3 Days | 302 Miles | in 1-3 Days
It was the attractions along the way that made Route 66 legendary. And that's as true today in the days of the Model S as it was in the days of the Model T. So charge up your EV and hit the Mother Road on to experience retro, vintage, and restored roadside favorites that have turned this classic road into a timeless icon.
Route 66 is known for inspiring nostalgia, but sometimes it’s fun to put a new twist on an age-old classic. It wasn’t an option in previous decades, but today, you can easily make the journey in an electric vehicle—thanks to a large collection of charging stations along the way.
You’ll begin your EV journey at one of Chicago’s great sports landmarks, Wrigley Field, the second-oldest Major League stadium. Take a stadium tour within the ivy-covered walls, then explore a neighborhood full of baseball lore, bustling bars and quirky establishments. You’ll find an EV charging station at the Cubs Blue parking lot on West Waveland Avenue.
Next, head into the heart of Chicago and explore some of its most renowned attractions. With several EV charging stations (on Oak and Walton streets, for example) on the north end of Michigan Avenue, you won’t have to worry about running out of juice. Wander down the Magnificent Mile for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, make a stop at the Historic Water Tower, then pop into the world’s largest Starbucks for a pick-me-up.
Extensive sightseeing and retail escapades can leave one hungry. A short detour off the Mag Mile will bring you to Portillo’s, where you can grab an authentic Chicago-style hot dog with all the fixings. Or, remain on the Mag Mile and check out the chef-driven food emporium in 900 North Michigan’s Aster Hall.
Once you’ve had your fill, make your way over the river to the world-famous Millennium Park, which offers charging stations in its parking garage. If you need directions to the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, just ask a local where to find “The Bean.” While you’re there, explore the beautiful gardens around Maggie Daley Park and meander down to see the famous lions that guard the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Luckily, you’re not too far from Navy Pier—a historic lakefront landmark turned iconic cultural and entertainment destination. Browse the shops, take a cruise, enjoy a unique cultural performance, or take in some of the city’s most incredible views with a ride on the Centennial Wheel. The Pier offers EV charging as well.
To drink in more views of the city over dinner, make a reservation at Chicago Cut Steakhouse. Located on a scenic nook of the Chicago River, it’s the perfect place to spot local sporting heroes and celebrities while enjoying an unforgettable meal.
If you’d rather venture a few more blocks from the city center, check out Avec, which transforms high-quality Midwestern ingredients into vintage Mediterranean cuisine and prides itself on its sustainable practices. As you’re refueling, your EV can do the same at one of several charging stations around River North, including a convenient parking garage on North Jefferson.
Before turning in for the night, why not take in a show? Chicago has a thriving performing arts scene, so check out the schedules for The Chicago Theater, the architecturally stunning James M. Nederlander Theater, or any of the other Broadway in Chicago venues that make up the city’s Theater District.
It’s always good to know that while you’re recharging overnight, your EV is too. Sable at Navy Pier has an on-site charging station, with stunning views of both the city skyline and Lake Michigan. If you’re keen to stay in the heart of the city, check into Virgin Hotels Chicago, which also offers a charging station—and a rooftop bar that delivers good drinks and good vibes deep into the night.
It’s almost time to wave goodbye to the big city and hit the Mother Road, but not before breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s. Part of the Route 66 Hall of Fame since 2002, this local institution has been serving up delicious breakfast fare since 1923, with a history of clientele that includes presidents, celebrities, locals and tourists.
Route 66 is home to a variety of giant attractions, and you won’t have to travel far to find them. Right off the bat, you’ll see a 15-foot Muffler Man clutching an oversized bottle of hot sauce and a three-foot chicken wing at Cigars & Stripes BBQ Lounge in Berwyn.
Although The Spindle (of Wayne’s World fame) was dismantled in 2008, a new attraction has revived its spirit. A slightly smaller Mini Spindle is now in the parking lot of Paisan’s Pizzeria & Bar in Berwyn. Stop for some tasty Italian food and charge up at their EV charging station.
