Sightseeing in Normal

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Less than 90 minutes from St. Louis, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum houses the world’s largest collection of original Lincoln artifacts, complete with the Gettysburg Address. A life-size replica of Lincoln’s log cabin set back in a forest of artificial trees stands 40 feet tall just like the President’s iconic top hat. The museum also houses a re-creation of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre, where the president was assassinated, and the state-of-the-art Union Theater, which projects films such as Lincoln’s Eyes, a broad overview of Lincoln’s personal and political life with a special focus on slavery. In the Ghosts of the Library exhibit, transparent phantoms of Lincoln and his contemporaries drift around powered by Holavision technology. Youngsters, supervised by parents, can try on period dress, pose for photos with life-size cutouts of young Abe, or reenact historic scenes in the Lincoln Home dollhouse located in Mrs. Lincoln’s attic, the hands-on learning center. Before heading home, patrons can browse the museum store—more than 3,500 square feet of artifact replicas and Lincoln-themed merchandise.

112 N 6th St
Springfield,
IL
US

Throughout the Halloween season, mad scientists overrun a section of SciTech Hands On Museum to construct a haunted laboratory. The 20- to 25-minute, ghoul-infested journey hijacks 200 of the museum's interactive exhibits and exploits the brainpower of the museum's Fermilab physicist founders to create an experience as terrifyingly educational as a pre-calc class taught by a wild boar. Adults and older children brave enough to step across the spooky threshold will encounter wispy tendrils of smoke and fluttering strobe lights winding up and down the museum's two floors. Bubbling beakers, freakish goblins, the George Foreman Grill, and other byproducts of experiments gone horribly awry loom in the museum's shadowy corridors. Once troops have braved the Haunted Museum, the main museum awaits, where guests can interact with noncursed exhibits or slip into the gift shop or café.

18 W Benton St
Aurora,
IL
US

Johansen Farms started more than 85 years ago, when Hans Johansen and his family immigrated to Illinois from Copenhagen. Upon their arrival, the family started to grow and sell flowers and vegetables, slowly transforming their business from a roadside farm stand into a flourishing plant empire.

Today, sunlight filters into Johansen Farms’ 24 greenhouses, illuminating scarlet petals and verdant tendrils as they rise from beds of moist earth. Within these humid growing centers, gardeners cultivate more than 2,000 varieties of plants and flowers, from blooming annuals to hearty grasses. Guests meander at will, stopping to sniff baby flower buds and eye appetizing fruits and veggies.

710 E Boughton Rd
Bolingbrook,
IL
US

The Illinois Theatre Center enthralls audiences with a wide range of theatrical performances that range from offbeat musicals to retellings of classic dramas. The Spitfire Grill, a musical adaptation of director Lee David Zlotoff's award-winning film, revisits the tale of a young woman recently released from prison who gets a second lease on life and a studio apartment. Wistful comedy Heroes centers on the lives of three war veterans living in an old folks' home who spend their final days reminiscing about ration-packet picnics. All performances are held in an intimate 179-person theater.

371 Artists Walk
Park Forest,
IL
US

In 1961, 30 artists banded together to form the Naperville Art League in the hopes of nurturing community appreciation of arts and culture. The optimistic, determined bunch gathered in the basement of the First National Bank of Naperville and held art classes in their own homes, not annexing an official space until 1978. Today, a group of painters, photographers, and sculptors carries on the tradition of interartist camaraderie and education in better-equipped digs. A spacious gallery hosts art shows, as well as a monthly exhibit of members' work created around a theme, such as Fabulous Fakes or Changing Lanes. Artists also infect the community with a passion for the arts by teaching classes for adults and children. In addition to traditional styles such as oil painting and pen drawing, artists acquaint groups with esoteric art forms such as mosaics, needle felting, or collaging shredded bank statements.

508 N Center St
Naperville,
IL
US

The "Amara" in Amara Yoga & Arts is a shortened version of "Amaranth," which alludes to a mythological flower that never dies. Studio co-owners Theresa Brandabur and Kathryn Fitzgerald believe that yoga brings people a step closer to that immortal flower, healing their bodies and restoring peace to their minds.

Their students tend to agree. Natural light filters in through the tall windows of the Urbana studio, illuminating these students as they work through challenging Vinyasa poses and gentler Hatha movements. Amara Yoga & Arts also offers a revolving calendar of yoga classes, including restorative, gentle, Hot and Power Flow, as well as Ashtanga.

300 S Broadway Ave
Urbana,
IL
US