We are fortunate in Illinois to be the starting point of America’s most famous road: Route 66! Starting on Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, it goes all the way downstate and certainly has roadside attractions across the Prairie State. If you’re buckling up for a trip to L.A. on the Mother Road, here’s some information from Enjoy Illinois on how to maximize your trip in Illinois!
Chicago to Joliet: The Mother Road Begins
- Begin Route 66 Sign: You’ll begin your legendary journey in the heart of downtown Chicago at the very start of Route 66. Snap the perfect first selfie as you begin your 300-mile descent down the Mother Road at the iconic Route 66 Begin sign on E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago.
- Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket: Before you get too far, it’s time for a little grub at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket. Dell Rhea’s in Wilmington has been serving up some of the best fried chicken on Route 66 since it opened as a gas station lunch counter in the summer of 1946. Since then, it’s been inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame, drawing guests from around the world with their original delicious recipe. Image above!
Joliet to Bloomington: The History of Route 66
No Route 66 journey is complete without a visit to one (or all) of the Mother Road’s classic museums. A must-see is the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, packed full with the finest memorabilia associated with the history of Route 66. Among the artifacts, you’ll find the bus and van of Route 66 icon, Bob Waldmire—a true legend of the Mother Road. Step around back for a photo op with the World’s Largest Route 66 shield.
Bloomington to Springfield: Finding the Kitsch on Route 66
- Paul Bunyon Hotdog Statue: Some of Illinois’ best roadside relics lie in wait on this stretch of the Mother Road. In Atlanta, snap a photo with the 19-ft. Paul “Bunyon” clutching a giant hot dog. One of Route 66’s mythic roadside attractions, several of these giants still proudly grace the Mother Road. After your photo, head across the street for a quick bite at favorite The Palms Grill Café, featuring classic faire from the golden age Route 66. Save room for some pie.
- World’s Largest Covered Wagon: A little way down the road in Lincoln, catch a glimpse of the World’s Largest Covered Wagon, complete with a very large – and very studious – Abraham Lincoln statue. The Railsplitter Covered Wagon is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest covered wagon in the world, standing a towering 24 feet tall.
Springfield to Litchfield: Sodas, Diners & Drive Ins
- Cozy Dog Drive In: Corndogs – a marvel of the modern world. But have you ever wondered who decided to put these deep-fried delights on a stick in the first place? Well here they are. Part Drive In, part Route 66 museum, make sure to plan a stop in for this Mother Road favorite.
- Doc’s Soda Fountain: Heading into Litchfield, cut over to the Old Route 66 and take the fabled Auburn Brick Road to Girard’s. Voted #4 Best Soda Fountain across America by Country Living Magazine, Girard’s is the best way to get refreshed before the next leg of your trip.
- Sky View Drive-In Theater: End your day with a visit to the Sky View Drive-In Theater on the other side of Route 66. The last of its kind, Sky View is the only remaining original operating drive-in theater on the Illinois stretch of Route 66. During warmer months, you can enjoy the classic dancing hotdogs and a double-feature for just five bucks. If that’s not worth a trip, we don’t know what is.
Litchfield to Collinsville: The Final Miles of Illinois Route 66
- Henry’s Rabbit Ranch: Before you close out your trip, you’ll want to swing by one of the southern stretch’s more curious attractions, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. Equal parts roadside attraction, visitor center and rabbit ranch, it’s well worth a visit. Look for the VW Rabbits sticking up out of the ground.
- The Bridge to Route 66: Your journey ends at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge out of Collinsville. Built in 1927, it’s the fifth bridge to cross the Mississippi River and the perfect final selfie as you close the book on your Illinois Route 66 adventure.