Few destinations are as well endowed with Visitor Centers as Springfield. While some are linked to one specific site and others promote tourism statewide, all can answer questions on area attractions, restaurants, hotels, events, public transportation or just the location of the nearest pharmacy. For access information on the centers themselves, see their individual listings under Attractions.
Springfield's numbered streets, which run north-south, begin at the longitude of the State Capitol and extend to 32nd Street on the east side of the city. Street numbers start at State and Madison downtown. State Street divides east and west addresses and Madison Street divides north and south addresses. Even-numbered addresses are on the west and north sides of the streets and odd-numbered addresses on the south and east sides.
In downtown Springfield, parking meters are free nights and weekends. Between 9 am to 5 pm, do remember to feed the meter or risk a fine. Of course, those with disability parking permits may park free at meters anywhere in Illinois except for those limited to 30 minutes or less. Watch out also for day/hour sign restrictions.
Why drive from site to site when there's a public bus that makes a loop of Springfield's popular historic attractions and downtown hotels? The buses are lift-equipped and run every half hour from April 15-Labor Day and hourly otherwise. The service is available from 8:15 am to 5:45 pm except Sunday. Inexpensive day passes may be purchased on the bus. For additional information, call 217-522-5531 V/TTY or visit www.smtd.org/.
This not-for-profit organization is dedicated to preserving, promoting and enhancing Springfield's historic central business district. Its website lists upcoming events, many of which are sponsored by DSI itself such as the Downtown Springfield Art Walk, Old Capitol Farmers' Market and Old Capitol Blues and BBQ. There are also convenient listings for downtown shops and restaurants at www.downtownspringfield.org.
Topping the list of new, exciting attractions is Southwind Park, set to open in summer 2010. This fully inclusive recreational facility, located on the city's south side, also meets the top environmental standards. While it's owned and run by the Springfield Park District, funding Southwind Park took a true community effort and testifies to Springfield's commitment to inclusion. Also opening in 2010 is the National Museum of Surveying, located at 521 E. Washington St. opposite the Old State Capitol. The Korean War National Museum has already opened its Dennis J. Healy Freedom Center at 9 Old State Capitol Plaza. The exhibits here will eventually move to the permanent museum at 5th and Madison. Access information on both new museums will be included in future editions of this guide.
As a service to visitors with disabilities, a group of local churches and synagogues prepared a brochure listing 11 wheelchair accessible houses of worship in the downtown area. For each venue there is general information as well as a list of access features such as hearing assist systems and adapted restrooms. Entitled "Downtown Springfield Churches and Synagogues," the brochure is available from the Springfield Illinois CVB.
First-time diners in Springfield may notice a strange item on the menu, the Horseshoe. This lethal culinary wonder consists of sourdough toast topped with meat (ham, hamburger, steak, chicken or pork), then covered with a mound of French fries and topped off with a cheese sauce. A smaller version is called a Ponyshoe; a whopping one, a Clydesdale. Other fast food firsts for Springfield include the invention of the deep fried corn dog on a stick—you can sample one at the Cozy Dog Drive-In—and the first ever drive-through restaurant, the Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop at 118 N. Pasfield.
The Old Capitol Farmers' Market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday morning, 8 am to 12:30 pm, from mid-May to October 30th. Located on E. Adams between 3rd and 5th Streets, the market features a wide variety of fresh produce, baked goods, cheeses and other specialty items. It's a lively scene, with local artisans, live music and chef demonstrations. Even if you're staying in a hotel and can't cook, this is a great place to buy fruit, flowers for the room and gifts to take home such as handmade soaps and craft items. It's also the best place to meet the locals and find out where they like to eat.
Chicago may be world famous for its music and culinary festivals, but the Illinois State Capital also knows how to put on a show. Annual events include the Springfield Highland Games & Celtic Festival, Art of Illinois Wine Garden, Old Capitol Art Fair, SOHO Music Festival, International Carillon Festival, Capital City Celebration, Taste of Downtown, Old Capital Blues & BBQ, International Route 66 Mother Road Festival and Greater Downstate Indoor Bluegrass Music Festival. Of course, the biggest festival of all is the Illinois State Fair, held for 10 days each August. For a complete listing of Springfield area events, go to www.visit-springfieldillinois.com.
Too busy to take a guided tour? Thanks to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, you can now use your cell phone to get information on a number of historic sites around Springfield such as Union Station, Old State Capitol, Lincoln Law Office and Illinois State House. Just dial 217-213-3003 and follow the prompts. The only charge is for cell phone usage.