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.
Art & More provides a plethora of options for Hawkeyes fans to display their devotion without resorting to elaborate Alan Alda tattoos. Hang a locker-room jersey print on a wall or coat rack ($29.99), or spot yourself in the crowd of the Kinnick Stadium triple-view print ($24.99). Baseball, basketball, and racing fans can find abode adornments at Art & More, as can the non-athletically inclined, with architecture, humor, inspirational, vintage, and movie prints also available. Art & More will custom frame any artwork for an additional fee, saving the trouble of licking the backs of posters before pasting them on envelope-thin walls.
The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home lets you get a true feel for the 40th president's life as a child. The restored home was originally built in 1891 and was home to Ronald Reagan and his family in the early 1920s. Visitors can take guided tours of the home to see young Reagan?s bedroom and find old the secret hiding place for his pennies or the new secret hiding place for George Washington's ghost. A visitor center contains four rooms of photos and a display of the Reagan presidential timeline, and a gift shop sells memorabilia and T-shirts. Outside, a flower and vegetable garden showcases heritage plants, and check out Bessy, the refurbished Model T Ford that's not unlike the car Reagan's family would have driven.
By highlighting the goings-on in the community of Joliet, The Joliet Area Historical Museum scans the entirety of American history from the perspective of the town's inhabitants. Housed inside the former Ottawa Street Methodist Church, multimedia exhibits artfully assembled from audio-visual displays, touch screens, and life-size models illustrate the stories plucked from the eventful timelines of the town and its people. Occupying two full stories, permanent exhibit The Soaring Achievements of John C. Houbolt honors the life and work of former resident Dr. Houbolt, who had a primary role in NASA's race to the moon. The exhibit's life-size Lunar Lander even allows guests to step inside and glimpse the accommodations and controls, revealing a control panel more complicated than a single button labeled "Go to Moon." In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also keeps an active calendar full of special events; check the schedule for a complete list of programming.
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.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Average Duration of Services: 1?2 hours
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Guided tours
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable shoes.
What are the museum's origins?
The museum has been operating since Mrs. Ellwood donated the mansion and property to the DeKalb Park District; currently, the estate consists of seven historic structures and 10 acres. A guided tour takes 60 to 90 minutes. Guided tours are the only option for seeing the museum.
What is one fun, unusual fact about your business?
The mansion was built in 1879 from [the] income Isaac Ellwood received from his half ownership in the first barbed-wire manufacturing company.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
The 1891 playhouse is a scale model of a Victorian home and once served as a parade float for the builder to showcase his home-building skills. By the late 1800s, it was acquired by the Ellwoods and became a playhouse. Entering the little building is part of the tour, but it is not handicap accessible. There is an 1865 cemetery located just beyond the woods.