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Route 66 in Illinois: Top Attractions, Towns, Map, and Hotels along the Route

Route 66 in Illinois: Top Attractions, Towns, Map, and Hotels along the Route

Sure, Route 66 in Illinois doesn’t technically exist now. The road that runs the stretch between St Louis, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois, has long since been replaced with Interstate 55. However, many parts of the Historic Route 66 have been preserved, including some of the Route 66 attractions in Illinois. So, if you’re planning to traverse Route 66, there’s still plenty to see and do along the 301-mile stretch of road.

So, let’s introduce you to some of the best Route 66 offers in Illinois. We’ll go through the top attractions and even give you a few hints of some places to stay along the route. There’s plenty to cover here, so let’s jump right on in!

Route 66 Illinois Attractions

Since Route 66 in Illinois isn’t quite what it used to be, the number of attractions along the route has been scaled back drastically. However, if you plan to take a trip along Route 66, there’s still plenty to see and do. Some of it involves grabbing a bite to eat, and, of course, in true Route 66 style, you have some rather baffling attractions that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. Think big statutes, the World’s Largest objects (that have no point other than to entertain), and even a couple of signs. You won’t get bored on your 300-mile journey. Trust us!

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1. Begin Route 66 Sign – Chicago

Begin Route 66 Sign
Begin Route 66 Sign | Dreamstime/Rawf88

This is one of the Illinois Route 66 attractions that are very much a ‘blink, and you’ll miss it.’ The Begin Route 66, found on E. Adams Street in Chicago, is the technical start of Route 66 in Illinois. Well, it is the technical start now. The starting point has moved a lot over the decades. Still, if you want to grab a snap of the start of your journey, this is where you’ll need to do it.

Address: 198 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

2. 360 Chicago, Chicago

360 Chicago
Tilting Glass at 360 Chicago | Dreamstime/Alexander Cimbal

Want some stunning views over the Windy City? Well, take a trip up 360 Chicago. This Observation Deck is 1000 feet up the John Hancock Building. It probably won’t be for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach the vantage point, this is almost certainly a place you’ll want to have your camera in tow.

Address: 875 N Michigan Ave 94th floor, Chicago, IL 60611

3. Navy Pier, Chicago

Navy Pier
Navy Pier | Dreamstime/Noel Powell

Yes. We know that many of your must-see stops in Chicago are hardly ‘off-the-beaten-track’, and Navy Pier is no exception. But, if you’re hanging around in Chicago anyway, you may as well pay it a trip. The 3,300-foot-long pier is packed with shopping, theater, restaurants, and more. We know it isn’t very Route 66 (you all want those big statutes and garish lights, right?), but it provides a great place to kickstart your Route 66 adventure in Illinois (or end it, depending on where you’re heading from).

Address: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

4. Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant, Chicago

Lou Mitchell's Restaurant
Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant | Dreamstime/StockPhotoAstur

This is what we’re talking about! A good diner. Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant boasts proper home-cooked diner food. Think pancakes, burgers, milk duds, and more. Lou Mitchells has been operating in Chicago for over 100 years, and we reckon many people who have traveled Illinois Route 66 over the years have feasted here. It is not the most incredible food in the world, but it is delicious and embodies Route 66.

Address: 565 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60661

Also Check: The Best Diners & Cafes along Route 66

5. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield

Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Lincoln Home National Historic Site | Dreamstime/Benkrut

If you’re willing to head off Route 66 ever so slightly, you can visit the home of one of the greatest Presidents in US history – Abraham Lincoln. He lived here from 1844 to 1861, so he left a little before becoming President. A lot of history has happened around this place, and his home and the block around it have been perfectly preserved for those who want to explore this little slice of history.

Address: 413 S 8th St, Springfield, IL 62701

6. Illinois State Capitol building, Springfield

Illinois State Capitol building
Illinois State Capitol building | Dreamstime/Ej Rodriquez Photography

We know that going to gaze at government buildings may seem a little drab, but hear us out on this one. The Illinois State Capitol looks gorgeous. It is an architectural marvel. Built in 1861, the Illinois State Capitol stands at 361 feet, making it the largest non-skyscraper capitol in the US. You can’t help but stand and look in awe at the looming dome that rests on top of the building. Don’t worry. You don’t have to go inside. Just stand outside and look. You’ll realize this is easily one of the best-looking state capitol buildings in the US.

