Location: Illinois’ capital city sits along old Route 66 and, as such, continues to be a central extension of the Midwest, just a three-hour drive from Chicago and 90 minutes from St. Louis. It’s accessible by air (American, United and Allegiant offer flights) and rail with Amtrak service from multiple cities, making it an easy option to convene with attendees and clients.
Must-Sees: Springfield is considered President Abraham Lincoln’s hometown with “the most Lincoln sites of any place in the world,” says Alicia Erickson, marketing specialist. “We are the site of the only home he ever owned, his former law office and the old state capitol.” As well, Springfield has the interactive and immersive Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, celebrating its 10th year in 2015 with a schedule of special programs. “My office can help planners set up tours of the historic sites for their attendees,” says Erickson, further noting that several spots are also available as event venues.
Other attractions include the recently restored Capitol Building where you “can watch politics in action,” the Lincoln Home, which is the only national park in Illinois and sits in a restored eight-block district, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana Thomas house, the most complete of his prairie-style designs.
Springfield is not just historic, though; there’s also been a recent revitalization with “interesting dining and unique local shops,” says Erickson. “We are a very navigable city and economical, so the dollar stretches here pretty well.”
Hotels & Convention Center: Part of that revitalization came last year when Country Inn & Suites decided to launch the first location in its new rebranded portfolio in Springfield. In total the town has 4,000 guest rooms, including more than 900 at the President Abraham Lincoln DoubleTree Hotel, which is connected to the recently renovated Prairie Capital Convention Center with 65,000 square feet of function space. There are a variety of more unique spots including the retro-inspired State House Inn and the Inn at 835, a historic B&B set on garden property with function space for banquets.
Restaurants: Springfield hosts more than 200 restaurants that “range from chains to local family-owned places and bargain to upscale,” says Erickson. Two of the newest additions are Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery and Engrained Brewing Company. The oldest in town goes to Maldaners, which provides a fresh twist using ingredients sourced from farmers markets. The same family invented the Cozy Dog (a hot dog on a stick) and celebrates the tradition at the Cozy Dog Drive In on Route 66, which is filled with memorabilia. Another Springfield tradition is the “horseshoe sandwich,” or bread topped with meat and french fries covered in cheese sauce. “Most restaurants here have their version of it,” Erickson says, though Darcy’s Pint is probably the favorite, serving 4,000 a week.
How the CVB Helps: “We are interested in making the process of booking meetings and events as easy as possible, so we do offer a lot of concierge services,” says Erickson. “We will plan off-site touring and develop itineraries, we can do registration booths on-site and offer prepromotion to build excitement and get more attendees.”