Hunting Lincoln’s hats and history in Illinois

CR Rae More Content Now
A statue of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, outside the Old State Capitol. [CR RAE]

Take the kids on a scavenger hunt in Springfield, Illinois, and test your detective skills as you participate in Abe’s Hat Hunt.

The capital city is a history buff’s paradise but offers much more to families and travelers of all ages. In this city where 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln made his home, visitors will find everything from the area’s rich history to some of the best restaurants. There is the not-to-miss famous local sandwich, the horseshoe: Thick slices of toasted bread and meat, left open-face, are loaded with French fries and topped off with cheese sauce.

President Lincoln’s hats are scattered and hidden throughout the city. An Abe’s Hat Hunt booklet is available at the visitor’s center, which in itself is a historic and interesting building, the former Lincoln-Herndon Law Office at 1 S. Old State Capitol Plaza. It’s open Mondays to Fridays.

To play the hat hunt, find at least six of the 12 hat sites and match a corresponding hat to the color and location. Clues are offered in the booklet as well as stickers to mark the found hats. Once you have completed that task, stop by the visitor’s center for, as they say, an “Abe-mazing” prize.

During your hunt you will find historic and interesting places such as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and the Lincoln Depot, where President-elect Lincoln left his home to travel to Washington, D.C., Feb. 11, 1861.

The home of the president is also on the hunt, restored to how it was in the 1860s. It sits on the street and in the neighborhood that has been preserved to be like when the Lincolns resided there. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a great place to step back in time and be outside to social-distance.

Bicentennial Plaza, a stop along the trail, is a walkway that links the Lincoln Home National Historic Site to the Illinois Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol building. Along the way visitors will find panels highlighting stories of the history of Springfield. Lights connect the towers along the plaza and are programmed to present visitors with patterns and colors in many different ways.

Also part of the hat hunt is the Dana-Thomas House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Visitors can get a look at collections of Wright art glass and furniture.

In addition to the hunt visitors will find approximately 50 storyboards on the Looking for Lincoln Story Trail. As you drive or walk around town you will find the boards filled with facts and stories about Lincoln and others who contributed to the stories of the area.

Lincoln came from humble beginnings and became someone who greatly influenced history in America. The Looking for Lincoln trail lets visitors discover timelines and places such as where the president purchased his wife Mary’s wedding ring and a store where he had one of his famous stovepipe hats made. The trail was designated by Congress in 2008 as the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area and is in partnership with the National Park Service.

These stories are found across 43 counties and 55 communities in central Illinois and consist of 265 exhibits. Get a GPS listing for each location at lookingforlincoln.com.

With many stops to check out on Abe’s Hat Hunt and the Looking for Lincoln trail, visitors will find plenty to explore. Be sure to check the visitor’s bureau website to see what is safely open and those places that are closed due to COVID-19. This trip can be done by car or carefully walking the streets of this very walkable city, or log this trip on your clipboard of fun for the future.

Stop, take pictures and share them on social media with #visitspringfield and @visitspringfield. For places to stay and eat go to visitspringfieldillinois.com.