Did you know Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is an official state holiday?
Check out the ways to observe Lincoln’s birthday in Central Illinois
Back in the day, Presidents Day wasn’t celebrated in the state of Illinois. No, in the Land of Lincoln, school was closed to honor Honest Abe’s birthday on or around Feb. 12.
For the most part, that practice has gone the way of the ditto machine. According to a Chicago Tribune columnist, so many school districts had requested waivers for the day that the state dropped the requirement. (But there are still state offices that are closed — more on that below.)
Presidents Day — which is actually the observance of George Washington’s birthday — was declared a federal holiday in 1879 and moved to the third Monday in February in 1968.
If you are up for a Lincoln-related day trip …
Sunday, Feb. 12, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Lincoln’s Birthday event
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library, Springfield
Sunday, Feb. 12, marks 214 years since Abraham Lincoln was born in a small Kentucky cabin. Come help celebrate the big day — FREE! There’s no cost to visit the museum on his birthday, and President Lincoln himself will stop by to mingle with guests.
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 10 a.m. – Little Lincoln’s Fireside Tales: Birthdays
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library, Springfield (in-person or virtual)
What is one thing we all have in common? We all have birthdays! And in February, Little Lincoln’s Fireside Tales comes together to celebrate a BIG one: the 214th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Join Miss Hayley and the Education Team for an epic birthday bash on Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. in the ALPLM Library’s classroom that celebrates all birthdays and honors our favorite book worm and president.
This is a free program, but advance registration is required.
Can’t attend in person? Check out the virtual option on Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. via Zoom.
What is closed?
The state of Illinois still “observes” Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday. In some pockets around the state — especially Springfield and Chicago — there are significant closings of state offices, courthouses and more.
But in Champaign-Urbana, the “celebration” is very muted. Courthouses are open; state offices appear to be open as well. (When in doubt, call. We haven’t scanned every state office in the area.)
The DMV, aka the Illinois Secretary of State Facilities in Champaign, Rantoul, Monticello, and Tuscola (as well as the rest of the offices all over the state) will be closed on Saturday, Feb. 11. In addition, these facilities will be closed on Saturday, Feb. 18, in honor of Washington’s birthday a.k.a. Presidents Day. (The Secretary of State Facilities are always closed on Mondays.)
Learning about Lincoln in Champaign-Urbana and Champaign County
While we will never be confused with Springfield, it can’t be denied that Champaign-Urbana played a major role in President Abraham Lincoln’s early life. More accurately, make that Champaign County and more specifically, Urbana. (Champaign wasn’t actually incorporated until 1860, the year before Lincoln left Illinois for the White House.)
Find the house where Lincoln slept in Urbana (404 W. Illinois St.). Abraham Lincoln stayed overnight as a guest in the house of Ezekiel Boyden, a two-time mayor of Urbana, on Sept. 24, 1858. The house actually sat at a different address in those days.
Go on an Abraham Lincoln scavenger hunt. There are several Lincoln statues and monuments in Champaign-Urbana. The most famous ones are those in Carle Park (visible from Race Street) and the famous bust, located appropriately enough in Lincoln Hall on the University of Illinois campus. Also on campus, there’s a newer Lincoln statue outside the Alice Campbell Alumni Center off (appropriately enough) Lincoln Avenue in Urbana.
Other Lincoln sites in Central Illinois include, of course, Springfield. Check out our article about what to do in Springfield.
All year long
Take a tour (virtual or in-person) through the Lincoln home in Springfield. Now is a great time to “tour” this national site for free — virtually! The virtual tour is available by clicking here. Want to visit the home in person? This National Historic Site is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can pick up tour passes for that day when you arrive.
Take a field trip – Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield
With free admission on Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, it’s a great time to plan a visit to this museum in Springfield. Reserve your tickets (even the free ones) here.
Lincoln Log Cabin, Charleston
Visit the Visitor’s Center at the Lincoln Log Cabin near Charleston. Walk around the outdoor grounds while you’re there. Get the scoop on the website here.