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9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Illinois

9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Illinois

If you’re looking to take a great American road trip, Route 66 might just be the most classic one of all. The iconic highway has wound its way through most of our nation’s motoring history, and it can be an eye-opening journey for today’s travelers, too.

We recommend taking a break from the interstate and explore parts of what used to be known as America’s Main Street. Parts of the historic old roadway have faded into memories while others remain as parts of vibrant small communities.

Today we are slowing down to take a look at Route 66 in Illinois and just a sampling of the fun it has to offer. And you’ll be glad to know that most of the attractions on our list are free!

Ready to ride? Hop in!

Route 66 and USA

The Start of Route 66 in Downtown Chicago

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: This is where it all begins – the start of a 4,400-plus-mile journey to the West Coast. Such adventure! Today, a historic marker stands near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and East Adams Street, and it can be easy to overlook amidst the other street signs. It’s just a block from Millennial Park and within walking distance of literally a thousand other things.  

Address: 78 E. Adams St., Chicago, IL 60603

What’s the Word: It’s just a sign on the corner, but it kind of starts (or completes) the Route 66 experience in an official way. In his Google review, Jeffrey puts it into perspective: “Best thing is there is an abundance of other things to do in this area, so get a photo-op then check out the local area. Enjoy.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 8/10

Route 66 Illinois Begin road sign at Chicago city downtown. Buildings facade background. Route 66, mother road, the classic historic roadtrip in USA

Nearby Campground: Camp Bullfrog Lake

Whether you’re starting your trip here, winding it down, or just wanting to check out the Windy City in general, Camp Bullfrog Lake in Willow Springs is just a half-hour drive away on a good day. They offer partial hook-ups (including a dump station) as well as a small lake with kayaks for rent.

Illinois Route 66 Museum in Pontiac

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: This is where you’ll find a mother lode of artifacts relating to “the Mother Road.” Lots of relics from bygone days to see here, and as a bonus, there’s a military museum with World War II memorabilia, too. Don’t miss the big painted Route 66 shield for another great photo opportunity.  

Address: 110 W. Howard St., Pontiac, IL 61764

What’s the Word: “A must stop for anyone doing Route 66,” says a recent reviewer on Trip Advisor. “There is so much more to see at the museum than just Route 66 exhibitions … Easy parking even for our RV.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 9.5/10

Nearby Campground: Livingston County 4-H Campground

The Livingston County 4-H Campground is just a few miles away and offers a quiet and rustic experience under the oaks. Amenities include pull-throughs, a dump station and horse stalls.

Paul Bunyon Hot Dog Statue

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: Iconic piece of kitschy Americana? Check. The legendary Paul Bunyon holds a hotdog instead of an ax in this 20-foot-tall statue. He must have gotten hungry after felling all that timber! This fiberglass novelty originally stood in front of a famous hot dog stand in Cicero, Illinois, but today it greets visitors on a small-town sidewalk.

Address: 112 SW Arch St., Atlanta, IL 61723

What’s the Word: Modern lore has it that he’s a modified version of the Muffler Man that you may have seen in other parts. A visitor to had this to say: “This is an awesome stop and a very cute little town!”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 8/10

Nearby Campground: McMillen’s Camp

Some sites are a bit tight, but McMillen’s Camp A While is in a secluded area a couple of miles off the interstate and next to some cornfields. Few amenities, but decent cell service and good, solid ratings overall.

World’s Largest Covered Wagon in Lincoln

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: The Railsplitter Covered Wagon, recognized by Guinness as the world’s biggest, never ventured out West. Instead, it rests today on the lawn of a Best Western. Steering this oversized prairie schooner is none other than Honest Abe!

Address: 1750 5th Street, Lincoln, IL 62656

What’s the Word: “I stop at any of the ‘World’s Largest’ displays,” says Google reviewer Old Blazer. “You know, rocking chairs, spoons, balls of string. It’s just fun. This one is no exception, and if you’re following Rt. 66, it’s worth a look see.” Another, Lilla, calls it a “fun and quirky roadside stop.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 7/10

Sky View Drive-in in Litchfield

Price: Admission to a movie is $7, free for children 5 and under.

Why You’ll Love It: Like Route 66 itself, the drive-in movie theater is a classic American experience. Here’s a chance to take in both at one time! Now 70 years old, it’s the last originally operating drive-in theater along the historic highway. Movies are shown Friday and Saturday nights, and there’s a small exhibit out front with some fun tales and images from the glory days.

Address: 1500 Old Route 66 North, Litchfield, IL 62056

What’s the Word: “Great fun for the entire family and for all ages,” says Roamin’ Rich in a Google review. On Trip Advisor, Dee sounds a note of caution: “The only downfall is the trains that go through during the movies. They blow their whistles repeatedly.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 7.8/10

Nearby Campground: Cahokia RV Park

Cahokia RV Park awaits with full hook-ups as well as a restaurant and pool. It’s big-rig friendly, and it will set you up in a great position to enjoy the sights in St. Louis, too.

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Edwardsville

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: Head over the Mighty Mississippi into Missouri on one of the coolest bridges you’re like to come across! Just over a mile long and only 24 feet wide, it now carries bikes and pedestrians rather than cars and trucks. The name comes from what’s below – a 17-mile rocky shoal.

This Route 66 attraction made the list on our “9 Must See Route 66 Missouri Attractions,” too!

Address: 10820 Riverview Drive, St. Louis, MO 63137

What’s the Word: “Not a bad view at night, the sun setting is like a painting,” says Jared on Yelp. On Google, Daniel offers: “Parking easy, nice flat surface to walk so stroller and wheelchair friendly. Interesting spot.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 9/10

Nearby Campground: Cahokia RV Park

Cahokia RV Park awaits with full hook-ups as well as a restaurant and pool. It’s big-rig friendly, and it will set you up in great position to enjoy the sights in St. Louis, too.

Brewery: RT66 Old School Brewing in Wilmington

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: Have you worked up a hunger and a thirst from your touring? Choose from a selection of sophisticated burgers and dogs and other pub grub from the next-door Nelly’s Restaurant and wash it down with craft beers that the locals and critics love. Owners Steve and Tina Nelson are one of those couples that loved to try different beers on their travels and were inspired to open a brewpub in their hometown. Sounds like our kind of folks!

Address: 110 Bridge Street, Wilmington, IL 60481

What’s the Word: “Great beer and atmosphere,” says a Google review. Another says, “Really cool place with a good selection of beer and an awesome staff.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 9/10

happily smiling man standing near gray bars

Nearby Campground: Hollywood Casino Hotel RV Resort

The Hollywood Casino Hotel RV Resort in Joliet has gravel and concrete sites along with some grassy areas and offers a few extras like a hotel breakfast.

Craft Whiskey Distillery: FEW Spirits in Evanston

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It: Evanston, just outside, Chicago, was the birthplace of the temperance movement – but you wouldn’t know it today. You can learn more about that neat part of history and sample the wares at this one-of-a-kind distillery. Informative and enlightening!

Address: 918 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL 60202

What’s the Word: It’s a small place down an alley, but worth seeking out. “This is an amazing little hole in the wall with some great history and even better spirits,” says Grayson on Yelp.

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 8.5/10

positive bartender preparing cocktail in pub

Nearby Campground: Camp Reinberg

Just 45 minutes outside Chicago, Camp Reinberg is a nature lover’s gem in a beautiful forest preserve. It’s a small park that’s great for a short stay, and there are nice trails for hiking and biking

Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield

Price: $53 and up

Why You’ll Love It: It’s an affordable hotel with a laid-back sports bar, but the big draw is its funky Route 66 museum. Oh, and the slot machines, too. All of this adds up to make it one of the capital city’s top attractions. It’s just three miles from the Abraham Lincoln presidential library and four miles from Knights Action Park.

Address: 625 East St. Joseph Street, Springfield, IL 62703

What’s the Word: “Honestly I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a laid back, chill environment at a decent price,” says Elana in a Google review. “It has a lot of Route 66 memorabilia. The hallways are covering in cool stuff … It isn’t your typical ‘super fancy’ place but that is what makes it so good.”

Route 66 Illinois Vibe Score: 7.8/10

Plan Your Route 66 Adventure

Just from our list alone, you can tell that there’s much to enjoy along the old Route 66 in the state of Illinois. These 9 best things are really just scratching the surface! There’s much more to come and many, many miles to go as you follow the path of America’s most famous highway.

Here’s our guide to Route 66 in other states:

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

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