One of the biggest mysteries on Fox's hit comedy "The Simpsons" is not who shot Mr. Burns (that was Maggie), but the home state of the cartoon family, who reside in "Springfield" -- one of the more common names for U.S. cities. Indeed, using a state-by-state Mapquest search, we found 53 Springfields in 34 states. In honor of the show's 16th season, set to begin next Sunday (Nov. 7), we went in search of Homer & Co.'s stomping grounds, choosing three Springfields that would appeal to travelers -- and Bart, Lisa, Marge, etc.
-- Andrea Sachs
* WHERE: Smack in the middle of the Prairie State.
* GO BECAUSE . . . Illinois's capital boasts the State Capitol (old and new), where you can see legislators in action and more than four score of Lincoln history. Sites include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (112 N. Sixth St., 217-558-8844, www.alincoln-library.com; free), which opened Oct. 14; Lincoln's Home (413 S. Eighth St., 217-492-4241 Ext. 221, www.nps.gov/liho; free); the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices (Sixth and Adams, 217-785-7960; free), where Lincoln practiced law; and the Lincoln Tomb (Oak Ridge Cemetery, 217-782-2717; free), the first family's resting place.
* SIMPSONS PICKS: For Lisa -- and other jazz and blues lovers -- clubs include Jazz Central Station (700 E. Adams-Hilton) and Norb Andy's Tabarin (518 E. Capitol) . . . Mr. Burns might enjoy the Museum of Funeral Customs (1440 Monument Ave., 217-544-3480, www.funeralmuseum.org; $3) . . . Maggie and other tots can visit the Hensen Robinson Zoo (1100 E. Lake Dr., 217-753-6217, www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org; $3.25).
* DOUGHNUTS, BEER, ETC.: Springfield has Mel-o-Creme Donuts (various locations) as well as numerous bars, such as Floyd's Thirst Parlor (210 S. Fifth St.) and Marly's Pub (9 SW Old State Capitol Pl.). The city is known for its Homerlicious sandwich called the "horseshoe" (burgers, fries, cheese sauce plopped atop a slice of bread); try one at local fave D'Arcy's Pint (2413 S. MacArthur Blvd.)
* INFO: Springfield Illinois Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-545-7300, www.visit-springfieldillinois.com.
* WHERE: On the border of Arkansas, less than 31/2 hours southwest of St. Louis.
* GO BECAUSE . . . This town that sits in the middle of Missouri's lake country, amid the Ozarks and a network of rivers, is all natural. Other wonders include Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Rd. 125, 417-833-2010; $17). Downtown is also jam-packed with green spaces, galleries, restaurants, theaters and wall murals. For history, you have military sites and museums from the Civil War on up.
* SIMPSONS PICKS: Faux-founder Jebediah Springfield would appreciate John Polk Campbell, the 26-year-old who established the town and scratched his initials in a tree. The trunk is now gone but the Grey/Campbell Farmstead (2400 S. Scenic Ave., 417-581- 8081; free) still stands as the oldest home in town . . . Santa's Little Helper is not among the 225 species at the Wonder of Wildlife Zooquarium (500 W. Sunshine St., 417-490-WILD, www.wondersofwildlife.org; $9.95), but he'd certainly have fun chasing the bobcats. . . . For Snake and other roadsters, Route 66 was born here, and traces of the Mother Road can be tracked around town
* DOUGHNUTS, BEER, ETC.: A doughnut shop for every day of the week, plus some: Gold-N-Glaze Donuts (2933 E. Chestnut Expy.), Baker's Dozen (2005 E Kearney St.) and Daylight Donuts (various locations). For a bit of the brew, try Springfield Brewing Co. (301 S. Market Ave.) or Fox and Hound (2035 E. Independence St.).What could be more fitting than Cartoons Bar and Grill (1614 S. Glenstone Ave.) for steaks and seafood?
* INFO: Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-678-8767, www.springfieldadventures.com.
* WHERE: About 30 miles north of Brattleboro, in the southern region.
* GO BECAUSE . . . It's New England by the book, with a Main Street listed on the National Register of Historic Places, winding rails-to-trails paths, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at the country club, even a skating rink in the Commons. There are also art studios, apple festivals and a B&B with dairy cows in the yard.
* SIMPSONS PICKS: The town is known as the "Cradle of Invention" (take note Homer, of the "Flaming Homer," armchair toilet, etc.) . . . The free James Hartness Russell Porter Astronomy Museum, in the Hartness House hotel (30 Orchard St., 800- 732-4789, http://hartnesshouse.com; reservations required), highlights telescope inventions. For Principal Skinner, a good field trip would be to the state's oldest one-room schoolhouse, the 1785 Eureka Schoolhouse on Route 11 (free). And as a final nod to the Simpsons and Springfield townsfolk, the Toonerville Trail is a three-mile bike path that links downtown to the Connecticut River -- and is named after a trolley that was named after a popular early 20th-century cartoon strip.
* DOUGHNUTS, BEER, ETC.: Mmm, Dunkin' Donuts (50 Clinton St.). But also, mmmm, sticky buns, scones and chocolate chip muffins at Morning Star Cafe (56 Main St.). The townies hang out at K.J's Place (3 Main St.) or knock one back at the Black Bear Pub (814 Charlestown Rd.), part of Howard Johnson's restaurant. For upscale, the Victorian dining room at the Hartness House (see above) serves quail, and Vermont cheddar and walnut ravioli.
INFO: Springfield Chamber of Commerce, 802-885-2779, www.springfieldvt.com.