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  • Writer's pictureNatalija Ugrina

Route 66 Illinois: The Best Attractions from Chicago to the Mississippi River

Route 66, often called the "Main Street of America," is a legendary highway that stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica. If you're planning a road trip along this iconic route, Illinois offers a treasure trove of Route 66 attractions in Illinois that will take you back in time. Starting from the bustling city of Chicago and driving west towards the Mississippi River, here's your guide to the must-see stops on Route 66 in Illinois.


route 66 pontiac mural

Chicago: The Start of Route 66 - Route 66 attractions in Illinois


Route 66 Begin Sign

Your journey begins at the famous "Begin Route 66" sign located at the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. This spot is perfect for a quick photo to commemorate the start of your adventure.


Route 66 Begin Sign
Route 66 Begin Sign

Lou Mitchell's Restaurant

Before hitting the road, fuel up at Lou Mitchell's, a Chicago institution since 1923. Known for its hearty breakfasts and friendly atmosphere, this diner has been a favorite stop for Route 66 travelers in Illinois for decades.


Berwyn: The World’s Largest Laundromat

The World’s Largest Laundromat

Just outside Chicago in Berwyn, you'll find the world's largest laundromat. This 13,500-square-foot facility is not only a place to do laundry but also a community hub with free pizza nights, a bird sanctuary, and even a library.



Cicero: Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum

Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum

As you continue your journey, stop by the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Cicero. This museum showcases memorabilia and artifacts that celebrate the history and culture of Route 66 attractions in Illinois.


Joliet: Rich History and Entertainment

Joliet Route 66 Diner

Joliet Prison
Joliet Prison

Grab a bite at the Joliet Route 66 Diner, a classic 1950s-style diner offering delicious comfort food in a nostalgic setting.


Rialto Square Theatre

Don’t miss the Rialto Square Theatre, an architectural gem built in 1926. This historic theater offers a glimpse into the opulence of the past with its stunning interior and grand performances.


Joliet Prison

Take a guided tour of the Old Joliet Prison, famously featured in movies and TV shows, including "The Blues Brothers." The prison's history and eerie atmosphere make it a unique stop on your journey.

Read more about it HERE.



Wilmington: The Gemini Giant

The Gemini Giant

The Gemini Giant
The Gemini Giant

In Wilmington, you'll encounter one of the most iconic Route 66 attractions in Illinois, the Gemini Giant. This towering statue of a spaceman stands in front of the Launching Pad Drive-In and is a perfect photo op.



Braidwood: Polk-a-Dot Drive In

Polk-a-Dot Drive In

Experience the charm of the 1950s at the Polk-a-Dot Drive In in Braidwood. Enjoy a classic American meal surrounded by life-size statues of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and other pop culture icons.

Dwight: Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station

In Dwight, visit Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, one of the best-preserved gas stations on Route 66 in Illinois. Built in 1933, it now serves as a visitor center where you can learn more about the history of the highway.


Dwight's Pioneer Gothic Church

While in Dwight, take a moment to admire the Pioneer Gothic Church, a beautiful structure built in 1857. Its unique architectural style and historical significance make it a must-see.


Odell: Historic Gas Station

Standard Oil Gas Station

Another well-preserved gas station awaits you in Odell. The Standard Oil Gas Station, built in 1932, is a charming piece of Route 66 history that offers a glimpse into the past.


Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell
Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell

Two-Cell Jail

In Odell, make a quick stop at the Two-Cell Jail, a tiny jailhouse built in 1906. This quirky historical site gives you a glimpse into the small-town justice system of the early 20th century.

Read more about it HERE.


Two-Cell Jail route 66
Two-Cell Jail

Pontiac: Murals and Museums

Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum

Pontiac is home to another Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, filled with exhibits that celebrate the people and places that made the highway famous.


Pontiac Murals

Stroll through downtown Pontiac to see the numerous colorful murals depicting the history and culture of Route 66. Each mural tells a unique story and adds a vibrant touch to the city.


Pontiac route 66
Pontiac

Pontiac Oakland Auto Museum

Car enthusiasts will love the Pontiac Oakland Auto Museum, showcasing a stunning collection of classic cars and memorabilia from the golden age of the automobile.


Read more about Pontiac HERE


Bloomington-Normal: Sprague's Super Service

Sprague's Super Service

Stop by Sprague's Super Service in Normal, a beautifully restored 1931 service station that now serves as a visitor center. The building's Tudor Revival architecture is a unique sight on Route 66.

route 66 gas station illinois


Atlanta: Bunyon’s Statue

Bunyon’s Statue

In Atlanta, you'll find Bunyon’s Statue, a giant fiberglass figure of a man holding a hot dog. This quirky landmark is another great photo opportunity on your Route 66 journey.


Lincoln: The Mill Museum

The Mill Museum

Visit The Mill Museum in Lincoln, a former restaurant turned museum that showcases the history of Route 66 and the local community. The building's distinctive architecture and fascinating exhibits make it a worthwhile stop.








Springfield: Abraham Lincoln’s Legacy


Abraham Lincoln’s House in Springfield Illinois
Abraham Lincoln’s House

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Springfield, the state capital, is rich in Abraham Lincoln history. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum offers an immersive experience into the life and times of the 16th president.

Read more about it HERE.


Cozy Dog Drive In

Don't miss Cozy Dog Drive In, where you can try the original corn dog on a stick. This Route 66 classic has been serving delicious food since 1949.


Route 66 Drive-In Theater

Catch a movie at the Route 66 Drive-In Theater, a nostalgic experience that brings back the charm of drive-in movies from the 1950s.


Litchfield: Ariston Café

Ariston Café

In Litchfield, dine at the Ariston Café, one of the oldest restaurants on Route 66. Established in 1924, this family-owned eatery offers delicious meals and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.


Staunton: Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton is a whimsical attraction featuring rabbit statues, vintage cars, and Route 66 memorabilia. It’s a fun and quirky stop that’s sure to delight visitors of all ages.


Collinsville: World’s Largest Catsup Bottle

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle

Although you prefer not to mention the world's largest ketchup bottle, it's worth noting for those who are interested. This 170-foot-tall water tower shaped like a ketchup bottle is a quirky landmark that's hard to miss.


Mitchell: Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge

As you near the end of your journey through Illinois, stop at the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This mile-long bridge over the Mississippi River offers stunning views and a unique walking experience, marking the transition from Illinois into Missouri.


Conclusion

Illinois is a treasure trove of Route 66 attractions, each offering a unique glimpse into the history and culture of this iconic highway. From the bustling streets of Chicago to the serene banks of the Mississippi River, every stop along the way is filled with stories waiting to be discovered. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of America on Route 66 in Illinois

Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell, Illinois
Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell, Illinois




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