Little history buffs need not take the entire summer off. A vacation destination rich with historical education is located right in the heart of America. Illinois provides great locations for families who want to plan an educational summer vacation where their children can see and touch real American history.
The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site
Explore the camp that launched the first U.S. transcontinental expedition to the Pacific coast at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site. This historic vacation stop commemorates Camp Dubois, the 1803 – 1804 winter camp of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the expedition known as the Corp of Discovery. Exhibits are hands-on and kid-friendly. Check out the “reconstruction” of the winter camp, Camp River Dubois, near the visitor center. It will be great historical family fun!
1 Lewis and Clark Trail
Hartford, Illinois 62048
Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site
What trip to Illinois would be complete without a visit to the heart of the Land of Lincoln? Make the 16th president of the United States come alive as a young man by visiting Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site. This reconstructed 1830s village is where Lincoln lived for six years as a young adult and where he studied law and began politics. All 23 buildings have been reconstructed to give visitors a realistic view of pioneer life.
15588 History Lane
Petersburg, Illinois 62675
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Visit the home where Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary Todd lived and raised their family. What started as a cabin in 1835 grew to a two-story family home in 1855. It was completely restored for tours in 1988. See the home where the Lincolns lived when he was elected president in 1860. The 86-acre site includes the reconstructed cabin and a living history farm. It’s a fun piece of U.S. history families will enjoy.
426 S. Seventh Street
Springfield, Illinois 62701
Old State Capitol State Historic Site
Also in the region of the Land of Lincoln, The Old State Capitol is a reconstruction of Illinois’ fifth statehouse. The building served as the seat of state government and a center of Illinois political life from 1839 – 1876. Lincoln visited the building frequently as both a lawyer and a politician, serving in the building during his last term in the Illinois House of Representatives and delivering the famous 1858 “House Divided” speech in Representatives Hall. The governor’s rooms served as headquarters during the 1860 presidential campaign. The current State Capitol Building is the center of state government, where visiting families can watch Illinois history in the making when the legislature is in session.
1 Old State Capitol Plaza
Springfield, Illinois 62701
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitor Site
Illinois also boasts being a childhood home of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. History buffs old and young alike will enjoy visiting the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitor Site. Tour the restored home that the Reagan family resided in from 1920 – 1923. Check out the Visitor Center and Gift Shop, which features books and gifts highlighting the Reagan legacy. The tour includes the four-room Presidential Timeline exhibit and the viewing of a Reagan biographical video.
816 S. Hennepin Avenue
Dixon, Illinois 61021
Black Hawk State Historic Site
Native American history is rich within this wooded, steeply rolling 208-acre tract which borders the Rock River in the city of Rock Island. Prehistoric Indians and 19th-century settlers made homes here, but the area is most closely identified with the Sauk nation and its great warrior, Black Hawk. Families will enjoy walking and hiking the 208 pristine trails in this park and eating in the available picnic areas. Absorb the rich history at The John Hauberg Indian Museum located in the Watch Tower Lodge. Young history students will enjoy the new exhibit that tells the story of the Sauk and Meskwaki including a four-by-eight-foot scale model of one of the largest Native American Indian settlements in the United States.
1510 46th Avenue
Rock Island, Illinois 61201
The opportunity for some hands-on history is available in Chicagoland’s premier outdoor history museum village, Naper Settlement, located in downtown Naperville, just 28 miles west of Chicago. History comes to life through costumed villagers, historic buildings, galleries and interactive exhibits young history students are sure to love.
523 S. Webster St
Naperville, Illinois 60540