The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky, is a great place for the whole family to visit. This historic site features a visitor’s center with numerous Lincoln exhibits, a 19th century cabin, a Memorial, and over a mile of hiking trails through the land that the Lincoln family once owned. The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace was established as a National Park in July of 1916.
We love to take our kids to historical sites whenever we get the chance. Our children are school-aged so seeing the places where history unfolded helps reinforce what they are learning in school. We were fortunate to be able to visit the Lincoln Birthplace right around the time when our son was learning about the Civil War in school.
Plan on a couple of hours for your visit. To make a day of it, bring a picnic lunch and afterwards you can hike some of the trails. There are the three main sites of interest at the 116 acre Lincoln Birthplace National Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky:
- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Visitor Center
- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Building
- Sinking Spring
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Visitor Center
The Visitor’s Center is a great place to start your visit to the Lincoln Birthplace. There you can pick up a park map and talk with a park ranger. In addition, you can watch a 15 minute film on Lincoln’s early years in Kentucky.
There are several exhibits at the Visitor’s Center as well. You can learn about Abraham Lincoln’s geneology and see the Lincoln Family Bible. They also have a wonderful exhibit that teaches about what life was like for a pioneer around the time of Lincoln’s birth.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Building
There are 56 granite steps leading up to the Memorial Building, one for each year of Lincoln’s life. Dedicated in 1911, the Memorial Building was designed by John Russell Pope in the neo-classical style. Throughout the architecture of the building, you will find several groups of 16, honoring the fact that Lincoln was our 16th president. For example, there are 16 rosettes in the ceiling and 16 windows in the building.
On the exterior face of the Memorial Building is carved this quote
Over the log cabin where Lincoln was born
Destined to preserve the Union and to free the slave
A grateful people have dedicated this memorial
to unity, peace, and brotherhood among the states.
With malice toward none, with charity for all.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Symbolic Cabin
It is believed that the original cabin where Lincoln was born was torn down some time prior to his death in 1865. Although the actual cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born is long gone, the park services constructed the Symbolic Cabin on the site of the original one. The symbolic cabin is housed within the Memorial Building. You can walk around all sides of the 1 room cabin, but a chain barrier permits you from entering.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Sinking Spring
The Sinking Spring at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace was where the Lincoln family obtained their water. It was named as such because of the way the water fell into a pit and just disappeared into the earth. In fact the Lincoln Farm was known as Sinking Spring Farm because of this water source.
The Sinking Spring is located just down the hill from the Memorial Building. You will find the path to the springs not too far from the base of the steps to the memorial. There are signs posted to help you find it.
To preserve this historic site, the National Park Service asks that you don’t throw coins or trash into the springs.
Take a Virtual Tour of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park
If you don’t live near Hodgenville, Kentucky and are unable to visit, be sure to check out this video that takes you on a virtual tour of the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
Other Things To Do At The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
While the main attractions at the Lincoln Birthplace national park are the visitor’s center, and the symbolic cabin, there are plenty of other things to do as well.
- Have a picnic. At the east side of the park, there are picnic tables so you can enjoy a meal in the fresh air. So be sure to pack a picnic basket for your visit to the Lincoln Birthplace.
- Take a hike. There are 2 separate hiking trails to enjoy at the Lincoln Birthplace. The Boundary Oak Trail is just a third of a mile, forming a loop from the Visitor’s Center. It passes by the Sinking Spring, the Boundary Oak, and the Memorial Building. The second trail is the Big Sink Trail and it originates at the picnic area. It is a 1 mile loop.
- Become an Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Jr. Ranger. Kids can ask for a Jr. Ranger booklet at the Visitor’s Center. Once they complete the booklet, they can return it to the park for a badge and a certificate.
Don’t forget to get your National Park Passport Stamps.
The US National Park system has a fun passport system. Each National Park has a date stamp and many people find it fun to collect them. You can buy an official passport for a nominal fee, or you can do like I do, and just stamp it your travel journal.
The Lincoln Birthplace National Park is Free to Visit. (However, if you are bringing a school or tour group, you might want to call ahead and let them know you are coming.) To learn more or to plan your visit, check out the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park website.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of our 16th president, then you might want to check out the other Lincoln Memorial Sites around the country.
- Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob CreekAbraham Lincoln lived in a cabin on Knob Creek between the ages of 2 and 8. The Lincoln Boyhood Home is also a part of the National Park Service and is about 10 miles from the Lincoln Birthplace.
- Lincoln Boyhood National MemorialLocated just outside Lincoln City, Indiana, the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial site features a visitor center, the memorial cabin, the Lincoln Spring, working historical farm, and a pioneer cemetery.
- Abraham Lincoln Home in IllinoisThis historic site in Springfield Illinois was the home of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Visitors can tour the home which has been restored to look much as it did during Lincoln’s time.
- Gettysburg National CemeteryLincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the cemetery’s dedication in November of 1863.
- Ford’s Theatre National Historic SiteOn April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. This historic theatre still offers performances. In addition, you can tour the theatre and learn more about the fateful evening when our country lsost one of th
- Lincoln TombLocated in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, the Lincoln Tomb is the site of the burial of our 16th president, his wife, and three of their children.
- Lincoln MemorialThis iconic memorial in Washington DC is a must-see if you are in the area. We had seen the memorial in pictures and in movies, but it was much more impressive in person. I highly recommend seeing it lit up at night too if you are able.
So tell me… Have you ever visited the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace with your family? What was your favorite part? If you enjoyed reading about our adventures, I encourage you to follow our Road Trip Board on Pinterest. Until Next Time – Keep Exploring!