Sheryl Crow
The famed statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago’s Lincoln Park (photo by Jeremy Burgin)

Even to the casual observer, it’s easy to see how proud we are in Chicago of the late Illinois rail-splitter-turned-president, Abraham Lincoln. There are Chicago streets, parks, statues, entire neighborhoods (Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square), and countless business establishments that have been built or named in Lincoln’s honor.

Now, in a year when another lanky statesman from Illinois has been sworn in as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief, it just so happens that Honest Abe‘s 200th birthday is about to roll around. The exact date falls on February 12, and to no one’s surprise, Chicago is not about to let this bicentennial pass without a fuss. Below are some of the many ways you can celebrate the legacy of the Great Emancipator while taking in some important Illinois history at the same time.

Honest Abe at Navy Pier

When: Saturday, February 7 from noon – 5pm

Where: Navy Pier – Family Pavilion, 500 E. Grand Avenue

What: Join Abe Lincoln for a gathering of all things “Abe” including a replica of the Lincoln Memorial Sculpture and historical-character appearances.

How: Free admission

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Lincoln Bicentennial Tribute

When: Saturday, February 21 at 8pm and Tuesday, February 24 at 7:30pm

Where: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue

What: James Earl Jones narrates Copland’s inspirational Lincoln Portrait, written as part of the 1942 patriotic war effort. Also includes works by Robert Russell Bennet and the great American symphonic composer Roy Harris.

How: $17 – $199 per person admission

Happy Birthday Abe!

When: February 12, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Where: The Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark Street

What: Celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday at the Chicago History Museum. The official Lincoln Bicentennial kick-off and opening day of the Lincoln Treasures Exhibit includes photo opportunities with Abe, musical performances, and birthday cake. The family-friendly Lincoln Treasures exhibition commemorates the accomplished life and tragic death of Abraham Lincoln with the display of the museum’s prized Lincoln artifacts, including his pocket watch, desk, piano, and the bed in which he died.

How: Admission to the birthday party is one penny per person

Tall Man of Destiny: Images of Abraham Lincoln

When: February 7 – 28 (hours vary)

Where: 9th floor Special Collections Exhibition Hall at the Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.

What: In celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birth, the Chicago Public Library will present an exhibition on the myriad of images of President Abraham Lincoln.

How: Free admission

Holding Hands with History

When: February 5 – March 9

Where: The Pritzker Military Library, 610 N. Fairbanks Court

What: Kay Smith, Illinois Artist Laureate, presents a traveling art exhibit entitled “Holding Hands with History” celebrating the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln.

How: Free admission

Lincoln at 200

When: Ongoing


What: Two online “Web exhibitions” detailing Lincoln’s life and legacy.

How: Free

For more information on the Lincoln Bicentennial in Illinois, visit the state website of the bicentennial commission.

Update: Lincoln’s birthday bash was 200 years in the making, and President Obama is expected to return to Illinois’ capital on Thursday, February 12 to help celebrate. Events are being held all week long in Springfield to commemorate Lincoln’s birthday. Springfield is just 150 miles south of Chicago and is easily accessible by train. Check it out!

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