Dixon, Ilinois is a small city, with a wealth of American history. It’s the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln joined the Illinois militia, right in Dixon, during the Black Hawk War. After you visit and learn about Dixon’s presidential history, you can tour the John Deere cabin to see a real blacksmithing shop and get a glimpse of what life was like here, in the 1800’s.
When you’re ready to relax and take a break from all the American history, Dixon also has tranquil nature preserves, where you can see the quiet beauty of its natural surroundings. Dixon, Illinois has family activities, where visitors can learn about history and then take a quiet walk through nature. It’s just what you might need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of summer vacation days. Read on to learn more about the best things to do:
1. Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center
Take a tour of Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home and learn about his life in the Dixon community at the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center. The Reagans moved to Dixon, on December 6th, 1920, when Ronald was about 10 years old. He lived there until he was 22 and graduated from Eureka College.
At this site, you can learn about what community activities he was a part of, and how his boyhood in Dixon helped to shape him into the president he became. The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 am to 4 pm. It’s also open Sundays, from 1 pm to 4 pm. It’s closed Mondays, excluding July 3rd, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center
Address: 816 S Hennepin Ave, Dixon, IL 61021
2. Reagan Peace Park
This area was built to commemorate the end of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and to recognize the incredible effort President Ronald Reagan made to obtain worldwide peace and freedom for everyone. The park features a sculpture entitled, “The Wings of Peace Statue,” donated by a Bulgarian immigrant. There is also a full-size replica of a piece of the Berlin Wall, at the park.
Reagan Peace Park
Address: S. Galena Avenue and Second Street, Dixon, IL, 61021
Website: Reagan Peace Park
3. Ronald Reagan Trail
The Ronald Reagan Trail is a group of highways that connects villages and towns that were important to the former president. The trail was established in 1999 by the state of Illinois General Assembly. The trail takes the shape of a triangle and includes important sites from 13 communities in Northwest Illinois. The trail goes through these sites from Monmouth to Eureka, Peoria to Tampico/Dixon, and Princeton to Galesburg.
Ronald Reagan Trail
Address: Dixon, IL 61021
Website: Ronald Reagan Trail
4. Lincoln Statue and Historical Marker
This statue is made of bronze and was made to commemorate Lincoln’s 1832 service in the Illinois militia in the Black Hawk War. The statue was sculpted by Leonard Crunelle and depicts the future president as a 23-year-old man, when he was the captain of a company of volunteer militia. The statue is located in President’s Park, in Dixon. It is the only statue made of Lincoln, in uniform.
Lincoln Statue and Historical Marker
Address: Lincoln Statue Drive, Dixon, IL, 61021
Website: Lincoln Statue and Historical Marker
5. John Deere Historic Site
Take a step back in time at the John Deere Historic Site. In 1837, a man named John Deere, (yes, THAT John Deere), set up a blacksmithing shop. John Deere worked day in and day out to develop the first commercially successful steel plow. As a visitor, you can watch blacksmith demonstrations and discover the Deere family home, where he and his wife lived with eight children and up to six blacksmith apprentices. Plan to spend an entire afternoon here, as you tour the period machinery, and the furniture displays found in the Deere family home.
This site is four acres (1.6 hectares) and open March through December. During these months, the site is open from Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays, from noon to 4 pm. It is closed on major holidays.
John Deere Historic Site
Address: 8334 S Clinton St, Dixon, IL 61021
Website: John Deere Historic Site
6. Lowell Park Nature Center
The nature around Dixon is serene. Lowell Park is a 200-acre (81 hectare) woodland park, near Rock River. There are hiking trails, picnic areas, and beautiful drives within the park. Visitors to the nature center can see exhibits of plants, native to the area, as well as wildlife. You can also see live demonstrations, featuring birds of prey. The nature center is staffed 40 hours a week, is wheelchair accessible and they also offer educational programs.
Lowell Park Nature Center
Address: 2114 Lowell Park Rd, Dixon, IL 61021
Website: Lowell Park Nature Center
7. Amboy Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is a 272 acre (110.1 hectare) wildlife preserve. The land here is very wet, and home to several springs. The area offers safety to species of endangered turtles, rare plants, amphibians, and many different types of birds. It is open seven days a week for walking and bird-watching.
Amboy Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Address: 1701 Morman Road, Amboy, Illinois 61310
Website: Amboy Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
8. Plum Hollow Recreation Center
Get your adrenaline pumping at the Plum Hollow Recreation Center. This center has a 9-hole miniature golf course, a 2,500 square foot (232.3 square meter) laser tag area, bowling, beach volleyball, and rock climbing.
Prices range from 3.75 - 5.00 USD, for the different activities. Hours vary, depending on the day, so check their website for more details.
Plum Hollow Recreation Center
Address: 1933 IL-26, Dixon, IL 61021
Website: Plum Hollow Recreation Center
Dixon, Illinois: A place in American history
Dixon is a city of about 15,000, but it occupies an important place in American history. This is a city where you can take a long weekend and learn about American period history, as you interact with it. After your learning time is done, relax in the peaceful settings of Lowell Park and the Amboy Marsh preserve. There are several hotels, and multiple places to eat in Dixon. Dixon may be a small city, but it will make a big impact on any visitor.
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