fun things to do with kids in illinois - family travel   Travel for Kids
united states


mississippi river paddlewheeler
Illinois, the Prairie State," is home to the third largest city in the United States - Chicago, which is filled with fun things to do with kids. But there are other places to explore outside the big city: step into frontier days in living history villages, relive the days of Mark Twain on a paddleboat cruise, and explore the mysterious “mound people” pre-Columbian settlements.
    Paddleboat River Cruises – In the 19th century, the rivers of Illinois, including the Mississippi River, were a primary form of transportation, carrying passengers, crates and barrels, goods and news. Today kids will enjoy a one hour sightseeing cruise on an authentic paddleboat.
    Lincoln’s New Salem (Petersburg) – Abe Lincoln arrived in New Salem in 1831, and spent six years in the town as a storekeeper, postmaster, land surveyor, boatman, lawyer and state representative. Visit Lincoln’s New Salem to see what life was like in Illinois when he was twenty something – blacksmith and cooper shops, log houses with period furnishings, a sawmill, the school, green fields and split rail fences.
    Lewis and Clark State Historic Site (Hartford, near Alton) – Lewis and Clark officially launched their voyage of exploration on May 14, 1804 from Camp River Dubois (also called Camp Wood) here in Illinois. This camp is site #1 of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
      In the visitor center, check out the replica of the 55 ft keelboat Lewis and Clark took down the Missouri River, plan what supplies you’d need to take, see if you have the qualifications to volunteer for the expedition, look through telescopes at wild undiscovered western scenes. In a re-creation of the Winter Camp, kids can see the rustic wooden fort where the explorers lived, before getting on the boat.
    Cahokia Mounds (near Collinsville) – A thousand years ago, Cahokia was an impressive city of more than 10,000 people, with a huge earthen pyramid and central plaza, temple and burial mounds, and hundreds of thatched houses. The city was deserted by 1350, and gradually covered by grass and trees. In the 19th century, archeologists began to excavate the mounds, and slowly peeled away the clues to this lost culture.
      Today, when you visit Cahokia Mounds, kids can run up the steps to the top of Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthworks in America. Look over the central plaza area and imagine a bustling ceremonial center with widspread trade and farming.
      The Interpretive Center has exhibits that reconstruct the city from archeological evidence (the Cahokia “mound people” apparently had no writing). Pick up maps of self-guided trails around the site. There's a picnic area, and across the road is “woodhenge,” stakes in a circle aligned with the winter and summer solstice.
kids books illinois
abe lincolns hat  
Abe Lincoln's Hat
Martha Brenner, Brooke Smart

When Abe Lincoln became a lawyer in 1836, he worked in Springfield, Illinois state capitol. Lincoln had lots of cases, but he couldn't keep track of all the paperwork. He always wore a tall hat, so he put all the papers in his hat, as a reminder. He was popular lawyer, who defended black people, and knew horses and Mississippi river flatboats, as well as the law. New elected as president, when Lincoln arrived in Washington DC, he had his tall hat! (Picture book)


I am Abe Lincoln
Brad Meltzer

When Lincoln was young, boys were expected to work on the farm and hunt, but most of all Lincoln loved to read books and the power of words changed his life. He also stood up for doing the right thing, even when it's hard. Lincoln ended slavery and was one of America's greatest presidents. "I am not bound to win but I am bound to be true." (Picture book)


i am abraham lincoln
who was abraham lincoln  
Who Was Abraham Lincoln?
Janet B. Pascal, John O'Brien

Illustrated biography of Abraham Lincoln, growing up in the Midwest, reading to take his law license, lawyer in Springfield fighting to end slavery, joys and sadness in family life, leadership in the Civil War, untimely death, one of most beloved presidents in United States history. (Chapter book)


How We Crossed the West
Rosalyn Schanzer

Excellent overview of the Corps of Discovery expedition to search for a river route across the United States. In May 1804, the expedition departed Fort Wood, and started up the Missouri River – a year and a half later, they reached the Pacific Ocean. Action-filled illustrations, in Lewis and Clark’s own words. (Picture book)


How We Crossed the West - kids books Lewis and Clark illinois
what was the lewis and clark expedition
What Was the Lewis & Clark Expedition
Judith St. George, Tim Foley

Exciting history of the two-year Lewis & Clark expedition through the roughest country in the West, navigating dangerous rivers, meeting hostile Indians, enduring hunger, endless rain, blizzards, grizzly bears and more. (Illustrated chapter book)


The Journey
Sarah Stewart, David Small

A young girl visits Chicago, each day contrasting her big city experiences with life on the farm in rural Illinois. Gorgeous illustrations express a quiet, lasting appreciation of the Amish community. (Picture book)


The Journey illinois childrens books
a long way from chicago  

Young Joey and his sister Mary Alice spend summers with their Grandma in a small hick town in Illinois, but life is far from dull. Grandma, one tough, smart old lady, outwits the local bad boy bullies, rescues her neighbor in a tornado, and hosts a funeral to remember. Filled with humor and warmth, both books are great reads! (Chapter book)


Where Lincoln Walked
Raymond Bial

See the actual places where Lincoln lived in Illinois – his dry goods store in New Salem, his law office and Lincoln home in Springfield (including the parlor where the kids' played, and desk where Lincoln wrote his speeches), courthouses and state capitol. Super photographs. (Picture book)


illinois childrens books Where Lincoln Walked
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