, you could easily spend half an hour on it. Ditto for the Civil War photographs exhibit. Ditto also for the Campaign 1860 exhibit. Don’t miss the Through Lincoln’s Eyes and Ghosts of the Library shows! Admission is $7.50 and includes the shows.
After you leave the museum, walk south toward downtown. Walk right past the Abraham Lincoln Presidential library - it’s a research library, and there’s really nothing in there for tourists. Check out the Old State Capitol and go inside and take the tour (about 45 minutes) - Lincoln was a state legislator there for a period of time. At the southeast corner of the OSC is the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, which may or may not be open. I’ve never been inside, so I can’t comment on it. Admission to the OSC and Law Office are free.
By now you should be hungry for lunch, so find somewhere to eat downtown. I recommend Robbie’s, the Feed Store, or Augie’s Front Burner, all of which are within a block of the OSC.
Go back and get your car, and head for Lincoln’s home. Take the tour. Admission is free.
Now head for Lincoln’s Tomb. Rub his nose for good luck, and then go inside. Please be quiet and respectful while you’re inside, or the guard will ask you to leave. Admission is free.
Now it should be about 3:30-4:00, and you have a difficult decision to make. If it’s not too cold (or raining) you can drive about 25 miles to Lincoln’s New Salem State Park. It’s a re-creation of the pioneer village where Lincoln lived when he first came to central Illinois. Do note that all of the buildings are reproductions. Still, it’s a fun experience, and your boys may soak it up. Or they may not. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $1.
The other choice is to stay in town and head for the Dana-Thomas House. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $3.
By now you should be getting hungry for supper. Head to D’Arcy’s for a shoe for supper. Or, if your boys want to eat at a Route 66 landmark with mediocre food, there’s always the Cozy Dog Drive In.
Downtown Springfield is a confusing maze of one-way streets and dead-ends. For this reason, I recommend that you use your feet to go from downtown hotels to the museum and the OSC. Lincoln’s home is about a mile or so from the OSC, and it has convenient parking, so it’s OK to drive there. Lincoln’s Tomb is almost outside of town, so it’s better to drive there.
Hope this helps!