Heads up that I received free admission in exchange for a blog post on our visit to the Lincoln Museum. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
We had a great time visiting family in Illinois last week. We literally toured the ENTIRE state and spent days in northern, central and southern Illinois. I wanted to fit at least one adventure in between visiting family members so we decided to try out the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, about an hour away from our hometown.
Layla has been learning about the Presidents in kindergarten and does recognize Lincoln in pictures (behind Washington he’s the ONLY one she’ll recognize) so she was curious to learn a little more about his life. Before the museum I asked her what she knew about him – “he got shot” was his answer. She’s not wrong, but it certainly wasn’t the most important thing to remember about him.
I was a little nervous about taking younger kids to a Presidential museum/library and curious to see how kid friendly the museum really was. One thing I will mention is that there is NO outside food or drinks allowed (there are designated spots to eat and drink) and they are very strict about this. I brought a couple of granola bars for the kids knowing there was a little cafe we could take them to but they really didn’t want me bringing them in. After crossing my heart and pinkie swearing that we would NOT eat in the museum, the nice guard let me take them in. I hate throwing away food so I really appreciated that but you may want to leave any snacks and drinks in the car if you are traveling with kids older than 2 or 3.
Other than that, this museum was surprisingly very kid friendly! Obviously the kids didn’t “get” many of the exhibits and there is a lot of reading involved to really appreciate what you are seeing, but I was impressed.
I have to note that while we were home, my camera broke. It is on it’s way to Nikon for repairs (I may have teared up as the tech took it away to box up) so these are all taken with my iPhone. I’m so disappointed I wasn’t able to bring my real camera, there were so many great photo ops!
After picking up our tickets and going through security we entered The Plaza, or the central part of the museum. From here you can access all the museum’s exhibits but first you must get a picture with the Lincoln family in front of the White House.
The first thing we did was visit the per-Presidential area. You enter through a log cabin and learn about Lincoln’s life before becoming President. We met some of my best friends at the museum so my son was happy to be carried through most of the museum:
Grandma also came along to entertain. Layla loved telling her everything she knew about Lincoln (aka- repeating that he got shot 100 times and asking when he gets shot). Here they are getting ready to walk through the pre-Presidential years.
The wax figures in the exhibits looked amazing. It was obvious to Layla that they weren’t real but Jack (he’s 3 years old) really kept his eye on them. There were a few scenes that were a little scary for him- one was right after you exit the cabin and it portrayed slavery. It wasn’t overly violent by any means but it was dimly lit and dramatic (as it should be) and made Jack a little uneasy. It was quick to move around and he forgot all about it.
I wish I would have been able to spend more time reading the information outside of the displays but when you are visiting with kids, you tend to move at a faster pace. They enjoyed seeing some of the things the Lincolns used in their home and in his office. I wish I would have been able to get a picture of it, but at one point they were arguing about who got to see themselves in one of Lincoln’s desk mirrors. How cool to see your reflection from the same mirror a President used!
After we toured the pre-Presidential exhibit we decided to head to the Ghost of the Library Theater. Jack freaked out before the show even started (he’s VERY leery of theaters…maybe it was the Ghost of Abe Lincoln warning him of the dangers LOL) so Grandma took him out so we could enjoy.
This show is SO awesome. It’s Disney quality entertainment with an educational/historical message. There is some thunder/lightening so it might be a little spooky for some kids, but Layla liked it. She really thought the man talking to us was a ghost and asked me twice- “was that real or fake?”. If your kids don’t get scared by loud noises or ghosts- absolutely take them to see the show.
We wanted to do the other theater but Jack wasn’t having it so we had to unfortunately skip the other show.
We did go into the White House Years exhibit which the kids loved. Here’s my girl and Daddy outside looking very Presidential.
It was fun taking a tour of gowns worn when the Lincolns were in the White House. I asked the kids which one was there favorite but Layla said “I would not wear ANY of those”. She’s more of a sneakers and t-shirt kind of girl.
This was such a cool scene of Lincoln’s cabinet reacting to the Emancipation Proclamation. Obviously the kids didn’t get it but thought the scene and room were very cool. I would have loved to stand there and play “I spy” with them but there was a tour group behind us and I didn’t want to hold up the line.
I think the War Gallery was my favorite part of this museum. As a photographer I’m obsessed with old pictures and these do not disappoint.
The Gettysburg Gallery was also very cool. We live about 2 hours from the battlefield here in PA. When I told Layla this her eyes got SO big- it’s like a connection between our hometown in Illinois and our current home were made and Lincoln was there!
There is a lot to see in between the major exhibits/artwork in the museum. This particular one was a before/after casting of Lincoln’s face to show the difference a few years in the White House will make. Layla and Jack both liked touching the after- and of course they both had to “honk” his nose. I’ve heard it’s good luck to rub Abe’s nose so make sure you stop by and give it a try!
Layla looked at this hat for a long time. Obviously a signature piece in Lincoln’s wardrobe, she recognized how amazing it was to see one in person.
She also spent awhile checking this out. I love the look of curiosity and seriousness in her eyes when she makes a new discovery- she had that look several times at this museum.
The best part of this museum for the kids was Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic. If you take your kids to the museum I would definitely suggest doing this last. It is a kid safe and interactive area where your kids can basically touch everything and be a little loud.
They loved playing with the model of the Lincoln house-
And comparing heights.
They also have an ADORABLE dress up corner where kids can pretend to be both Mary and Abe. I’m so sad Jack wouldn’t dress up but he was just WAY too busy once he discovered the…
Lincoln Logs! Haha! Both kids liked building their cabin/towers.
There were a few museum employees in this area- one was guarding the doorway to make sure no one escaped without a parent (much appreciated – this was truly a place you could sit down and just watch your kids play) and another was playing a banjo by the play kitchen. So fun! If you visit the Attic, make sure you ask to use the “secret” door to leave.
Of course there is a gift shop when you walk out of the museum. We had to buy a top hat (how could you not?) and a few other things. Warning- the gift shop has lots of kid stuff so if you aren’t prepared to spend money…DO NOT walk in there. I could not resist this photo op (and spending $30 on stuff we absolutely did not need).
I’m so glad we made a trip to visit the museum. I can’t wait to go back when the kids are a little older and can get even more out of it. I asked Layla after the museum “What do you know about Lincoln?”. Her answer was “He was the President, he knows where Pennsylvania is and he got shot”. At least she learned a few things! I should also mention that the face of Lincoln is EVERYWHERE in Illinois and for the rest of our trip, the kids would point when they’d see him and say “Lincoln!”. 🙂