City Cast

A Statehouse Reporter's Guide to Springfield

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on August 9
Reporter Hannah Meisel in front of Lincoln’s Tomb in 2003 and 2023

Reporter Hannah Meisel in front of Lincoln’s Tomb in 2003 and 2023. (Hannah Meisel / Capitol News Illinois)

Starting Thursday, the Illinois State Fair is in Springfield through Aug. 20, where fairgoers will fill their bellies with fried delicacies and see headliners Nelly and Alanis Morissette.

Springfield became the state capital in 1839 thanks to Abraham Lincoln and his associates. Railroads, agriculture, and mining once contributed significantly to Springfield’s economy. Today, Illinois legislators wheel and deal at the Statehouse while tourists explore Lincoln’s legacy.

Hannah Meisel, a Capitol News Illinois reporter, has covered Springfield for the last decade. She shares her recs.

Something to Eat

If you go to Springfield and don't eat a horseshoe — a slice of bread with a burger patty topped with fries and cheese sauce— did you even go to Springfield? If you can't eat a whole plate, order a ponyshoe! Chilli, spelled with two L's, is a lesser-known local specialty. Go with the original from Dew Chilli Parlor. Going to the Illinois State Fair? Springfield is possibly the birthplace of corn dogs on sticks. Tired of fried food? Reserve an outdoor table at Maldaner's, the oldest restaurant in Springfield and still one of the best. The salmon is a personal favorite.

Something to See

Downtown Springfield is full of reminders that Abe Lincoln walked the same streets for nearly 24 years. Tour the Lincoln Home. Spend hours at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and visit his tomb. See the Statehouse, which is under renovation. Tours are offered seven days a week.

Something to Do

If you're in town on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, visit the Old Capitol Farmers Market. Walk to the Illinois State Museum for its “Growing Up X” exhibit, a step back in time to the analog world of the 1980s. Get your kitsch on at a few downtown independent shops, including a record store with an arcade. Kids in tow? Check out the Kidzeum of Health and Science.

Something to Drink

If you want a coffee, try Custom Cup. Stop in for a beer and a game of bocce ball in the courtyard at Obed and Isaac's or a cocktail and a game of bags in The Gin Mill’s hidden backyard. The Wakery is a new alcohol-free bar and late-night coffeehouse.

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