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Groups Get Their Kicks On Illinois Route 66 Drive-ins and diners... curio shops and kitschy roadside attractions….billboards and Burma-Shave signs…necklaces of neon glowing in the night. Though the original Route 66 has been rerouted, renamed and replaced by interstate superhighways, travelers can still indulge in nostalgia as they retrace parts of America’s Mother Road, an iconic ribbon of concrete and asphalt that stretched more than 2,400 miles from Chicago’s Lake Michigan to the oceanfront in Santa Monica, Calif. For generations, the federally-funded artery (started in 1926 and finished in 1938) meant “going somewhere.”

Spanning eight states and three time zones, this road to adventure— one of the first cross-country highways—was immortalized in the song Get Your Kicks on Route 66, written in 1946 by Bobby Troup and popularized by Nat “King” Cole. For generations of motorists, the road became the “Main Street of America” because it went through so many towns. Cont... Contact Information:

Angela Ingerson Tour Illinois Chairman 1817 S. Neil Street, Suite 201 Champaign, IL 61820-7269 Phone: 1-800-369-6151 Angelal@champaigncounty.org Tourillinois.org


Illinois Route 66 Cont... In Illinois, tour groups will find lots to discover when they get off Interstate 55 and follow the “Historic Route 66” exit signs on their way between Chicago and St. Louis. The last of the original Route 66 shield signs came down in 1984 after the only remaining portion of the old road was bypassed at Williams, Arizona. To get your Route 66 fix in the Chicago area, have lunch or dinner at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, a frontage road survivor from the good old days. Besides legendary fried chicken and brawny burgers, the simple brick restaurant in suburban Willowbrook, owned by the same family since the 1940s, has displays of Route 66 memorabilia to get you in the mood. In downtown Joliet, almost an hour from Chicago, groups can commune with the Mother Road at the Route 66 Experience and Visitors Center, part of the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Guests can sit in a car couch and watch a drive-in movie, grab a photo opportunity with the Blues Brothers, listen to radio tunes of the era in a car at a drive-in diner, and tune into the Route 66 TV series in a mock hotel room. For a photo op right across from the museum, there’s a replica Mobil Oil gas pump, one of five historic pumps around town that enchant camera-happy tourists. Downtown’s ornate Rialto Square Theatre is the oldest theater on Route 66. South of Joliet, the next major Route 66 landmark is the Gemini Giant, a 28-foot-tall green spaceman that has greeted customers to Wilmington’s Launching Pad Drive-In since 1965. More Route 66 memories surface in Pontiac, home of the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum. Housed in a 1900 building that once served as a fire station, police station and city hall, it sports a glorious Route 66 shield mural on the exterior back wall, a perfect backdrop for group photos. A new addition to the outdoor exhibit area, recently paved with original bricks from Route 66, is a wishing well that stood at the Wishing Well Motel in Countryside, Illinois. For picture-posing inside the museum, sit down in an old Steak ’n Shake booth, complete with a waitress mannequin, or stand “behind bars” in the upstairs jail cells that have been transformed into galleries displaying the Route 66 images of photographer Michael A. Campanelli. The building also contains the Livingston County War Museum, a treasure trove of military artifacts. A collection of 18 new murals that artists painted on buildings last June afford more picture possibilities in downtown Pontiac. The sunset mural sponsored by the Route 66 Association of Illinois shows a bright yellow 1950s Chevy. For tour groups, Pontiac’s tourism department, with cooperation from Vermilion Players Theatre, can arrange a performance of a Route 66 musical. The Old Log Cabin, an eatery on the edge of Pontiac, abounds with Route 66 nostalgia. When it opened in 1924, it faced Illinois Route 4 (later to be called Route 66) but was lifted up and moved, literally by horse power, to face Route 66 when that road was repositioned and became a four-lane highway. Heading south from Bloomington, groups may want to exit I-55 in McLean for a break at the Dixie Trucker’s Home, the first-ever truck stop/diner on Route 66. Nearby is a popular Route 66 souvenir stop, Funk’s Grove, the home of pure maple sirup (yes, they spell it “sirup”). Contact Information:

Angela Ingerson Tour Illinois Chairman 1817 S. Neil Street, Suite 201 Champaign, IL 61820-7269 Phone: 1-800-369-6151 Angelal@champaigncounty.org Tourillinois.org


