The famous Route 66, also known as the “Main Street of America,” begins in Chicago, Illinois.
As you journey southwest toward Springfield along the Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway, the capital of Illinois, you will go through some wonderful towns, each with its own unique attractions, historical icons and Route 66 nostalgia!
Famous Residents of Wilmington
My first stop en route was in Wilmington. This fabulous little town is tucked into the Kankakee River Valley, and is full of antique shops and cafés. Amongst its residents, two local characters stand out – the Gemini Giant and the Sinclair Dino. Named after the Gemini Space Program, the Gemini Giant stands at over nine meters tall. The Sinclair Dino sits atop the petrol station and keeps watch over Wilmington.
Illinois license plates throughout the years
Historical Landmark of Odell
On my way to Springfield, I made a quick stop in Odell. There’s not a whole lot there, but the Historic Standard Oil Gas Station is well worth a visit. The people that work there are lovely and can tell you all about the glory days of the historic road and the cool pieces representing Route 66 history inside. Can you believe that once upon a time you could buy a gallon of petrol here for about 10 pence?
Route 66 Artifacts in Pontiac
My next stop was in Pontiac, a delightful town that was established in 1837. There are several museums in downtown Pontiac, including the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum and Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum. Not only did I love the fact that these museums are free to go in, but it is also full of thousands of artifacts and memorabilia related to the “Mother Road” – Route 66.
Viewing exhibits at the Route 66 museum in Pontiac
Perfect Photo Op in Atlanta
Once you get to Atlanta, Illinois, you should plan to grab a bite to eat in the Palms Grill Café. This lovely café was built in the 1930s and is a local favourite because of the food and the nostalgia! Also in Atlanta, you have to see the Paul Bunyon statue. The statue, one of four giant statues in Illinois, is of a six-meter-tall man holding a hot dog. Who wouldn’t want a picture of that!
Pies at the Palms Grill Café along Route 66
Lincoln Sites in Springfield
My last stop on this particular leg of Route 66 is Springfield, the capital of Illinois. There is so much to do and see here that you need several days to really get the most out of the city. Springfield is rich in history, particularly in relation to Abraham Lincoln, who lived here before becoming president of the USA. Places that I visited, and strongly suggest you do, too, are the Lincoln Tomb, Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Law Offices, his old home, and the historic State Capitol Building. All of these sites were really interesting for visitors of all ages.
I couldn’t help but notice Springfield’s nice ambience, great restaurants, hotels and B&Bs! If you time it as well as I did and go to Springfield at the end of September, you’ll get to experience the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival. The three-day event is so much fun with bands, food and about a thousand hot rods to admire.
This stretch of Route 66 from Chicago to Springfield will delight people of all interests, and I hope you have as much fun as I did stopping at all of the little towns!
The tomb of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in Springfield