Illinois - South
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.