Did you know Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is an official state holiday in Illinois?
Check out 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 requested waivers for the day that the state eventually dropped the holiday 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’re looking for a Lincoln’s Birthday day trip …
Saturday, Feb. 10, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Lincolns4Lincoln Literacy Jam
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library, Springfield
To celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 215th birthday as well as his love of reading and life-long learning, the public is invited to the Lincolns4Lincoln Literacy Jam to benefit Compass for Kids. This special event especially for kids will happen Feb. 10 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the museum plaza, featuring storytime from celebrity readers, musical entertainment, a magician, local sports mascots, and more interactive activities for children. Admission is free (donations will be accepted for partner organizations).
Admission to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library is free on both Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 in honor of President Lincoln’s 215th birthday.
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, a.k.a. 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 Feb. 12. Looking ahead, these facilities will also be closed on Feb. 19, in honor of Washington’s birthday, a.k.a. Presidents Day.
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.
Lincoln sites in Springfield and Charleston
We’ve got a whole article about visiting Springfield, less than 90 minutes west of Champaign-Urbana via I-72. Here are two Lincoln highlights:
Take a tour (virtual or in-person) of 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 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can pick up free tour passes for that day when you arrive.
Visit the museum – Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield
With free admission celebrating Lincoln’s birthday on both Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 this year, it’s a great time to plan a visit to this museum in Springfield. Reserve your tickets (even the free ones) here.
Or travel about an hour south of Champaign-Urbana:
Check out the Lincoln Log Cabin near Charleston. Walk around the outdoor grounds, pop into the Visitor’s Center, and even experience Living History programming at certain times of the year. Get the scoop on the website.