We drove my car from Chicago area to Springfield on a Monday, April 13, 2009. Mickey drove first, and she had the most difficult drive simply because of all the construction in the Chicago area. I drove the last part of the journey as well as within the Springfield area when we went well out of the historic district.
You can take the Amtrack train from Chicago to Springfield; however, if you plan to go to Lincoln's Tomb, Lincoln's, the War Memorials, Route 66 sites, or Lincoln's Memorial Gardens, you need a car.
The drive from my home in the northern suburb of Chicago to Springfield historic district took us about four and a half hours because of all the construction.
Another great plus of staying at the Hilton Springfield Hotel and the gold card status was that we had an indoor parking facility. We paid for self-parking with as many in and out as needed. Cost for self park is $15.00 per day. Valet parking is more expensive.
Springfield is 175 miles from Chicago, 2 1/2-3 hours depending on traffic. We didn't hit any traffic outside the Chicago area on I55, it's a REALLY boring drive once you get past Kankakee, flat and full of farms. If you have a lot of time, you might look up directions on how to drive down historic Route 66 and travel through some of the small towns along the way, Route 66 is no longer marked on maps.
Once we got to the museum, we found a parking spot on the street just north of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, there is also a parking garage on 6th Street between Madison and Mason Streets. The current rate is $1.50 per hour.
Springfield can be reached fairly easily from Chicago. You can simply rent a car from Chicago. The trip takes about 3-4 hours. You'll get to drive through very flat lands and see the heart of the Corn Belt region. If you take I-55, you will be driving on parts of the historic Route 66, so there are historic landmarks (gas stations, restaurants and diners, motels, etc.) in tiny towns along the way.
However, Amtrak's St. Louis to Chicago train stops here. There is also a small airport, but it is often cheaper to fly into St. Louis.
You'll need a car. There is a bus system, but it probably wouldn't meet a tourist's needs.
I live in Kansas so we drove to Springfield, Illinois. It is a short drive North of St. Louis, Missouri.
Many things to see in the city were close enough together to walk to. You would need a car to go to the cemetary and the tomb or drive the 20 miles to New Salem.
Interstate Highway I-55 runs to the heart of Springfield, as does Interstate Highway I-72. If coming from far away, where driving is not an option, I suggest flying into St. Louis (100 miles away) and renting a car to finish the drive.
Amtrak is very reliable to Springfield as is Greyhound bus lines.
Our airport is very expensive. It is completely safe and reliable, just unbelievably expensive.
Renting a car is a good option. It allows you to visit places like New Salem State Park that the Springfield city bus line does not serve.