4-5 Days | 450 Miles | in 4-5 Days
Four presidents have hailed from our great state. Presidential history comes alive at the homes, museums, parks and other landmarks associated with our 16th, 18th, 41st, and 44th commanders in chief. Follow the footsteps of these four remarkable men and how Illinois shaped their path to our nation's highest office.
Make sure to check with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date operating hours, travel policies and health and safety information.
In the Land of Lincoln, it’s fitting that your journey begins in Springfield, the city Honest Abe called home for the 17 years leading up to his election. Kickstart your day with a visit to Illinois Made Maker Custom Cup Coffee, which serves small batch, roast-to-order coffee. After, make your way to the Visitors Center, located in the same building as the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, where Lincoln practiced law from 1843–1852. The Old State Capitol, where Lincoln spent much of his time in Springfield, is right across the street and makes for a great photo op. It’s also where he delivered his famous House Divided speech in 1858 when he began his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is not to be missed. It’s not only the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, but also where you’ll find the iconic bronze bust of Lincoln. And don’t forget to rub his nose for good luck!
Want to meet the Lincolns? Each summer, History Comes Alive returns to Springfield. Hear about their lives, listen to Abraham deliver some of his famous speeches and more.
Home of the original corn dog on a stick, Cozy Dog Drive In is a must-visit for a classic Route 66 diner experience. Overnight at the President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
Start the morning at one of the most visited presidential libraries, The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. It features 40,000 square feet of galleries, theaters, state-of-the-art displays and special exhibits. Don’t miss Ghosts of the Library, a dramatic presentation that uses holograms to create a truly immersive experience. Be sure to check temporary policy changes before visiting. To experience Lincoln’s earlier years, visit the New Salem Historic Site, a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood.
When you’re ready for a bite to eat, try Obed & Isaac’s for an eclectic menu and locally crafted beer. It’s also the perfect place to try Springfield’s famous horseshoe sandwich: two thick-cut slices of toasted bread; a layer of meat; and a small mountain of crispy French fries, all piled together and smothered in cheese sauce.
The Historic Ronald Reagan Trail is a self-guided tour of the 40th President’s hometown heritage and is a great starting point that features many of the stops listed here. First up is Eureka College's Ronald Reagan Museum and Reagan Peace Garden, featuring over 10,000 items from Reagan’s student days, film career and presidency.
Onward to Tampico. Here you’ll find the Ronald Reagan Birthplace & Museum, featuring the bedroom where he was born, restored and decorated to its original 1900s style. You’ll also find a gift store and museum of Reagan memorabilia.
In Dixon, visit the Reagan Peace Park and explore the lush Lowell Park. Flynnie's Diner is a great spot for breakfast or lunch with homestyle cooking and a welcoming atmosphere. Overnight at the Lincoln Way Inn, a rustic, eco-friendly oasis in Franklin Grove that is known for their spectacular artisanal breakfast experience.
In Galena, trace the history of the 18th President beginning with a tour of the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, an Italianate house presented to him in 1865. Be sure to visit the DeSoto House Hotel, even if you aren’t staying as a guest. Illinois’ oldest operating hotel has hosted such notable guests as Abraham Lincoln and served as the presidential campaign headquarters for Ulysses S. Grant. For modern Italian-American dining, head to Fried Green Tomatoes for dinner. For a great end to your evening, stay at the Jail Hill Inn, rated the #1 B&B in the U.S. by TripAdvisor in 2019.
Grab a snack from Great American Popcorn Co. and spend the morning exploring Galena’s charming Main Street shops. For lunch, grab a bite from Otto’s Place. If the weather’s good, Grant Park is the perfect spot to enjoy your meal. For your afternoon, Fever River Outfitters offer bike, kayak, and paddleboard rentals to take your exploration to the next level. Or for a whole new perspective, book a balloon ride with Galena on the Fly.
In Chicago, head to the University of Chicago Law School to get a glimpse of where 44th President Barack Obama taught from 1992 to 2004. Then, explore the Kenwood neighborhood where you can find his family home. Nearby, you can pick up lunch at Valois Cafeteria, a longtime Obama favorite. Now head to the Obama Kissing Rock, a small monument that marks the spot where the former President and First Lady first kissed.
The Obamas participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on September 28, 2021, at the future site of the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side. The Obama Foundation also announced that the center's first commissioned piece of art will come from world-renowned artist Richard Hunt, who grew up in Chicago. Stop by the Jackson Park location to check in on the center's progress.
Spend the night at Sophy Hyde Park, a sophisticated, eclectic hotel near the University of Chicago.
Spend your second day exploring all that Chicago has to offer, like the Museum of Science & Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago.