When planning a road trip or visiting any new place, it is a good idea to have an itinerary and budget in mind. If you’re thinking about visiting the state capitol of Illinois, there are a plethora of affordable things to do. Here are some of the free things to do in Springfield, Illinois.
Free Things To Do in Springfield
Believe it or not, Springfield is a city rich in history and there is no shortage of budget-friendly things to do. Below are just a few of the free activities that you can take part in. Depending on the time of year you visit, there may also be a number of free festivals and other low-cost ways to spend the day.
Oak Ridge Cemetery
Oak Ridge Cemetery is where you can visit President Abraham Lincoln’s tomb. The rest of the cemetery also holds a number of historic tombstones and is hailed as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Springfield. Best of all, entry to the cemetery is free. However, you will want to call ahead to verify you can visit that day.
Camp Butler National Cemetery
Camp Butler National Cemetery is another historic stop when you are in Springfield. The grounds were initially established as an Army training camp and later became a Confederate prison. Many prisoners of war died there due to poor living conditions and spreading sickness in the establishment. It was later converted to a burial ground and is now the final resting place for many veterans. Visiting the cemetery is free, but you will want to call ahead to verify hours.
Lincoln Memorial Garden Nature Center
These gardens were constructed to honor President Lincoln. Throughout the gardens, there are more than five miles of trails to walk. Depending on the season you visit, you will see different flowers and trees blooming. You may also encounter different types of wildlife. There is no fee to enter the gardens, but you may consider giving a donation (or bring some money for the gift shop).
Illinois State Capitol and the Old State Capitol Historic Site
You can visit the Illinois State Capitol building during your visit to Springfield. During COVID-19, the inside of the building has been closed to the public. However, you can still tour the grounds free-of-charge.
This is not where the Capitol was always located though. The building from the 1840s was restored and is now a beautiful place to visit. You can take a self-guided tour of the Old State Capitol Historic Site for free as well.
Washington Park Botanical Gardens
Springfield is rich with gardens to explore. Washington Park Botanical Gardens are not something to miss while you are there. In the gardens, there are over 1,200 species of plants. You can also get guide books and handouts to help you identify different plants. Self-guided tours of the gardens are free and the gardens open at noon each day.
You can visit the Executive Mansion in Springfield where the state’s governor has resided since the late 1800s. Visitors can tour the building and its grounds with a guide. However, no self-guided tours are permitted. Luckily, the tours are free-of-charge.
Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal group for Union soldiers from all divisions of the Army. It is now home to the GAR women’s auxiliary and the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC). Depending on the day you visit, you may get to experience some special events. Admission to the museum is free.
Cheap Things To Do in Springfield (Under $20)
Of course, not everything on your trip to Springfield can be free. You should take the time to find some low-cost activities to add to your itinerary as well. Here are some to consider.
Another place you can visit for free is the Dana-Thomas House. There is a $10 suggested donation, but you can get away without paying anything. The house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Susan Lawrence Dana and it is 12,000 square feet with 35 rooms. It contains the largest collection of original Wright art glass and furniture.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Springfield has no shortage of historic sites to see. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is one to add to your itinerary. You will need to reserve tickets for a ranger-led tour, which is the only way to get into the home. While the tours are free, donations are recommended.
Elijah Iles House
There are a large number of historic homes in Springfield. The Elijah Iles House was built in 1837 and very little about it has changed since then. It was built by Iles himself, who is one of the four founders of the city of Springfield. There is a suggested donation of $3 per adult and $1.50 for kids.
Route 66 Drive-In Theater
Springfield is home to the Route 66 Drive-In theater. You can look up what is playing and take the family to see a drive-in movie. Regular admission is $8 and kids get in for $5. It is a great budget-friendly thing to do in the area.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant
If you’re interested in trying some local wine and food, Cooper’s Hawk is a great stop to make. Depending on the wine you are looking to try, you can get a bottle for a good price (under $25). It also has a number of tasty menu items at a reasonable price as well.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Another historic site you can visit is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. While there you will see a number of historic exhibits as well as live history and performances. You’ll also gain insight into Abraham Lincoln’s life there in Illinois. To visit, admission costs are $15 per adult. Discounts are available for students, veterans, and senior citizens.