Lincoln Attractions of Central Illinois

In the farming town of Atlanta, see the colorful Route 66 murals and have your picture taken with the iconic Bunyan Giant. The 19-foot-tall statue of a guy holding a hot dog, known locally as Tall Paul, was moved from a Chicago-area restaurant. The Palms Grill Cafe, an Atlanta fixture during the height of Route 66 travel until closing in 1960, was recently restored and serves blue plate specials with everyone’s favorite comfort foods. In the town of Lincoln, the Railsplitter Covered Wagon has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest covered wagon. Seated in front is a 12-foot-high Abraham Lincoln reading a book. Located at Route 66 and Woodlawn Road since January 2007, the wagon once enchanted Mother Road buffs in nearby Divernon. To play up its Lincoln and Route 66 connections, the local visitors bureau uses artwork that shows Lincoln doffing his stovepipe hat from the seat of a classic red Corvette. Springfield, 30 miles from Lincoln, boasts Route 66 attractions in addition to its wealth of Abraham Lincoln lore. Bill Shea’s Gas Station brims with service station memorabilia that recalls the early days of filling up. His vast collection includes uniforms, oil cans, fuel pumps, phone booths and a 1952 Airstream travel trailer. The spry and witty Mr. Shea, born in 1921, pumped gas from this old Marathon station from 1955 to 1982. (Asked if he has lived in Springfield all his life, he quips, “Not yet.”) Springfield’s Cozy Dog Drive-In is a diner once owned by Ed Waldmire, credited with inventing the corn dog in the 1940s. Each “cozy dog” (don’t say “corn dog”) is freshly dipped and fried, just like at the county or state fair. The restaurant sells the flour mix for those who want to make their own hot dogs on a stick. Route 66 highlights in Litchfield, south of Springfield, include the Skyview Drive-In Theatre, the last such remaining theater on Route 66, and Ariston’s Cafe, an excellent restaurant operated by the Adam family since 1924. In Hamel you’ll find Scotty’s Bar & Grill, a casual roadhouse since the late 1930s.

Travelers cruising down memory lane on old Route 66 will find many sites related to the life of Abraham Lincoln, Illinois’ most famous son. Springfield, the state capital, has the most Lincoln attractions. Among them are: •

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. Blending scholarship with showman ship, the state-of-the-art facility uses 21st century technology to immerse visitors in the 19th century. Lincoln Home National Historic Site. The only home Lincoln ever owned is part of a four-block district that includes a visitors center and the homes of his neighbors. Old State Capitol State Historic Site. Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech here, and his body lay in state before his burial. President Barack Obama announced his presidential campaign on the Capitol grounds. Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. The final resting place of Lincoln, his wife Mary and three of their four sons is at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

New Salem State Historic Site, a pioneer village 20 miles northwest of Springfield, provides a look at Lincoln’s early adulthood. In the 1830s he worked in New Salem as a clerk, merchant, postmaster and surveyor. Costumed interpreters provide a window into everyday life, demonstrating pioneer chores and crafts in the log buildings.

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch and Route 66 Emporium in Staunton displays highway and trucking memorabilia in a replica vintage gas station. Yes, there In the town of Lincoln, 30 miles northeast of Springfield, Lincoln College Museum has rare are rabbits—both the animal and Volkswagen types. Abraham Lincoln artifacts, including an 1860 In Collinsville, near St. Louis, wander off the highway a bit and you’ll find the campaign banner and furniture from the White World’s Largest Catsup Bottle. Dating to 1949, it served as a water tower House. Also on display are tassels that covered his coffin, locks of hair from Lincoln and his wife, and a for the Brooks catsup factory. piece of the birthplace log cabin in Kentucky. Postville Courthouse State Historic Site in The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Madison, built in 1929 as part of the Lincoln is a reproduction of the Logan County original Route 66, once carried auto traffic across the Mississippi River just courthouse where Lincoln practiced law. north of St. Louis. Since 1999, it’s been a recreational trail and one of the world’s longest bicycle and pedestrian bridges. Bloomington’s David Davis Mansion is the grand 19th century home of a wealthy mentor to Abraham For a look back at early automobile travel in America, Illinois’ Route 66 Lincoln whom Lincoln appointed to the U.S. attractions provide groups with warm memories of a bygone era. Supreme Court. A popular photo op in downtown Pontiac is a life-size bronze statue of Lincoln leaning For information, visit www.tourillinois.org and www.illinoisroute66.org. on a fence, his stovepipe hat on the post. Located on the grounds of the grandiose Livingston County Courthouse, the statue is a memorial to Lincoln’s many visits to Pontiac, where he tried cases in the circuit court. One of the new downtown murals recalls Lincoln’s visit to a Pontiac home.

Get Your Kicks on Illinois Route 66  

From Chicago to Springfield and southwest to the Mississippi River, travelers can tank up on nostalgia as they cruise along Historic Route 6...

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