Address: 401 S 2nd St, Springfield, IL 62701

Read Next: Route 66 Attractions in Missouri

7. Cozy Dog Drive-In, Springfield

Cozy Dog Drive-In
Cozy Dog Drive-In | Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

Do you want to sample a real piece of Route 66 in Illinois history? Well, you need to head to the Cozy Dog Drive-In. Opening up in 1949, the Cozy Dog Drive-In is the home of the ‘original’ hot dog on a stick. Dipped in batter and deep fried, it is hardly the healthiest thing in the world, but it is ever so delicious.

This is, no doubt, a place where many people who have traveled Route 66 have spent their time, and now is your chance. There are dishes besides the hot dog on a stick, but go for the original classic. It’ll make your Route 66 journey so much sweeter.

Address: 2935 S 6th St, Springfield, IL 62703

8. Country Classic Cars, Staunton

Since we love a good classic car, this is one of the must-see stops on Illinois Route 66. Technically, Country Classic Cars isn’t a museum, although it may look like one. It is an auto repair shop for classic cars and deals with a few classic car sales. They don’t mind you wandering around and looking at their wares. We reckon a fair few of the vehicles on sale here will have traveled Route 66 over the years!

Address: 2149 E Frontage Rd, Staunton, IL 62088

9. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Staunton

Henry's Rabbit Ranch
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch | Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

This is what Route 66 is all about! The average person setting up a roadside attraction just because they can. Many have disappeared over the years, but Henry’s Rabbit Ranch remains. Many people mistake it for an old junkyard, but it is much more. You’ll find a gift shop (selling Route 66 memorabilia), pet rabbits, and VW Rabbit vehicles (mostly what the ranch is about). There are a few things to snap photos of here, and chatting with the owners is always fun. Do bear in mind that because the owner is semi-retired, the opening hours are pretty sporadic. Don’t be sad if you turn up and there is nobody here.

Address: 1107 Historic Old Rte 66, Staunton, IL 62088

10. Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac

Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum
Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum | Dreamstime/Redwood8

To us, there’s little sense in traveling on one of the greatest roads in US history without sampling some of that history along the way. So, take a trip to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac. This Illinois Route 66 museum has thousands of pieces of memorabilia, much of it from the heyday of Route 66. Think merchandise, photographs, and even the odd landmark plucked from Route 66. Lots to see here, and it is worth visiting at least one museum on every section of Route 66 to see how the history of the road impacted each part of the US.

Address: 110 W Howard St, Pontiac, IL 61764

Read Next: Most Famous Museums on Route 66

11. Odell Station, Odell

Odell Station
Odell Station | Dreamstime/Esusek

The Odell Station is a preserved gas station. It operated from 1932 to 1967, offering gas and other services to those traveling Route 66. Nowadays, it is just a small museum, but it is an example of many of the gas stations that used to exist along the route but have now, unfortunately, disappeared.

Address: 400 S West St, Odell, IL 60460

12. Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, Dwight

Ambler's Texaco Gas Station
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station | Dreamstime/Allan Clegg

This is another example of an old gas station on Route 66, although Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station has the honor of being the longest continually running gas station on Route 66. By the time it closed in 1999 (due to dwindling business), it had operated for 66 years. It is now a visitor center. Behind the building, you can also see an old icehouse, although that hasn’t gone through the restoration that the gas station did.

Address: W Waupansie St, Dwight, IL 60420

13. Gemini Giant, Wilmington

Gemini Giant
Gemini Giant | Dreamstime/StockPhotoAstur

The Gemini Giant is another large statue that sits along Route 66. Built in 1960, the Gemini Giant depicts a 30-foot-tall man holding a silver Rocketship in his hands. As you can probably guess, the ongoing Space Race had an impact on its design. Make sure you grab a photo as you swing by. It is one of the most-snapped locations on the Route 66 in Illinois trek.

