Discover Lincoln on Illinois Route 66

Combine your search for Lincoln with an American classic, Illinois' section of the famous Route 66. 

Make your way from Springfield to Pontiac, learning about Lincoln's life while stopping off at Route 66 diners and museums. 

Day 1                         Springfield, Illinois (Gateway)

 

Morning                         

After breakfast, start your day at the world class Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.  (Located on historic Route 66 in Springfield, the Presidential Museum is another gem in the living museum that is US Route 66.)  Here you’ll travel from the humble beginnings of a young pioneer to the halls of the White House, as the story of Lincoln comes to life as captured through original artifacts, special effects theaters with high action and ghostly images, and so much more.  Afterward step outside where you can look for Lincoln in the many authentic historic sites and stories told throughout the city.

Just a short walk from the Museum, is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.  Here you’ll step into the daily life of the Lincoln family as you enter the only home the Lincoln’s ever owned.  A stroll through the lovely historic neighborhood surrounding the home will give you a rare glimpse of Mr. Lincoln as a husband, a father, a neighbor and a friend.

Lunchtime means a stop at the iconic Cozy Dog Drive In – one of the most famous stops along the entire stretch of US Route 66. This classic Route 66 drive-in diner is named for the famous hot-dog-on-a-stick found at state and county fairs around the country – but invented here.  Established in 1949, the Cozy Dog is also home to a smorgasbord of Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs.

A final stop as you head north toward more of Route 66 in Lincoln country must be Oak Ridge Cemetery and the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.  The 2nd most visited cemetery in the US, behind only Arlington Cemetery in our nation’s capital, Oak Ridge is home to a majestic monument that is the final resting place for our 16th president, his wife, and three of their four children.

Afternoon        

Time to hit the open road.  Next stop is Lincoln, Illinois – a perfect mix of Lincoln history and Route 66 nostalgia.  In Lincoln, you’ll find a great Lincoln/Route 66 photo op at the giant Railsplitter Covered Wagon – a tribute to the city’s favorite son and the iconic kitsch that is Route 66. 

Down the road – step back to Lincoln’s day for a glimpse into the life of Lincoln the lawyer, visit the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site.  Step back in time as you imagine yourself arguing a point of law in this rugged, brown frame building – a replica of the building that served as the Logan County government from 1840-48.  You’ll find exhibits that tell the story of the 8th Judicial Circuit – where Lincoln honed his skills as a successful prairie lawyer.

You also won’t want to miss a remarkable collection of Lincoln-related artifacts and documents at the Lincoln Heritage Museum, on the campus of Lincoln College.  Treasures include china, books and mourning clothing that belonged to Mary Lincoln, as well as original correspondence from President Lincoln, as well as every member of his cabinet and Civil War military leaders.

Just as we preserve the legacy that is Abraham Lincoln, communities all along US Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles are trying to preserve that iconic legacy of America’s Main Street.  And, Lincoln, Illinois is no exception.  Before you head out of town, check out The Mill on Route 66 – a recently saved and restored original Route 66 restaurant – now featuring a museum that tells the story of the county’s ties to the legendary road.

As you head to Bloomington for your overnight stay, be sure to make a stop at Atlanta for pie and coffee or a late afternoon bite at the famous Route 66 diner, the Palm’s Grille Café.  While you’re there, check out the Lincoln exhibits upstairs for a glimpse into his influence on this small, rural town.  Across the street from the Palm’s – be sure to get your photo taken by the giant Bunyon statue.  If there’s time, a stop a few miles north at Funk’s Grove will be well worth it for some delicious homemade Maple syrup and candy.

Day 2                  Bloomington, Illinois

 

Morning                         

For your first stop, visit the McLean County Historical Museum – inside a beautiful old courthouse on the town square.  In the first floor visitor center, you’ll find out all about the rich Route 66 history in McLean county – as well as all the info you need for discovering the Lincoln story on Illinois Route 66.  Upstairs in the Museum, you’ll find the many stories of the people and the landscapes of McLean County through the years, including many of the local residents who were Lincoln’s contemporaries as he rose from prairie lawyer to the man who would be president. 

Afterward, visit the magnificent David Davis Mansion, once owned by Lincoln confidante and close friend, Judge David Davis.  This stately 19th century mansion, and its beautiful grounds, will give you a glimpse of the social and political life Lincoln knew.  History credits the influence and support of Judge Davis as an important factor on Lincoln’s success in becoming the Republican nominee for the presidency.

You’ll also want to make a stop at the Sprague Super Service Station for some iconic Route 66 photos in Bloomington. 

Afternoon        
Pontiac, Illinois

Next stop, Pontiac, Illinois – arguably one of the most famous towns on all of US Route 66.  In this charming slice of Americana, you’ll find the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum Complex – including the International Wall Dog Mural and Sign Art Museum, the Bob Waldmire Exhibit, as well as a tribute to Mr. Lincoln with the Music of the Civil War exhibit.

Stroll around the town square to take in all of the spectacular Murals on Main Street and be sure to stop by the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center to see some of the world’s finest, and rarest, examples of the former Pontiac autos. 

  • Side Note:  Throughout the entire Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area in all of its official communities, Lincoln stories abound along the Looking for Lincoln Story Trail.  Through a series of over 200 wayside exhibits in over 50 Heritage Area communities – you’ll find stories describing the local people, events, and landscapes that played a key role in Lincoln’s journey to greatness.  For the collectors, each of the 200 storyboards includes a rubbing commemorating that particular story.  All you need is a pencil and a paper to make your very own collectible.
  • Side Note:  For those familiar with the National Park Service passport program – the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area now has official passport stamps that can be collected at a variety of stops – fitting for travel along U.S. Route 66 – one of the world’s most famous roads. For passport stamp locations, check www.lookingforlincoln.com.
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