A 300-mile stretch of American roadway, steeped in legend and packed full with eccentric lifers, nostalgic eats, quirky museums and more eccentricity than you can shake a restored 1940s petrol pump at. This is the Mother Road.
You’ll begin your legendary journey in the heart of downtown Chicago at the very start of Route 66. Snap the perfect first selfie as you begin your 300-mile descent down the Mother Road at the iconic Route 66 Begin sign on E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago.
Before you get too far, it’s time for a little grub at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket. Dell Rhea’s in Wilmington has been serving up some of the best fried chicken on Route 66 since it opened as a petrol station lunch counter in the summer of 1946. Since then, it’s been inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame, drawing guests from around the world with their original delicious recipe.
No Route 66 journey is complete without a visit to one (or all) of the Mother Road’s classic museums. A must-see is the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, packed full with the finest memorabilia associated with the history of Route 66. Among the artifacts, you’ll find the bus and van of Route 66 icon, Bob Waldmire—a true legend of the Mother Road. Step around back for a photo opportunity with the World’s Largest Route 66 shield.
Some of Illinois’ best roadside relics lie in wait on this stretch of the Mother Road. In Atlanta, snap a photo with the 19-ft. Paul “Bunyon” clutching a giant hot dog. One of Route 66’s mythic roadside attractions, several of these giants still proudly grace the Mother Road. After your photo, head across the street for a quick bite at favourite The Palms Grill Café, featuring classic faire from the golden age Route 66. Save room for some pie.
A little way down the road in Lincoln, catch a glimpse of the World’s Largest Covered Wagon, complete with a very large – and very studious – Abraham Lincoln statue. The Railsplitter Covered Wagon is officially recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest covered wagon in the world, standing a towering 24 feet tall.
Corndogs – a marvel of the modern world. But have you ever wondered who decided to put these deep-fried delights on a stick in the first place? Well here they are. Part Drive In, part Route 66 museum, make sure to plan a stop in for this Mother Road favourite.
Heading into Litchfield, cut over to the Old Route 66 and take the fabled Auburn Brick Road to Girard’s. Voted #4 Best Soft Drink Fountain across America by Country Living Magazine, Girard’s is the best way to get refreshed before the next leg of your trip.
End your day with a visit to the Sky View Drive-In Theatre on the other side of Route 66. The last of its kind, Sky View is the only remaining original operating drive-in theatre on the Illinois stretch of Route 66. During warmer months, you can enjoy the classic dancing hotdogs (odd) and a double-feature for just five dollars. If that’s not worth a trip, we don’t know what is.
Before you close out your trip, you’ll want to swing by one of the southern stretch’s more curious attractions, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. Equal parts roadside attraction, visitor centre and rabbit ranch, it’s well worth a visit. Look for the VW Rabbits sticking up out of the ground.
Your journey ends at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge out of Collinsville. Built in 1927, it’s the fifth bridge to cross the Mississippi River and the perfect final selfie as you close the book on your Illinois Route 66 adventure.