Address: S East St, Wilmington, IL 60481

14. World’s Largest Covered Wagon and Big Lincoln, Lincoln

World's Largest Covered Wagon and Big Lincoln
World’s Largest Covered Wagon and Big Lincoln | Dreamstime/Brian Scantlebury

Standing 24 feet tall, this wagon holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest covered wagon in the world. We suppose this record will never be beaten because why would somebody want to build a larger wagon? 24 feet is already overkill. Still, this is Route 66, and everything needs to be made a little bit bigger. Make sure to grab a snap of it as you drive past. Oh, and yes. The guy on the front is a large version of Abraham Lincoln.

Address: 1750 5th St., Lincoln, IL

Related: Must-see Stops on Route 66

15. Soulsby Service Station, Mt Olive

Soulsby Service Station
Soulsby Service Station | Dreamstime/Brian Scantlebury

Yes. Another old service station, but it is nice to see the different designs of service stations as you go along the route. Soulsby Service Station has been closed for a while (since 1993), and it has yet to be properly renovated. At the moment, it is perfectly preserved the way it was when it closed down, and it looks great. You can just imagine the people pulling in here in the 1920s to 1950s, filling up for the long drive ahead of them.

Address: 710 W 1st S St, Mt Olive, IL 62069

16. Route 66 End Marker, Chicago

Route 66 End Marker
Route 66 End Marker | Dreamstime/Giban59

If Chicago is the final point on your Route 66 in Illinois journey, then make sure to snap a picture of the Route 66 End Marker. It isn’t too far from the start marker. You could even snap a picture of both, claim you drove the route, and not do anything else. However, for obvious reasons, that’s not really something we would recommend. You’d be missing out on way too much of the fun.

Address: E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL

Where to Stay Along Route 66

Route 66 in Illinois is a long trek, and while modern cars should be able to clear the whole route in a day, you won’t really have time to gaze at the Route 66 attractions in Illinois if you do that. So, you’ll want to stay at one of the many Route 66 towns in Illinois. As you can imagine, there are plenty of fantastic places on Route 66. Not as many as in the past, but this is still a well-traveled route through some major towns and cities, so you won’t be hurting for a good hotel or motel. Here are some of our picks.

1. Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago

Congress Plaza Hotel
Congress Plaza Hotel | Dreamstime/Ivan Kokoulin

Start (or end) your Route 66 trip in luxury with a stay at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago. Built in 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel has hosted countless celebrities, Presidents, and now (potentially) you. Despite the hotel’s luxury, the rooms are surprisingly affordable, starting at about $110 per night. The rooms boast free Wi-Fi and access to a 24-hour fitness center.

Address: 520 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

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2. Palmer House Hilton, Chicago

Palmer House Hilton
Palmer House Hilton | Booking.com

You’re certainly not going to be pushed for luxury Illinois Route 66 hotels in Chicago. This 150-year-old Hilton Hotel is situated in the theater district and is the epitome of luxury. The world-famous lobby is a work of art in itself, and the brownie (the cake) was even invented here. It is a bit more expensive to stay at the Palmer House Hilton than the Congress Plaza Hotel, but if you want to relax in luxury while in Chicago, we can’t think of anywhere better.

Address: 17 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603

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3. Braidwood Motel, Braidwood

Many of the older Illinois Route 66 motels have long since shut down, but the Braidwood Motel remains. As a motel, the amenities are basic but serviceable. This is more a place to rest your head than anything else. It is a short hop from the town of Braidwood, and if you’re looking to sample some great BBQ, there are a few awesome joints in the nearby area.

Address: 120 N Washington St, Braidwood, IL 60408

Related Read: Historic Hotels & Motels on Route 66

4. Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center, Springfield

Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center
Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center | Booking.com

The Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center is a place that really needs to be seen to be believed. Themed on Route 66, the hotel has 108 rooms and 7 Jacuzzi Suites, the latter each boasting its own Jacuzzi. There’s live entertainment throughout the week, but one of the highlights is the gaming center, which boasts some cool arcade machines, video games, and TVs so you can catch whatever game is showing that day.

Address: 625 E St Joseph St, Springfield, IL 62703

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5. State House Inn, Springfield

State House Inn
State House Inn | Booking.com

The State House Inn is just a short walk from the Illinois State Capitol if you plan to swing by that architectural marvel. The State House Inn has recently undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation, and the rooms look better than ever. It doesn’t have much in the way of amenities, with some on-site dining being the most that you can expect, but the rooms are comfortable, and this is probably the most affordable place to stay if you want to be in the heart of downtown Springfield.

Address: 101 E Adams St, Springfield, IL 62701

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6. Carlin Villa Motel, Carlinville, IL

Carlin Villa Motel aims to be a ‘home away from home,’ it feels like it. Like many other motels on Route 66, especially around Illinois, the Carlin Villa Motel is basic but very comfortable. The rooms are some of the more spacious than other motels on Route 66, and there is even a new jacuzzi suite that you can check out. A complimentary breakfast is included for paying guests, which is unique among motels. You’ll be a short walk from Carlinville, which boasts excellent food, including delectable Mexican restaurants.

Address: 18891 State Rte 4, Carlinville, IL 62626

7. Super 8 by Wyndham Dwight, Dwight

Super 8 by Wyndham Dwight
Super 8 by Wyndham Dwight | Booking.com

Just slightly off Route 66, the Super 8 by Wyndham Dwight is a newly refurbished hotel for those who want to rest their head somewhere comfortable but affordable. You’ll get a free light breakfast and complimentary Wi-Fi when you stay here. Highlights in nearby Dwight include The Depot, built in 1891; it is a unique train station. You also have plenty of historical buildings to explore around Dwight.

Address: 14 E Northbrook Dr, Dwight, IL 60420

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8. Hotel Lincoln Inn, Lincoln

Hotel Lincoln Inn
Hotel Lincoln Inn | Booking.com

Just minutes from Route 66 and close to Lincoln Speedway, you have Hotel Lincoln Inn. The hotel boasts basic facilities, but every room includes a TV, fridge, and microwave. It has 24-hour check-in, so arrive whenever you wish. However, we recommend steering clear during the big race days at Lincoln Speedway, as the place fills up quickly.

Address: 1750 5th Street, Lincoln, IL 62656

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9. Vrooman Mansion, Bloomington

Vrooman Mansion
Vrooman Mansion | Dreamstime/Jim Roberts

Built in 1869, the Vrooman Mansion is one of the more unique hotels on Illinois Route 66. As the name suggests, it is a renovated mansion, so you’ll be staying in a place that is at the height of luxury. The Vrooman Mansion only has a few rooms, and it is often tough to get a booking. However, if you do, you’ll be treated like royalty. It also offers some of the best breakfasts anywhere on Route 66 (and not just in Illinois!)

Address: 701 E Taylor St, Bloomington, IL 61701

10. Cindy Lyn Motel, Cicero

The Cindy Lyn Motel has been catering to travelers on Route 66 for over 50 years now. As you can imagine, the place is basic but comfortable. You can even book 8-hour stays (which are cheaper) if you’re only planning to lay down for a bit before you hit the road again.

Address: 5029 West Ogden Ave, Cicero, IL 60804

Interactive Map of Route 66 Illinois Attractions

Frequently Asked Questions

What towns in Illinois does Route 66 go through?

Route 66 in Illinois goes through many towns, including Chicago, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington, and Dwight.

How long is Route 66 in Illinois?

It depends on how you measure it. The route is about 302 miles long, but it can be made shorter in certain areas if you take I-55 rather than following the actual route of Historic Route 66.

What are the most famous Illinois Route 66 stops?

The ‘Start’ and ‘End’ signs on Route 66 in Chicago are probably the most photographed areas on the route. Navy Pier and Chicago 360 are also worth checking out.

What is the most unusual Route 66 attraction in Illinois?

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is a combination of a junkyard, old VW Rabbit vehicles, and some fluffy rabbits too. It isn’t always open, but it is a very unusual place if you’re lucky enough to visit.

Closing Thoughts

Route 66 across Illinois doesn’t quite have the glitz and glam it did a few decades ago, partly because much of the road has been replaced. However, if you’re willing to take the 300-mile journey across the state, you’ll still see monuments of that bygone era, including old gas stations and motels, and even the odd neon sign, diner, and plenty of overly large statues!

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