Ready for an even bigger muffler man experience? Taking a photo with the 30-foot Gemini Giant outside the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington is an absolute must—that Instagram feed isn’t going to populate itself, you know.
Your journey continues to Pontiac, where you’ll come upon Wally’s. As the home of the Great American Road Trip, Wally’s has something for travelers of all stripes. So, while your EV is plugged into their charging station, grab a snack, pick up some souvenirs and discover necessities you didn’t know you needed.
As you drive through Bloomington, pop into Cruisin' With Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center, where you’ll find exhibits and memorabilia associated with both the Mother Road and our 16th President. Once you’ve basked in history, another mythic muffler man awaits—Paul Bunyon in Atlanta stands there stoically, holding a hot dog, keeping watch over travelers day and night.
As you approach the town of Lincoln, you’re in for another giant sight. The world’s largest covered wagon, handmade using three tons of Illinois oak and steel, features a 12-foot fiberglass Abraham Lincoln in the wagon seat. If you’re in need, there’s a nearby public parking lot with a charging station.
By the time you reach Springfield, you’ll be more than ready for some R&R. If you want to continue immersing yourself in all things Route 66, keep the Americana going at Route 66 Motorheads Bar, Grill and Museum. With one-of-a-kind vintage decor, a game room and frequent live entertainment, dining at Motorhead’s is a full-on experience.
For a more traditional dining experience, make a reservation at Maldaner’s. The treasured restaurant offers an authentic taste of Illinois, using ingredients sourced from regional farmers and a fresh seasonal menu. Through solar panels, a rooftop garden and beehives, Maldaner's operates as sustainably as possible. You’ll even find a charging station in the parking lot of the nearby Stratton Building.
If you’re not quite ready to turn in for the night, head to Obed and Isaacs Microbrewery for some local craft beers and an evening snack. Pets are welcome on the outdoor patio, creating a delightful atmosphere for dog lovers.
The State House Inn is a short walk away from the Stratton Building charging station. Newly remodeled, you’ll find it directly across the street from the Illinois State Capitol complex. Or perhaps opt for a stay at Inn at 835, a timelessly elegant space in a historic building with all the contemporary comforts of home.
You won’t want to dive into your day without trying Mel-O-Cream Donuts, who have proudly been making these frosted, glazed and cream-filled treats since 1932. Be sure to stock up for the rest of the trip.
Continue your day with a moment of reflection. Within Oak Ridge Cemetery, the final resting place of President Lincoln and most of his family, you’ll find the Lincoln Tomb. Both inside and out, it’s an impressive architectural monument to one of our nation’s most esteemed leaders.
On your way out of town, keep your eyes peeled for yet another muffler man. The Lauterbach Giant proudly flies the stars and stripes, silently guiding you along your Route 66 journey from his station outside Lauterbach Auto Service.
While new interstate highways have replaced much of Route 66, you can still ride down an original piece of the Mother Road. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this beautiful 1.4-mile stretch of restored brick road in Auburn was laid by hand back in 1931.
Feeling lucky? If you love hunting for a bargain, browse the wares of more than 50 antiques dealers at the Pink Elephant Antique Mall. You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you spot the giant pink elephant out the front—the ideal spot for another photo op.
Having reached Collinsville, feel free to juice up your EV at one of the local charging stations. At lunch time, head into Old Herald Brewery & Distillery for a bite to eat and a refreshing, locally made beverage. This former site of the Collinsville Herald newspaper has been transformed into a full-service restaurant, production brewery and craft distillery. After lunch, take a tour of the historic building to witness the buzz of activity happening inside.
By now, you probably know what to expect—more big things. You can’t visit Collinsville without checking out the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle. While it’s a sight to behold, it’s worth noting that it’s a water tower (not actually filled with catsup).
Before finishing your adventure, step into ancient history with a trip to the Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring the archaeological remains of an ancient civilization. While the Interpretive Center is closed for renovations, you can explore the grounds to learn more about the ingenuity of this vibrant, prehistoric Native American city.